Getting Started as a Game Journalist – Practice, Prepare, and Pitch – Extra Credits

So you want to be a game journalist, but you aren’t sure you’re cut out for it. Why not start freelancing and find out? Though many people think of a publication staff when they hear the word game journalist the majority of game journalists are freelancers Unlike staff who are employees with the salary and benefits freelance writers are paid by the article to get work They email editors a summary of the piece they want to write and then write it if the pitch gets commissioned freelancers work for themselves Piecing together a living between one-off assignments regular appearances as colonists and non game related work. It’s grueling it’s stressful even depressing at times when the work drives up, but it’s also flexible and Crucially for our purposes you can start freelancing alongside other work Maintaining the financial stability of your regular gig while dipping a toe into the world of games journalism so today let’s talk about how to get your first couple of credits as a Freelancer because once you’ve achieved that you’ll have a much better idea about whether you want to try doing this as a career step 1 Put points into your writing skill game journalism is first and foremost a writing job You could be the world’s leading expert on street fighter or have industry contacts that span the globe But if you can’t communicate an idea to readers, you will not last so how do you learn to write? One option is to go to college and take classes that Force you to write Between classes see if the student paper will let you write for them, too It doesn’t matter if this writing is games related Just put yourself in a position where you’ve got to produce whether you go to college or not start Practising set up a blog at Gamma Sutra or medium or wordpress and start writing about games Invite Feedback and don’t get defensive when people make suggestions consider this beta testing the purpose isn’t to turn out perfect work It’s to discover your strengths and weaknesses and address any problem areas Meanwhile Take some articles that you’ve liked and start picking them apart Try to puzzle out why you enjoyed them and then transfer those lessons into your own writing after Blogging regularly for a few months you should have a few pieces good enough to serve as writing samples Step 2 look Opportunities start reading game sites like it is your job get obsessive and make lists what kind of articles do each outlet Publish do they like Mainstream? Stories or oddball ones figure out their unique voice and write a few paragraphs in that style then find the email Address where you can start sending them pitches at this point your training? Phase is done, and you now have one goal to get one article published preferably in a paying outlet I say a paying outlet because unfortunately there are some sites out there that prey on Eager young writers I won’t tell you to never work for free, but let’s get something straight if you do work for an enthusiast site It should be like an internship they need to compensate you with experience and training never work for exposure if they’re too small to pay you then they’re too small to give you an audience and Also, Beware if an Editor is making money But you’re not that’s another red flag learn what you can and then move on because I mean there are mentors at painting Outlets Too so now you’ve produced a few writing samples and maybe you’ve gotten some work under your belt at a college paper or an enthusiast publication so what now step 3 start pitching articles let’s go over the basics your pitch should be succinct try for fewer than 200 words it should summarize the proposed article and list the people you need to interview or resources that you’ll draw from include a short bio at the end Listing where you’ve been published before and linking to some writing samples that are similar to what you’re pitching also include an estimate of how many words the finished product will be and maybe stick to the 1000 to 1500 word range for now to start focus on pitching features Articles that illuminate some notable aspect of a game or its development they can be profiles Analyses human interest even historical pieces to get a handle on this category just head to the site that you want to pitch to Click on its features tab and start reading it’s easier to start with features because sites Generally trust their in-house team for things like news and reviews and opinion pieces You might land yourself a review gig for something small like a mobile game or even get an opinion piece if the editor thinks you Can approach the sub with nuance but ultimately your first article is about proving that you can Deliver and the features are your best bet to do that. So what’s the pitch well start small Publications are usually flooded with pitches about triple-a releases, so unless you’ve got a stellar angle maybe find a less well-known game to write about alternatively find a small games related event near you and write a pitch about what makes it unique and different best of all if you Can score an interview with a developer which is a lot easier to do with Indie Dev. That’s a pretty big Incentive for somebody to greenlight your story But the most important thing with a feature pitch is the hook an interesting angle that sells the concept ask yourself Why will someone read this article? What’s the question being posed? What makes it unique even better what perspective can you add? Do you have life? Experience or special knowledge about the subject did you react to the game in a way that surprised you and that nobody’s written about yet? Just as an example if you pitch star wars battlefront is good because it looks and sounds like the movies No, Editor is going to pay for that, but if you pitch Star Wars battlefront captures how for everyone? But the Hero’s life is cheap in the star Wars universe That’s an idea that will sell and I know that because rob here sold a device not long ago if the publication commission’s the article Congratulations. Go write it If they don’t well go back to your pitch and see if you can improve it then send it to another publication always approach Editors one at a time It’s considered rude to pitch to multiple outlets simultaneously and one more thing remember to be polite and professional Especially if your pitch gets rejected your pitch is essentially a job interview in Addition to evaluating your idea the editor is also going to try to gauge if they can work with you so don’t burn bridges Editor’s do talk to each other and hey It’s possible that same editor might buy your next pitch. It will take a while to get comfortable with pitching But there are books and even training events that can help you improve We’ve linked a few of them down in the comments once you’ve gotten that first publication celebrate get yourself paid And then do it again up your output try to sell an article every month then try to sell one every two weeks Start applying for news positions or pitching for Column work after a few months of steady work You will know whether freelancing is for you Maybe you’ll want to go full-time or maybe it’ll just be something you do for extra Cash whichever you decide is okay because you’re a freelancer after all you are the boss. Good luck out there. See you next week

