Do You Need a College Degree to Be a Video Game Journalist?

Will lack of college degree cause major outlets to overlook me? If I have a successful channel or just high quality content will that hard work be enough to potentially carry me to get hired one day? I’ve decided to put my career focus into this channel rather than being a student again and I just want to know if this effort is worthwhile or if I’m making the wrong decision.

asked via email to gameindustryguides@gmail.com

You don’t need a college degree. It’s always possible that some people in the industry still prefer a degree and having a degree never hurts. But if you have no interest in it, are already working in the industry, and don’t feel like formal schooling will help you build the specific skills you’re looking for I don’t think it’s worth going specifically to “look good” to employers. Admittedly, I do have a B.A in English and Secondary Education and absolutely list it on applications.

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What Looks Better?: Self Publishing vs. Working for Others

I was wondering how impressive it is to employers to show that I run my own gaming news site and focus on that rather than trying to get a bunch of freelance writing gigs. I’ve been wanting to get a job with an outlet like IGN for years but it seems like I’m not showing off the right stuff, even though I’ve been writing about gaming news, reviews, and even producing my own videos for years. 

asked via email to gameindustryguides@gmail.com

Both. Both is good. Now that the short answer is out of the way, let’s get to the nuance.

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Beginner’s Guide: Going From 0 to 100

Question: How do you begin to take the first steps for writing in video game journalism out of college and where do you go from there? How do you work yourself up to a company like IGN?

asked via email to gameindustryguides@gmail.com

My answer to this isn’t specific to college grads (though congrats if you’ve just wrapped up a degree!). Anyone can go from 0 to 100 regardless of professional background, educational training, or age. Of course, this isn’t to make light of the hurdles you’ll face or the years of hard work ahead of you. It’s worth noting that I’ve touched on this topic a bit before so definitely check out How Do You Begin? and My Biggest Piece of Advice for College Students for more insights. For the sake of brevity I’m going to assume that you already love writing and video games and are just ready to get started. Here’s a very short version of what you need to do.

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Tips for a Successful Freelance Pitch

Question: Should I wait for a freelance callout to apply? Should I pursue the lead editor of specific publications regardless of a freelance call? Should I pursue maybe not the lead editor, but another member of the same company who may understand my vision best to try and get them to take my idea to the editor? What does a successful pitch actually look like? If I fail to make any traction at one of my target sites of application do I keep applying and tweaking the idea/keep applying and stand firm behind my initial vision/at some point give up and target other smaller publications? 

As usual, we begin with rapid fire answers and then break them down into something more nuanced. Here it goes! Do not wait for a freelance callout to pitch. Follow the guidelines. There are times where it’s appropriate to approach the lead editor directly but not as many as you may think so be careful not to overstep or annoy. Other people at the publication cannot pitch on your behalf. Don’t put them in a position where they have to tell you that. However, you can contact to ask who to send your pitch to (this is for cases when the site has no calls and no posted guidelines and no staff page and essentially no way of you knowing how to pitch them). A successful pitch is clear, concise, interesting, fits the site, explains how you’re gonna execute, and why you’re the best person for the job. If it’s an evergreen pitch and a larger publication doesn’t want it, try it elsewhere sure! You can tweak it as well. Maybe run it by peers for feedback if the editor didn’t give you any. Also shift your mindset on smaller publications in general.

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How Do You Begin?

Question: How do you begin as a games writer. How do you get your work out there seen, but also use it as a step-up to start your career? Or, let me put it this way. How do you make yourself stand out from all the other aspiring game journalists or writers?

You begin by writing.

It seems obvious to the point of being rude, but it’s the truth. Writers write and love it (even on the days they hate it). So if you want to be a writer, open up google docs and get to writing. Have your own blog, channel, etc. Pitch like crazy. Do the work you’re hired to do and do it well. Repeat forever.

But you’re probably already writing so allow me to unpack some of the specifics as they relate to the question above.

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My Biggest Piece of Advice for College Students

Question: “What is your biggest piece of advice for a college student who wants to enter the industry?

asked via Instagram.

Start now.

Start a portfolio website, start a blog, start a YouTube channel, start a podcast, stream on Twitch, Mixer, YouTube, go to conventions, get business cards, send pitches, play a lot of games, try to get a freelance gig writing news (or being in freelance rotation for reviews etc), read things about games, read things that are not about games, study the industry, set goals, and overall just got for it.

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Should You Work for Free When Starting Out in Video Game Journalism?

This question was asked to me in response to my call for questions on Instagram Stories. You can ask me questions directly or email questions at gameindustryguides@gmail.com (I will never share who asked). These FAQ posts will be filed under the Ask Gameonysus Category of my blog.

Would you recommend doing unpaid work/writing articles for free to grow your resume/CV?

Asked via Instagram 

No. 

Anything you can do for free you can do for yourself or for someone who pays you which means no one needs to work for free in order to grow their resume. 

However, I did work for free so I think it’s important for me to discuss that experience. It’s funny because before writing this post I wasn’t completely against the idea of working for free. I thought, “sure, I did it and it was great.” But it turns out that view was skewed by my own false memory. I thought I worked for free when I was first starting out, but I actually worked for free before I really got started.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I realized I only worked for free because I didn’t know if I wanted to do this. So if you know you want to do this, I do not recommend you work for free.

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