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So You Want To Be A Game Journalist? 28

simoniker writes "Over at Game Career Guide, they're looking at how to become a video game journalist, and exactly what that 'infamous' job entails. An extract: 'An [apparently simple] task roster belies the complexity of the role of games journalist. For example, playing a game with an eye towards reviewing it differs from playing it purely for fun and, if it happens to be a terrible game (which you will see more than your fair share of in time), it may not be such an enjoyable experience. Dealing with PR people ... can be tiresome to degrees depending on the nature of the PR person (some are more tiresome than others, let's just say).'"
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So You Want To Be A Game Journalist?

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  • zonk? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Step 1: ???? Step 2: Editorialize all Slashdot articles involving Sony, and post absurd content as fact from completely untrustworthy sources, such as the Inquiror. Step 3: Profit.
  • The only thing I got out of that article is that I really don't want to be a journalist (Just look at my posts and you will understand why I fear editors), and that I need to reread Transmet.
  • by Channard ( 693317 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @04:33PM (#16507753) Journal
    .. of being asked to go lightly on a game because it's an exclusive review. You know, I don't think I've ever seen a cover-highlighted 'exclusive review' where the game hasn't ended up getting 8 out of 10 or above.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I worked for a time as a games reviewer, and I can say that I personally never knew or witnessed such action. Then again, we were pretty low on the totem pole and never had a "world exclusive". Still, the site was fairly big and reviews were collated at such places as metacritic.com, and even for the biggest releases there was no pressure to give a game any particular score.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Merovign ( 557032 )
      That's one of the ways to see what a review is worth - check the company's other review for a game you happen to know sucks eggs through a coffee stirrer, and see how they rated it.
    • by Haeleth ( 414428 )
      You know, I don't think I've ever seen a cover-highlighted 'exclusive review' where the game hasn't ended up getting 8 out of 10 or above.

      Had it occurred to you that this might be because when a game turns out to be crap, the magazine doesn't bother to highlight it on their cover?

      Just a thought.
  • Little Fish (Score:5, Informative)

    by Merovign ( 557032 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @04:37PM (#16507827)
    There are a lot of game websites that offer pennies for reviews - it seems less money this year than last.

    There is an ongoing "wage deflation" in writing as most web editors and some print editors look online for writers.

    The general poor quality of nearly-free writing does dampen that somewhat, but there are enough good writers working in their spare time, while engaging in trustafarianism, or otherwise not needing a lot of money, that it's creating a bit of an "outsourcing" effect, both with regard to pay and social reaction.

    There are still good paying jobs in this and other writing fields, but I'm seeing a trend toward people who are good at sourcing cheap content rather than in-house experts. As usual, we'll see how it all turns out.
    • Ok, you got me. What in the hell is "trustafarianism"?
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        What in the hell is "trustafarianism"?

        The grandparent is a bit mistaken in their use of this term, but basically a "trustafarian" is a young person who pretends to live a bohemian, liberal lifestyle -- usually characterized by living in low-income neighborhoods, wearing second-hand clothes, and basically making a show of their 'rejection' of materialism -- all the while being supported by their parents. Take the first bit as the "rastafarian", and the second part as the "trust fund".

        In men, this lasts unti
      • "Trustafarians" are those permanent college students with large trust funds and/or rich parents who are just fine with them seeking that 20-year degree.

        I'm sure, if you went to a non-ivy-league college (and possibly one of those) you knew at least one - I sure did.
  • in the same file of "Being a Porn Star".

    Sure, in theory it's a great way to earn your wages.

    However, at the end of the day, what would you do to relax and 'get away from it all'? Balance your checkbook?

    I'll just stick to what I know best, "Would you like fries with that?".
  • Step 1 -- Create your own game review blog Step 2 -- Buy games and write reviews on blog with adwords, amazon ads, etc Step 3 -- Sell games on ebay Step 4 -- Deduct games as expenses on your income tax Step 5 -- profit!
    • I suspect you just stole that from pornography business plans. Deduct hookers from your income tax!
  • Doesn't being a game journalist basically mean you wait for game companies to send you free beta copies of their games, play through a quarter of it (because who can be expected to play through a whole game for a review) and then find the score through a formula whose sole variable is how much ad revenue the company gave you last month?
    • Not quite.