100 thoughts on “Getting Started as a Game Journalist – Practice, Prepare, and Pitch – Extra Credits

  1. So you want to be a game journalist. Where should you start?

    PLUS: Don't miss the limited edition Extra Credits Gamevolution shirt only available until July 13:

  2. I've been working as a freelance writer for a gaming site for about a year and a half now, basically while I study my way through university. The freedom to work at your own pace is a very nice benefit especially in my current rather hectic situation, and being able to produce written work on topics I'm genuinely interested is great as well. I can pretty much agree with everything that was said in the video, although I could add that you're also building your own "brand" while you work for an outlet. You're not just working for them, but also for yourself.

    Essentially, when at some point you perhaps move on to somewhere else, or go independent if possible, your name value can attract readers to follow you if you've managed to build an audience that likes your writing. Personally, I'm nowhere near that point yet, but it's still something to consider in the long run. Also, it's worth keeping in mind that writing freelance won't make you rich, so if you want to do it you need to really want to do it for your own enjoyment.

  3. Okay, I don't often comment on your videos, James, because I usually agree with what you say. Except for right now. As someone who worked for a long time to become a gaming journalist, there are more than a few realities that were left out of this video, and I know you don't want to spread false hope for those that actually want to try doing this. So here are some truths from someone who tried to work into the field, then got shut down at every turn. First of all, some of your items that I agree with.

    1: PRACTICE. There is no substitute for practice when it comes to writing. Taking college courses for journalism might be optimal, but even creative writing classes will keep the pen flowing or your fingers on the keyboard. Though, you don't have to write just articles or blogs to progress; you can get practice from short stories, essays, or even poetry, if you do it often enough with enough critique. And that segues into my next statement.

    2: CRITICISM: Get used to it. You're going to get lots of critique, both personal and professional, and you should be used to having your works ripped apart and disemboweled for public display. However, I'll wait until the second list for that. For now, just understand the idea that without criticism, there is NO growth or advancement. Fail faster, everyone.

    3: DAY JOB: Don't just start trying to do this work without some kind of financial backing that you have elsewhere, on your own. More on that later as well, but for right now, make sure you have bills paid. Including any education you may be taking.

    Well, that was it for the nice stuff. Sorry, but that's all that I agree with, based on my personal experience. Now, here are the points that I have to disprove, because it's a harsh reality out there for any journalism endeavor, especially for gaming. And yes, I'm not going to be pleasant about it, but after two years of consistent daily effort with nothing to show for it, working as a freelancer, pitching to most sites under the sun, and then even attempting self-employment, there are plenty of terrible experiences that I want anyone willing to put forth that herculean effort to be aware of in the fastest way possible. Please forgive my wording.

    1: STAY AWAY FROM FANSITES. And I mean this wholeheartedly. Stay away from sites that are run by fans or small groups of people. I used to write for Operation Rainfall, and I was signed onto them when they were just a gaming fan movement for Nintendo. However, fan sites that attempt journalism usually are run by one or two people with exclusive power that end up similar to high-school cliques more than a professional setting. That means if you have a contrasting view, you will be ignored and then dismissed, no matter what contributions you have made previously. That includes forums as well, but that will come later on also.

    2: ACCEPT THAT YOU WILL BE ABUSED. Now, I don't mean that professional sites or companies will do this; I have experienced that they're polite and civil, even in refusal. However, this is the internet, and anonymity does breed ignorance and hatred here. You are going to be attacked. You are going to be unfairly judged. You are going to be ignored. You are going to be made fun of in more ways than you could ever imagine. You may even be harassed if you try to enter a forum and spread your opinion. Abuse of speech is commonplace in the internet, and sadly enough, in the gaming 'community' at large. As long as you can accept those facts, then you could have a chance. And then, there's my next point…

    3: ONE VOICE IN A CHORUS. Mr. Portnow, once more, I am so very sorry. 'Gaming journalism' is so overdone, and there is so little chance of an untold viewpoint, the logistics of someone having something so special to say that a pitch for an article is likely to be accepted is astronomical. You have a snowball's chance in Pompeii. Thousands of people around the gaming world work their tuchis off every single day, devoting 50-60 manhours per week (probably more than that) to even stay within the industry and relevant enough to have a paycheck. And then there is this thing called YOUTUBE. Please guess how many gaming reporters are here on YouTube, and then go to a carnival and play the 'beans in a jar' game to win. It may not have been said before at the site where you're pitching, but it has been done before elsewhere.

