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.

How to Get People to See Your Work

Besides pitching, if you want people to see your work you need to share it (often and well). And if you want people to actually click on your work you have to get them to care.

Getting people to care about your work requires 2 components.

1) Your work needs to be interesting or helpful. It needs to add some sort of value to your readers’ lives.
Getting better at writing means writing and reading a lot. Read video game stuff but also read non-video game stuff. When it comes to creating interesting stuff, you’ll want to get creative. What’s a fun angle on a current topic? What’s something you can research that will shape the way we view today? What’s a niche you’re passionate and knowledgeable (or down to become knowledgeable on)?

While anything can be viewed as helpful (ex. many readers turn to reviews for help on purchasing decisions) think about answering the questions people have or doing useful round-ups and listicles.

What’s interesting to some won’t be interesting to others so you have to be yourself. It may take a while for you to figure out your voice and who you are as a writer which is why there’s so much value in making a lot of content. Just get the reps in.

2) Your readers need to see you as an authority on the topic you’re discussing and/or they need to like you.

You can establish authority by making strong, consistent content on a topic(s). And remember, content is anything and everything. Your weekly Nintendo podcast can make your an authority on Nintendo but so can your stream, your Tweets, you Instagram posts, etc.

But all that content fails to establish your authority if no one sees it. (Note: this is NOT me saying content is meaningless without views. There is a lot of value in producing content regardless of the views but because I’m discussing “you and the audience” the audience needs to exist. Whether it’s 5 views, 500 views, or 500k views.)

Likewise, getting people to like you requires engagement. People will support people they like. Too many people take that negatively and look at it as a popularity contest instead of what it actually is: building community. Which brings me to my next point…

Share Your Work and Connect With Others

If you’re not passionate about community building, you may want to find another career.

This isn’t to say that you can’t make it in this industry with this attitude. I’ve met plenty of successful people who use almost no social media, hate the comments section, and are generally bitter about their views, lack of views, comments, whatever it may be.

But personally, I’d find that exhausting. I couldn’t imagine trying to increase audience interaction while hating my audience. This isn’t to say I’m all sunshine and rainbows when people tell me they “can’t stand a woman reviewing a game.”

I mean, I work at IGN and we have a massive following which means we get a lot of mean comments. But we also get a lot of nice ones and I know a lot of our fans (through social media) and they’re fantastic. When people tell me they liked a piece of content I was a part of or that my guide helped them it hypes me up like nothing else.

Anyway, I digress… my point is genuinely caring about people is important especially if you want to execute on this next section:

This could (and will likely be) its own post but here’s how to share your work and connect with others, at a glance.

Sharing your
work
Connecting with others
Post your work on every social media platform you can *respond to every comment
Post as much of the “process” of your work as you can. Could be travel, coffee, teasers, “stories,” etc.*respond to every comment
Post your video game opinions/stuff (outside of your work) on social media*respond to every comment
N/APost questions (gaming or other) on social media so people ha ve something to respond to and – you guessed it – *respond to every comment.
N/APost non-gaming stuff on social too! People like following relatable human beings so just be your authentic self (which likely isn’t 100% gaming all the time). Note: some people never want to post their family or S/O. That’s fine! Post to your comfort level.
N/ASeek out other people like you (journalists, streamers, etc) whose work you like and support/learn from them. Engage with their content without expecting anything in return. Note: It’s totally fine to follow the well-known journo at your dream company but you better be following your direct peers (i.e other freelancers) too.
N/ASeek out gamers and gaming communities. FB groups, Discords, Subreddits are all good options but so is just searching hashtags. If you like someone’s content, follow them.
N/A^ once you find these groups. Be friends. Answer questions, ask for advice, maybe set up games, be genuine and kind.
Attend conventions take a legitimate interest in everyone else, have conversations not pitches (self-promo is fine here just don’t be self-absorbed.)
Giveaways can be attached to your work! (hello gleam.io)Do giveaways.
(*unless it’s literally hate speech, then I recommend deleting it and blocking them).

I want to emphasize that your goal here is not to “pretend” to be a friend so people will read your articles. That will not work and, once again, sounds exhausting. Your goal is to join communities and build community. All of us love talking about games so why wouldn’t you want to go and talk about games?

If you connect with others (esp. if you’re not an asshole (i.e you only respond to tell someone to fuck off)), some people will like you. They’ll become fans. And while fandom can be very toxic and scary it can also be wonderful. These people may be your first Patrons, they may subscribe to your newsletter, and – more importantly – one of them may say “this was great! Keep up it up!” on the day you need it most.

How to Stand Out

I did a whole post on it so I’ll link it here! Below are the core bullet points from that post.

  • Don’t think so/too competitively.
  • Make a list of every “required skill” and “preferred skill” out there. Then start getting those skills.
  • Find a few niches and dominate them.
  • Follow my blog for other tips I’ll be posting because there isn’t a single big secret to standing out other than being good at what you do and becoming known for that. Many of my posts cover these from different angles.

Note: This question was emailed to me. You can ask me questions directly via social media or email questions at gameindustryguides@gmail.com (I will never share who asked). Email is preferred because it’s easier to keep track of. These FAQ posts will be filed under the Ask Gameonysus Category of my blog.

Feature Image Credit: Bret Kavanaugh on Unsplash

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