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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
- Start small and get a sense that you like this. Start a blog, a YouTube channel, a podcast, a Twitch stream, etc. Volunteering for a site is another popular starting point (I did this) but make sure you’ve done your research and are doing free work because you decided to and not because you think you need to (because you don’t!). I have a whole post on this.
- Get on social media (for real). Sure organic search is a thing but if you want people reading, watching, and/or listening to your stuff you’re gonna need to share it. Make a Twitter, Facebook page (a page, not a personal profile), Instagram, and Other Account (could be TikTok or whatever is the next wave). Don’t just use these accounts to post about your work, share some stuff about yourself and take time to connect meaningfully with others.
- Figure out your finances and time management. Your finances and your job situation will impact your path because it will determine how much time you can dedicate to this. And your money can determine how much money you can invest in yourself (ex. expos/convention trips, buying new equipment, buying new consoles and the latest releases, and even small stuff like business cards and web domains). A lot of writers have day jobs, low cost of living, and/or a support system ($) in place to help them out. If you’re a student or living at home rent free, you’re in a great spot! If you’re an independent adult with bills, remember you don’t have to quit your job immediately nor do I recommend it until you have a plan in place. I started doing video game journalism (2015, senior year of college). I graduated (2016), worked random jobs (2017), taught HS English full-time (2018) , and quit that summer to pursue video game journalism. My quick turn around (hired at IGN, March 2019) was actually four years in the making.
- Figure out what it takes. Look at current or old listings for jobs you want. Put the qualifications into a google doc. Rise and repeat until you have listed every single qualification you need to be generally hireable across the industry. This will be overkill in the sense that not every position will want all of these but gaining all of these skills will make you unstoppable. Experiment with how you want to organize this doc or spreadsheet. While my main goal was to go into video game journalism, I looked at other jobs in the field (such as social media marketing and community management). You may have different sections for different types of jobs.
- Set goals. Now that you’ve started doing and sharing the work, have a sense of how much time/money you can put into this, and know what you need to do it’s time to set some goals! Make these quantifiable: a number of articles, a number of videos, a number or hours writing/playing/connecting on social media, a number of games beaten. This makes things easier to keep track of. Your goal may be to learn Adobe Premiere or iMovie. You can accomplish this through trial and error and/or tutorial videos but you should have a plan for how you’re going to learn this in a timely fashion.
- Apply/Pitch, fail, repeat, succeed. Even if you’re doing things on your own site/channels, you’ll need to be applying for jobs and pitching to places throughout. You can check out some tips here.
- Monetize yourself. You can get paid for your work from websites and companies but you can also get the money yourself. From Paypal tips jars and Kofi coffee to Twitch Subscribers and folks on Patreon.
- Take care of yourself. You gotta go hard to make it in this industry but that applies to everything: including self-care. It’s incredibly easy to skip self-care to get more work done but you can’t keep working if you’re fried so rest/recover regularly to avoid major burn out.
Each of the above points could (and eventually will) be their own blog posts so stay tuned for more insights to come. This was just a quick overview of what needs to be done.
Note: This question was emailed to me. You can ask me questions directly via social media or email questions at email@example.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.