This is a guest post by Paul Tassi. He is the editor-in-chief of Unreality Magazine, managing editor for TVovermind, and a news contributor for Forbes Games.
I have the best job in the world, at least according to a number of people about my age or younger. I write about video games for a living for outlets like Forbes, Unreality and now Gamemoir, it seems.
I won’t bore you with the details of how I got here. This job led to that job which got me noticed by someone, etc. Lots of luck. I’m here to talk about what it’s like to do this for a living, as I often get questions about how exactly it works to do what I do.
First and foremost, is it fun? Of course it’s fun, and any games journalist that tells you otherwise is doing something seriously wrong. Yes, it’s true that my favorite leisure activity, video games, is now my job, but there’s very little that’s changed about my enjoyment of games since I was younger.
Yes, I may have to play a game for 12 hours straight to meet a review deadline, which can be more exhausting than exhilarating sometimes. Yes, I’ll force myself to trudge through a game I may hate in order to be able to paint a better picture of it in my writing.
But overwhelmingly, this hasn’t gotten old, not yet. I consider myself fortunate to do what I do now, especially since the last few years have given us some of the greatest games of all time, as the medium continues to evolve. Sure, the classics are great, but this is a really exciting time to be at the forefront of this industry.
It’s interesting to write about a scene that people care so passionately about, though even that’s putting it mildly. One of the hazards of writing about the topics I do is that you have to deal with people who hear what you say about a product, be it a video game or its console, and take it very, very personally.
The term for this is supposed to be “fanboyism,” but the word is used so much now, it’s almost lost its meaning. If you’re like me, and tend to insert opinion into your articles and put forth your own perspective on the news, you’ll be accused of being a fanboy for one side or the other. I’ve been both an Xbox and PlayStation fanboy, a console and PC fanboy, a Halo and Call of Duty fanboy, and a dozen other conflicting pairs. Even I lose track of what I’m supposed a fan of some time, or what I’m supposed to be hating.
But I don’t believe in hiding my opinion either. If Microsoft screwed up the reveal of the Xbox One horribly, it’s what I’m going to report. If Nintendo botched the early line-up of the Wii U, I’ll say that. If I was writing back when Sony priced the PS3 at $600 you bet your ass I would have called them out on their ego and idiocy. And of course when any of these companies do something right, I make sure to highlight that as well.
I owned an Xbox 360 exclusively for years and thought the PS3 was redundant. Eventually, I bought one and discovered all the great series I’d missed out on. I think if people simply were able to own all possible systems, many of these arguments would dissipate, but that’s not the industry we live in, and everyone is forced into these little warring tribes.
While I don’t begrudge people their opinions about whether or not I’m a fanboy of a current game of system, I do have to strongly push back against this notion that the industry as a whole is bought and paid for when it comes to coverage. Reviews are a strong point of contention these days among gamers, and the credibility of outlets can live or die on them.
There’s this idea that if an outlet gives a “good game” a bad score, they must be getting money, ad dollars or bribes, from the competition. The same goes for giving a bad game a good score. Using Occam’s Razor, you might deduce that the likely explanation is not some giant web of conspiracy where games journalists are in Activision/EA/Ubisoft’s pocket, but rather that people simply have different opinions on games.
I’ve also resigned myself to giving up complaining about the ratings system of games, which I’ve now been forced to adopt myself. The idea is that games are only really rated on a scale of 7-10 these days, with anything below that being meaningless.
This is true, but if you change your perception a bit, it’s not as big of a deal as you think it is. This is something I’ve had to come to grips with myself, but now it more or less makes sense to me. I used to bemoan the fact that a 3/5 star review of a movie meant I liked it, but a 6/10 score on a game means it’s probably abysmal. Same fraction, same rating, right?
Not really. In games journalism now, you have to look at the system like a letter scale used in school. 90-100 is an A, 80-89 a B, 70-79 a C, and a D or below is more or less failing. It doesn’t really matter by how much you fail at that point, because failing is failing. This doesn’t solve the all the problems with the system, but it does help if you look at it like that, and at least explains why most games are indeed rated from a 7-10.
I enjoy having these sorts of conversations with both readers and fellow writers. It’s been a fantastic process to learn as I go, and though I’m hardly some big industry figure, I feel like I’m finally starting to be comfortable in the world.
Most games I still end up buying myself, for those who ask, but no, a free copy of a review game does not color my opinion one way or another. It doesn’t matter if you’re being paid to, if you’re good enough, passionate and lucky, you may get recruited to work for an outlet you hold in high esteem. It couldn’t, or else I wouldn’t have this job.
So how do you get this job? That’s what many of you might ask, and have asked me over email from time to time. I don’t have a magic solution. It’s a combination of good writing ability (a combination of mechanical writing skill and creativity), a decent amount of luck and knowing the right people.
My advice is that if you like video games and want to write about them, just start doing it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re being paid to, if you’re good enough, passionate and lucky, you may get recruited to work for an outlet you hold in high esteem. I love Yesika for starting Gamemoir. She loves writing video game editorials, so what does she do? Starts a site where she can do just that, and invite her friends to do the same.
If you want to do this as a career, don’t quit your day job, as the saying goes. Few people in the industry make all that much, even working for big outlets. Freelancing can be a pain and even a steady gig can always turn out to be not so steady through circumstances outside of your control.
That said, it’s a great job, and I need to remind myself more often of that fact. Yes, few other jobs will land you death threats for saying one game is better than another, but if you can brush off the haters and possible sociopaths, there’s a great community of gamers out there right now, and it’s only growing as time goes on.
Games journalism, like any journalism, or any job, really, has its highs and lows, but at least in my experience it’s been a blast overall, and I still have to remind myself how good I have it that I get to do what I love for a living every day.
Now, Xbox One wins the next console generation, Call of Duty is better than Halo, PC gaming is dying and Nintendo will be bankrupt in 18 months. Discuss!
Paul is also a highly rated science-fiction writer on Amazon. Click the links below to check out the first two books of the Exodus trilogy