    4: THERE IS NO SUPPORT. Remember the "Day Job" mentioned earlier? Until you have a signed contract, even on a temporary basis or as a sub-contractor, do not expect any financial or personal support from anyone outside of your friends and family. Now, that might change if you're going into journalism from being a streamer, and you already have a fanbase; Patreon is useful in that regard. I am a patron of this channel, and not my only patronage on this site, either. (Yes, I'm saying all this being a loyal fan of EC for several years now.) If you're just starting out with writing, however, you're supporting yourself the whole way through, no matter your skills or penmanship. You're on your own in this business. Period.

    5: TLDR: Get used to this. Immediately. Everyone says it on the internet. Even podcasts can suffer from this. I have my personal feelings about this anagram, but this is something you will see as far as you could ever go. Accept this reality or walk away.

    So, that's all I have to say. For the last time here, I want to extend my apologies to James and Dan. I'm a fan for the longest time, almost since the beginning with Bad Writing, through all the expansion that you two have done, and I will never stop admiring and respecting every thing that you produce. I am a patron of Extra History, and I watch it every day. I have learned so much from the work that EC does, but this one time… I can't agree with what's been said. It compelled me to speak up with the harsh and terrible truths that I had to endure for so long. Trying to work my way into gaming journalism almost made me give up on video games completely, and I started on the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64. I hope that helps explain my comment, so that it can be understood. My only request is that this comment not be blocked or deleted, because these things need to be said.

    Thank you for the time anyone takes in reading this, and I hope your experiences fare better than my own efforts. GFH.

  4. If you want to go through this route and want to work for a site, it is important to do thorough research on the site and the people behind it. Make sure they communicate to their writers and are willing to accept diverse view points along with constructive criticism. Any site that can't do that does not deserve your work.

  5. Nice vid but your setup seems at odds with what youve said before. Specifically: going to college for 2-4 yrs before spending a few months working seems directly at odds with "Fail Faster". Thats a HUGE investment for something you might decide isn't for you.

  6. Very insightful! I have toyed with the idea of doing game journalism for a time now, I hope that in the near future I can get to do so. Greetings from Venezuela.

  7. hi, Just wanted to let you know this is a Podcast about writing.
    these people changed the way I read books. the focus is on writing fiction, however, the topics include: Finding and editor, getting published and even writing for video games. they are currently in their 12th year and publish weekly. episodes are on a single subject and only 15 minutes long. I am sure you'll find a few that you like…

  8. I wonder if you can ride off consoles and PC parts on your taxes as a freelancer. I know you can get something for milage (in the United States)

  9. 6:00 Be polite, be efficient, and have a plan to sell your work to everyone you meet. Glad to see TF2 references on this channel, and for what it's worth, I'd like to see more.

  10. DID YOU JUST MAKE A BROKEN MATT HARDY REFERENCE?! I swear, I find a new reason to love you lot every time I watch one of your videos!

  11. I agree that you should blog. However, blogging doesn't often make you any money. So, I will recommend that you become a proficient writer that is payed first. Blogmutt has had topics on Gamification and they pay. Also, textbroker is a content mill where you will be paid for your work. You can make a living working this way if you are dedicated.

  12. if your thinking of game journalism as a life long career, don't. in 10 to 15 years the market will become so over flooded and diluted that the reason people will do it is because it's their hobby. the same goes for making a living on YouTube, it might seem enticing now, but a million other people are thinking the same thing.

    the online social market is going to drop significantly to the point where advertisers will only pay so little that sites like YouTube will have to take all the money from the video because it would take a month just to make 1$. sure people can ask people to help'm out sites like kickstater and patreon, but even then there are a million other people asking the same thing so good luck getting anything above $2,000 a year.

    overall if like talking about entertainment, good for you, but if doing it for the money, don't. the only people that are probably going to make it through are people who don't make rehash channels, but original content because they are ones with true set of skills. think animators, tutorials, and indie films and music. you can't make it into your 50's reviewing games and movies.

  13. I'm probably the only one who read the title; Practice, Prepare and Pitch in the tune of "Fight, Win, Prevail" from the original Command and Conquer.

