When I first considered pursuing video game journalism for a living, I made it a point to seek out advice and hear as many success stories as possible to get a sense of what it took and what some people’s paths looked like. One day, while doing this, I came across a video from Alanah Pearce (writer, host, podcaster, voice actor, and creator of many other forms of video game content). The video was called How I Got My Job at IGN, coincidentally she recently mentioned this video on her Instagram story. In it, she said if you want to write about video games, you have to love writing – not just video games. Below is a direct quote.
I think there are a lot of people who want to work in games media because they like games rather than because they like writing. I never want to discourage anyone from trying to learn a new skill or improve at something but if don’t like writing or only want to write about games, it might not be for you. You might want to consider all of the other things there are to do in games that you have historically been good at or are passionate about.– Alanah Pearce, How I Got My Job at IGN (YouTube)
It sounds obvious but it’s something that really stuck with me. Loving the work that’s at the core of your field is essential – whether you pursue a career in video games or not. This is only my second post on this blog (with the intro being the first) but before I get into specific advice… before I answer your questions… I feel the need to talk about the first mistake people make: thinking they want this job when they, in fact, do not.
Writing about video games for a living can absolutely be a dream job — it’s certainly mine. But just because you love video games and love talking about them doesn’t mean you’d like to write about games for a living.
The good news is, if you love games and want to do “something in games,” there are a lot of ways to do that but it’s up to you to explore, experiment, and figure out what type of role suits you.
I’ve gotten enough messages to know that some people only think of “the fun part” when they say they want my job. It’s easy to look at my podcast appearances, E3 experience, and pre-embargo access to some of the biggest releases as super cool (and it is). But that’s just a small fraction of my work.
What people often don’t think about are all my emails, spreadsheets, tracking of trends and analytics, playing games extremely slowly and/or for way longer than most in order to write guides (sometimes for games I don’t like), editing photos, working on videos, doing a bunch of research/fact-checking, coming up with creative ways to convey info, formatting (guides involve a lot of formatting), doing game capture you know thousands (even millions) will see and scrutinize (so check it one more time), responding to comments, editing based on feedback, meetings, more meetings, promoting my work and myself across social media (not at all required by IGN but I’ll explain the value of social media in later posts), and a lot more.
Even the fun parts I mentioned above have a bunch of moving parts. I always prepare for podcasts I’m on, E3 involves a lot of late nights, early mornings, and generally a cascade of high pressure moments. And playing those big releases before everyone else always means there’s work to be done and a deadline to hit.
Don’t mistake this for complaining. I absolutely love my job. I love it so much that I love it even on the hardest days/most challenging projects. It invigorates me. I’m happy to be here but I’m never surprised when someone asks me to explain “what I do” and they tell me “that sounds boring/awful.” It’s not for everyone but it is for me and that’s what matters. What I want to emphasize is the level of love I have for my job wouldn’t be possible if I only loved video games and wasn’t equally obsessed with the workflow.
As I mentioned before, there are a lot of ways to be involved in games without working for a coverage site. But a lot of the independent content creator routes involve a lot of the same stuff. For instance, being a YouTuber means being good on camera, knowing how to video edit, doing capture, designing thumbnails, writing SEO friendly descriptions, coming up with a good pinned comment, turning content around quickly and/or consistently, responding to comments, promoting the stuff on social media and relevant online forms, posting a lot more on social media/forums so people actually have a reason to follow/care about you, reaching out to developers/publishers to get codes, seeking relevant products, finding others to collaborate with, maybe selling your own merchandise, and so much more.
To me, finding a career you love happens when you find something that marries skills you want to continuously hone with your interests/passions. Don’t let your love for games make you think you can put up with the work.
Lastly, this post isn’t meant to discourage anyone. Chances are, if you’re a writer, you’ve gotten enough discouragement already. Despite how difficult this path is, I whole heartedly believe anyone can do this. If I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t have started this blog. So if you do want it, I hope the advice and stories I’ll share here help you. But if it turns out you don’t want it, I hope you find a career you love as much as I love mine.
You can ask me questions directly or email questions at firstname.lastname@example.org (I will never shared who asked). In fact, the next few posts will be direct answers to your questions! For everything else you can keep up with me via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
(Feature Image: Andrew Neel via Unsplash)