Possibly the most informative panel I attended at PAX East this year was IGN’s discussion on how to get a job in the games journalism field. I walked away feeling I could accomplish such a feat and write about games for a living if I apply myself enough.
Obviously the most important component of being a video game journalist is knowing how to write coherently. The IGN panel laughed as they explained how often they receive emails and tweets full of spelling and grammatical errors asking how to get a writing job. I’m glad I chose to get a journalism degree in college. I’ve learned everything I could want to know (and more) about writing through my college’s journalism program. If you’re going to college with hopes to one day write about video games, a journalism degree wouldn’t be things to pursue.
Another thing I learned at the panel is how important it is to be nice. The panel put it bluntly: Don’t be a jerk online. After establishing a web presence through things like a blog, Twitter, and Facebook, it’s essential you don’t use it to bash others. There’s a difference between being critical of a game, an article, or a person and just being mean and insulting. IGN once had a potential employee interview with them at lunch. While they were asking him questions, editor Greg Miller pulled out a file on the guy full of his nasty comments from forums, Twitter, and so on. The guy tried to backpedal, but it was obvious he wasn’t getting the job. Let this be a lesson to all of you.
One of the things aspiring writers can do right now to begin their path to landing a gaming journalism job is to simply write. Start a blog, promote it, and write all the time. Even if it’s not about games, practice makes perfect; you can’t learn to write well without doing it constantly. As you begin making articles and editorials, you’re establishing a portfolio you can use when applying for that freelance job in the future. If you need publicity, starting blogs on established sites with loyal readers such as Game Informer and IGN is a good place to start. And, best of all, your content may get featured right alongside a professional writer’s if it’s good enough, and who wouldn’t want that?
A final component to succeeding is to keep trying. Miller applied to IGN 13 times before he finally got a response. When IGN did eventually reach out to them, he was interviewed and had a job within 24 hours. But after 12 times of applying for a job and not even getting a rejection notice, it must have been frustrating and discouraging to keep trying again and again. But that’s what Miller did, and I’m sure he doesn’t regret it.
After the panel, I felt encouraged. Although the video games journalism industry is much smaller than the amount of people who want a video games journalism job, I feel like I have a shot at it. Being a journalism major, writing for several different publications, establishing myself online, learning how to conduct interviews, and my willingness to succeed will all help me maybe eventually the writing I’ve been dreaming of, and that makes me feel pretty good.