Breaking Into Video Games Journalism

Daniel Davies

Super Mario: an ever-present figure at events covered by gaming journalists (Pic: Daniel Davies)

By Matt Suckley (@PleasantPig)

If you’re someone who wants to break into video games journalism, you’ve probably thought to yourself at some point (or maybe even many times) that it’s pretty much impossible.

Let’s face it – the magazines we grew up reading are either being closed or cripplingly downsized. Hundreds of qualified graduates are competing for each job opening and enthusiast bloggers the world over are more than happy to do the same work for free.

But don’t let that put you off. And don’t worry if you don’t have some master plan when it comes to creating your career path. My route (so far) began with me running a blog for about a year. I then moved on to an enthusiast site before doing a three-month internship elsewhere.

By this point I’d built up a lot of (unpaid) writing experience so I decided it was time to go freelance. Since making that decision, I’ve written regular reviews for Pocket Gamer and contributed features to IGN, GamesRadar, Disorder Magazine and many others.

If I have learnt anything from the experience, it’s that you shouldn’t be disheartened or worried by the lack of opportunities early on. A lot can happen in a relatively short amount of time once you start building up a portfolio of relevant writing.

I’ve also discovered that I’ve become a bit of a workaholic – and that’s something I would never have described myself as before. I am at the point now where if I don’t have at least a couple of projects on the go, I begin to feel as if I’m doing something wrong. It’s likely you will find this too, if you are trying to pursue a similar career path.

Of course there will be scrapped ideas and pitches falling on deaf ears – but they’re all worth it in the end. There’s a real thrill in coming up with an idea, selling it to an editor and seeing it through to completion – especially when it’s about something you love.

However, an important point – and one that I’ve heard echoed by much more experienced voices than my own – is that simply loving games isn’t enough. Forget about the fallacy that games journalists “just play games all day” (you’ll get tired of that one quickly, trust me). To succeed you’ve got to have a passion for writing that equals, or possibly even exceeds, your love of playing games.

It may sound obvious, but there are people who aspire towards games writing because they feel it will bring them closer to the video games they love playing – but playing games is just a tiny part of the job. And if writing is a chore to you, then you’d probably be better served in another job.

I’m still a full-time student, studying English at Loughborough University. Juggling an internship alongside a degree has been tricky, but the beauty of freelancing is that it doesn’t have to dominate your life. And part-time freelancing has been hugely rewarding for me.

So it’s not all doom and gloom. In my experience, editors, staffers, and even fellow freelancers are keen to give young writers a chance. There’s a great community out there to help young and inexperienced writers find their feet. If you follow the right people on Twitter, you’ll regularly find new freelance opportunities retweeted into your feed. Even editors themselves are prone to tweeting their freelance openings.

So, what’s my message? Well, whilst I have by no means “made it” as a games journalist yet, as someone who has achieved at least some headway in the industry already, I feel a duty to let others know that the barriers aren’t quite as high as they seem. Come up with a unique idea, pitch it to an editor, and just see where it goes.

Want to share your experiences of trying to break into a specific area of journalism? Get in touch by email or Twitter @JournoGrads 

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