      The formula you use is actually a checklist of features from Ocarina of Time, and then you apply the ad revenue co-efficient.
  • by Ryan Amos ( 16972 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @05:32PM (#16508699)
    You don't want to be a game journalist. Breaking in is even worse because you're expected to do the same things as a regular game journalist, except not get paid for it. There is very little journalism involved; you're just a glorified PR puppet whose job is to get quotes on the back of a game box to drive traffic to your site.

    Beyond that, it will totally ruin your experience of playing video games. It's not about playing the game, but evaluating it, capturing screenshots and videos, and even playing really awful games to completion. You will play many, many games you never had any interest in and that bore you to tears. The choice games (read: any game you've ever heard of) go to the senior guys who have proven they can write good PR fluff.

    Oh, and you have a deadline to meet, and if you don't give their games a favorable review, the PR people for that game company will mysteriously stop returning your e-mails and phone calls, so you can forget about getting eval copies of their games for the next 6 months.

    Suddenly, playing a video game starts to seem like, well, work. And you'll not want to do what you do for 7 hours a day every day once you get off work.
    • you're just a glorified PR puppet whose job is to get quotes on the back of a game box to drive traffic to your site. Yup, I'm sure plenty of publishers put quotes from a site/magazine that gave the game a 15% score on the back of the box. I guess it just depends where you work.
  • GameSpy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Digitus1337 ( 671442 ) <lk_digitus AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday October 19, 2006 @06:19PM (#16509317) Homepage
    I wrote for GameSpy's now-defunct 3DActionPlanet.com a while back. We only did editorials and demo reviews, leaving the finals for GameSpy's parent site. The job did not provide economic security, but it was a lot of fun. That being said, we were shut down because of the lack of direct editorial control and oversight. Now everything is run through GameSpy.com and the reviews are all pretty sensationalist.
  • by payndz ( 589033 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @06:21PM (#16509339)
    From TFA, the requirements for being a games journalist seem to have changed since I was one:

    1: Are you willing to work long hours for almost no money?
    2: Can you actually play games well enough to get screenshots of levels beyond the training stages?
    3: Can you write? (This requirement may be optional.)

    Those were pretty much the order of requirements. Games journalism (in print, certainly) is one field where actual writing ability rates far below being able to churn out tolerable copy to the required word count for the deadline.

    I worked on games magazines for the better part of the 1990s, and the sheer throughput of wannabe 'games journalists' I saw in that time was quite amazing. Dozens and dozens of people. What's scary is that quite a few of those who didn't vanish entirely are there even now, some in their 40s, still playing videogames for a living on shit money for bosses who treat them with contempt. They are literal lifers, with no way out because that's all they know how to do.

    There's the very occasional escapee who's made a journalistic career away from games, but anyone who thinks that becoming a videogames journalist is their stepping stone to bigger and better things is deluded. If you want to become an actual journalist, you'd be better off starting as the scut monkey on the tattiest local newspaper than as the editor of the best-selling videogames magazine in the country. You'd learn more useful career progression tips in a month than in five years of PR lunches and checkdisks.
  • by fbjon ( 692006 )
    No.
  • Rule #1 (Score:3, Funny)

    by mqduck ( 232646 ) <mqduck@mqdu[ ]net ['ck.' in gap]> on Thursday October 19, 2006 @07:58PM (#16510563)
    Rule #1:
    6.0 is the absolute lowest score, reserved for only the absolutely intolerable piles of crap. Regular "bad" games get at least a 7.
  • What does a video game journalist make? Could you make a living in say, California?

    If you're a game journalist already, what do you make as you advance? What does, say, a 5+ year vet make?
    • I'm no games journalist myself, nor do I live in california, but Salary.com [salary.com] cites numbers in the $30-$60 thou/year for entry-level copy writers (not game specific) in the San Fransisco area, which sounds pretty typical for entry-level jobs with a college degree these days, though it might be slightly less than what bay area residents typically recieve.

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