Becoming a Gaming Journalist in 2020
How to earn a living by combining a pen with a pad.
Let me guess – you live for the art of writing and the passion for gaming? What's more – you want to know if you can earn money from putting two and two together? Well, you can rest assured that those types of fantasy roles do indeed exist. But, if you think this is a short road with inevitable success – you might just need to step down from the cotton candy cloud, friend.
Any writer will tell you the amount of downtime you'll need to slump through just to physically publish anything anywhere. It's not easy – writing, that is. It's something that will take hours upon hours just to grasp anything remotely newsworthy. And, in an industry so competitive, it's those hours that you'll need to chew down to bite-size segments if you ever plan on keeping up in the rat race.
Gaming journalism sounds perfect on the outer side of the shell. It's everything you want it to be and more, right? Gaming and writing – clashed together to create a paying job that might just cover your mortgage someday. Well, I'll stop you there. Because, sadly, trying to land a paying job at all can often take years of portfolio building and volunteer experience. So, if you expect to fall straight out of college into a paying journalism job – you might want to pinch your wrist and bring yourself back around.
BUILD YOUR PORTFOLIO
Firstly, know that nobody will even consider hiring you unless you've got yourself a nice stash of gaming write-ups on-hand. Whether it being a simple PDF document or even a Vocal catalogue of features and lists. Build up a good amount of work and you'll immediately hit the ground running when plummeting into the journalism race.
As you write more and more content you'll come to notice the cogs turning a little quicker deep inside your head. The words will flow more frequently. The lingo of the business begins to become a second language to you. Everything you need to know when you land your first job will already be a second nature. But it takes time, my friends. It takes a lot of time.
So, before you spontaneously quit your job in the hopes of landing a £30k position starting next week – stop yourself. Give yourself a minimum of six months to build the gaming portfolio. Write every single day and get a feel for all corners of the gaming world. From trends to gadget features, mobile games to blockbuster developers – explore every nook and cranny and never put the pen down.
Only when you're able to stand over a bundle of polished documents can you consider taking the next steps into breaking into the dream job.
FIND YOUR NICHE
Understand that 99.9% of writers don't "dabble" in all areas of gaming journalism. So, if you rock up to an interview and begin to boast about being able to write anything and everything, you might just become the brunt of the next big joke. Instead, find your niche. Spool through the articles you've written and pick out the thing that ignites the spark.
Think back to the restless nights at the desk. Think over the times you felt that glimmer of joy as you pushed out your hundredth article of the month. Picture yourself sticking to that specific area and doing it on a full-time basis. Would you be happy with that? Could you write "Top 10" lists for the foreseeable future? Would you ever dry up and lose the motivation to write every single day? Well, think carefully before making the leap of faith.
Perhaps you favour keeping on top of gaming trends. Maybe you thrive in keeping a close eye on the Twitter feed every waking moment just in case something huge drops. Well, if that be the case, then you might just be suited for a news writing position. If not, then think outside of the box and locate your deepest desire when it comes to working. Find it. Remember it. Own it.
BECOME A VOLUNTEER
Like I said, becoming a gaming journalist doesn't happen overnight. But, if you possess the ambitious qualities required to see it through to the end, then perhaps you're ready to make the next small step.
Okay, so you might not want to hear this – but you probably won't be getting paid. Not for a while at least, anyway. Volunteering is the next phase on the long and winding path to the apex of journalism. It's often tedious to tolerate but most definitely a crucial part of the process. "But why?" you ask. Well, if you consider your portfolio prior to landing the volunteer job a simple stepping stone, think of the volunteer portfolio a cruise ship en route to the tropical island. If, for whatever reason, you choose to swim – you'll capsize. It's a friggin' long way to Shangri-La, and unless you're willing to brave the boat, you'll never so much as see the outline of the first palm tree.
Get yourself out there. Remember that the journey is long but most definitely rewarding. Promote yourself and grasp any volunteer position you can tackle. Whether it being a basic three or more write-ups a week or a much more in-depth review type of gig; make yourself available and be ready to write for free.
Think of Shangri-La having an entry fee upon arrival; that entry fee being a wallet of good articles. If you don't have the experience or portfolio, you'll probably be made to lap around the island for a few more months before being welcomed. So, do yourself a favour and volunteer. It'll be worth it.
PREPARE FOR REJECTION
There'll come a time when you think you're physically and emotionally capable of swimming the remainder of the distance. To be fair, it's only natural to feel the urge after working for free every single day. You've written your heart out and you finally want financial recognition. You want to take the next lunge and land the job you've been hungering for endlessly. You want that job and you want it now.
It might've been weeks, months, years or even decades since you set sail – and you're beginning to lose your sea legs. You want to feel the embrace of the golden sands and take the next big steps and feel free. Well, guess what? You've earned the right to try your hand at floating. There's never a "right" moment when it comes to progressing in journalism. And, unless you take the dive, you might just never know how far it is until you reach the shore.
Putting the endless sea metaphors and puns to bed, I think it's time we discussed the dreaded fear of rejection. Yes – it does exist. Yes – we all have the shared fear of not being "good enough" for a job. Well, join the club – we've got hats.
Apply. Apply like there's no tomorrow. Just be prepared for rejection. It happens to the best of us, sadly. But that doesn't for one second mean you'll never get there eventually. So long as you keep your head held high and your motivation full-throttled – nothing can stop you from climbing. Keep going.
NEVER LOSE FAITH
In this day and age it's easy to get bogged down by rejection letters and pitiful reward schemes. But rest assured – you can reach the dream job if you truly invest yourself into believing it. Never lose sight of what you want. Always keep on top of your own wellbeing and stay faithful to the quill. You've got more time than you think – and your career might only just be beginning. There's always tomorrow.
Keep writing and dream a dream – as cheesy as that might sound. If you're prepared to brave the hike and become a gaming journalist someday, then keep at it and smile through the journey. One day, when all's said and done, these days might just be laughable and pleasantly nostalgic. But, until then, it's up to you and your ambition.
Good luck, my friend. Hopefully I'll see you and your work on the other side.
– J Tury