  14. Man, every "So You Wanna Be a ___" video Extra Credits puts out makes every game job sound awful and not fun at all. I understand work isn't supposed to be easy but man, it's kind of disappointing :/

  15. So I take particular interest in this video because Game's journalism is something I want to do more of. I got in with a very small website (certainly big enough to get me some reviewing work with Nintendo and indie devs, but still small enough that it's mostly a hobby I do for fun. Not a paying job or side job.)

    I'm enjoying this so far, but I'm interested in seeing my hobby become something I can actually do for a living. But I don't want to ditch the blog I'm writing for, of course. So would you say I should save some ideas for major articles and pitch those to bigger publications, then? Or would this blog be similar to the Gamasutra step where I should keep it up to build up more experience? (Been writing for two months, now.)

  16. Thank you so much for this video, I have been working on this career for a while, I'm going to college this fall for a journalism degree, and really appreciate the insight you have given me into this topic more , you probably won't see this but thanks for the work you do, the videos are always entertaining and educational.

  17. I do hope people watching this advance the craft. Because as it stands, despite being an avid gamer, the state of Games Journalism is so poor and incestual that to me it has no value. There's a reason that "8/10 -IGN" is a meme.

  18. not exactly game exclusive but what do you research if you wanna write about business? im particularly interested in writing about the employment of developers and the like and how abusive triple a companies can be. i did a report on it a while back for college, but the research material i had to work with was not that indepth and id like to do more 1st hand research myself. but i dont exactly know anything to read to make me more knowledgable on the business angle so im not just collecting numbers that i know nothing about

  19. If you guys happen to read this, I wanted to know your thoughts on the game journalism controversy Dunkey just stirred up. Great video as always!

  20. Hey guys, I was actually wondering if there were any magazines that you suggest to start working in to get your feet in the door?

  21. My only suggestion would be to not let slutty indie devs bribe you with sex so you give her shitty game a positive review, then kick off a domino effect that ignites a culture war. So um.. ethics

  22. What about the issue that freelancing is probably the biggest reason we have the clickbait, view-oriented media culture that we have today? Freelancing might be a beautiful concept at its core but is it really something we should encourage today?

  23. wow. i got this video on the autoplay after skipping over it, and decided to leave it on. I've never thought i'd have an interest in game journalism.

  24. I feel like something's missing here… Ah, yes. The 'game' part.
    This seems like good general advice for journalism, but I feel like a number of game journalists don't put enough effort into interacting with the games they discuss.
    That's probably why some games journalists tend to dote on story-focused indie titles with minimal gameplay; the journos might as well be writing about a movie or a book in a lot of those cases, it's such a passive experience.

    As a consumer who wants quality games and quality reporting on those games, I urge anyone interested in games journalism to be just as enthusiastic about playing games as they are about writing. Put equal effort into both gaming and writing. If you can't, don't become a games journalist, just become a regular one.

  25. I'm always curious… how can people be creative ALL THE TIME? When you make this your job you need to come up with something everyday everyweek. Don't they ever run out of ideas?

  26. Doing articles and editorials on Mobile Games seems like a niche just waiting to explode, too bad it seems like hardly anybody wants to do them. I wonder if I should try that.

  27. One of the important things that hold me back from doing this is my subject of games and the timing of it.  There are games that I want to talk about as a review but I'm worried that they are too late or too out of place to even matter.    I'm still having a problem with finding a normal job as well since I don't know how it works, now that everything is online.

  28. I think i'm going to start a little gaming blog of reviews and tips! Thanks Dan, James and sorry i don't know your names but i apreciate your job! =) Thanks!

  29. Some of the points here is so useful for aspiring journalists in general. Writing for a school newspaper is definitely a great experience to do, since I am doing it right now from time to time. It allows you to improve much faster, and editors (competent ones) will actually tell you what you're doing wrong and teach you. You'll be surprised at the amount of bad writers there are in a school newspaper. Anyone can write, but not everyone can write well. Use a chance like this to see if you like writing, and how skilled you are.

  30. You say you pitch your idea and then, if they accept it, you write it. What if you were to write the piece first (just to see if it works) then edit it as they want it? It's always easier editing previously written work then writing from scratch.

  31. Hey, thanks for the video, Extra Credits! Can't wait for part two on dismantling and rebuilding games journalism as a whole, because we need it!

  32. "how to be a game journalist."
    dont actually play the game.
    bitch about said game.
    then pretend to be the majority consumer.

  33. I just returned from PAX East this past weekend and realized how much I loved talking to the indie developers about their games and why they created the game like it is. It even got to a point where one of the developers asked me if I was a journalist. Looking around at where to get started, this video really helped me establish a path to figure out if journalism is for me. Thank you so much for this quality video!

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