Member OP

    The other day I chanced upon a job opening for Kotaku as a Weekend Freelance Writer. I appled for it, hoping it could be the breakthrough I need to get my foot in their door. While you may have seen me post about my uncertainty regarding certain career fields, videogame journalism is something I’ve had a long interest in as well as actual experience: I’ve spent nearly ten years as a freelancer writing reviews and articles for privately owned websites as well as for my own personal enjoyment. I’ve also dabbled in podcasting, video editing and all sorts of other things. It’s one of the few skillsets I feel confident in, and I think I’ve got a decent chance getting accepted for the position (side note: I’m willing to share samples of my work via PM if anyone’s interested).

    But it’s also got me wondering what the current state of Games Journalism as a career is like. Leaving aside whatever biases you have for certain organizations or writers, I’m inquiring instead about the work conditions, job security, and other factors that make up a job. Is it something a longtime fan of the medium with decent writing skills should seriously pursue? Or is it a foolish pipe dream with more cons than pros that most people should steer away from?

    Again, I’m curious about the profession as a whole. This isn’t an avenue for some of you to rant about whatever publication or individual you have a personal vendetta against. I’m just wondering what it’s like to do it for a living.
  2. from everything i have heard from people in the field:


    bail the fuck out

    it's not a good career choice
  3. Birdseye


    Be awesome and share your insider tips for free on ResetEra

    Member OP

    Could you be more specific?
  5. Games journalism is like being a cereal journalist.
  6. it's simple supply and demand

    more people than ever want to do it, and there are fewer employment opportunities than ever

    this means that in order to break in you have to accept REALLY shitty conditions, because someone else is always willing to do the same job for less than you

    for years you'll have to work for nothing more than exposure

    then a few years as a freelancer where they pay you on a per-piece basis with too little compensation for too much work

    all the while you spend time trying to break in, the good opportunities for experienced people in the field will continuously shrink in numbers as outlet after outlet closes
  7. Aureon


    As with most fields where people can be abused due to their passion, conditions are shit. Bail.
  8. SuperBanana


    Go for it if you want but people don't read as much these days. The industry has shrunk a lot and if you want to do video game journalism as a career you really need to learn video production, editing, and talking in front of a camera and do stuff like Danny O'Dwyer and Drew Scanlon. Though they both get funding from the audience they already had and even Danny almost gave up on it. Gamespot was his last position he applied for before giving up on it totally. If you can learn those skills and knock out a few high quality videos you could be on to something. If you want to be the next Patrick Klepek then I'd say that will be far harder.
  9. Dolobill


    Don’t look at games journalism as a career. Look at it as a hobby. If one day you get paid for it, nice. Don’t count on it though.
  10. Filament Star

    Filament Star
    Banned Member

    You're probably better off starting a youtube channel and working your way to a Patreon or something.
  11. lasthope106


    I've never heard good things about the people in the gaming press. There are very few people out there who actually are game journalist and cover things with more rigor like Patrick Klepek. Doritos pope wrote a few really good stories about Valve. There are others, but most of "game journalism" is basically an extension of the marketing from most game studios. ResetERA and NeoGAF were places where news broke even before the journalist knew. If I was in the position to be picking a career for the future I personally wouldn't go into gaming press.
  12. Its not a career its survival and only like 30 people in the US make a "real living" on it, and the rest does it part time / surviving or doing it for free because its passion / hobby sides a job.

    Don't do it, media in general is barly a career anymore.
  13. Go for it, but build your own stuff on the side, like a podcast or YouTube channel. Lots of gaming journalists I follow on Twitter once wrote for magazines and/or websites, but moved onto their own things after the magazines folded/ they were laid off/ no longer enjoyed doing it.

    edit: I'd also consider the thought: Most "gaming" journalists actually cover film and television too. It's not strictly games, because the audience is bigger than that.
  14. Platy


    Being a Game Journalist and Developing games have more to do with regular journalism and regular program development than playing games.
    Playing a game for a review or in a press junklet or whatever is not playing games for fun.

    A person who dreams of doing game journalism must first think "what if I ended up in [non gaming themed] journalism?" like would you still like the job if you were a fashion journalist or a politician journalist ?

    It is not a gratefull profession so you need extra care
  15. IronicSonic


    Today seems more profitable run a Youtube channel but even on this "field" people prefer to see dumb or raw content (playtroughs)

    Member OP

    That is what I was hoping for. Guys like Patrick Klepik seem to dabble in everything: written articles, podcasting, videos, streams. I’ve done the same, though not nearly at the same frequency or professionalism. Still, I was hoping that would get me a leg up into a company like Kotaku.

    That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing this whole time, lol. Almost never got a cent from any of my contributions, but plenty of free games. That was good enough for me, for the most part, but I always dreamed about making it professionally.

    But as I’ve mentioned before in other topics, job security is one of the most important things for me. If it’s an industry where they’ll work you to the bone and can you without a moment’s notice, then that puts a damper on things. No career is worth that kind of risk, but that’s why I wanted to inquire about it in case I actually got a call back.
  17. Fuck no.

    Avoid any gaming related profession like the plague.
  18. Al3x1s

    Banned Member

    I tried it in the early-mid 2000's and after starting it as a hobby years prior I got some nice enough job positions at smaller sites that eventually shut down, fast forward to a few years later after my army service and everything and everyone wanted me to do it for practically free, to make a name for myself with them or whatever else they deemed enough of a reward. I guess you can get lucky and get a chance at a decent company, those surely must still exist somewhere...
  19. shira

    Community Resetter Member

    I've noticed that the 8-4 team ex-EGM folk are basically connected to the entire industry from Nintendo to Valve. 15-20 years ago was the time to be a games journalist. Almost all of those pioneers have moved into industry positions or left. I mean that is the ultimate goal of games journalist to move into higher paying PR or game development jobs isn't it?

    Unless you are a social media wizard with loads of industry contacts or can corner a market with highly specialized content like Overwatch League Korean-English or English-Korean interviews or something.

    There is a plethora of people with no actual skills making online gaming opinions. And "reactors" have started reacting to everything in consumable media.
  20. mompe


    Run awaay!
  21. I’m 17 and have been writing since I was 13, only started getting paid about 3 years ago. You said you’ve been writing and building experience for quite some time, depending on where you live and the cost of living it could allow you to just skate by or it could pay moderately well! A lot of games journalism jobs are in massive cities so their wages are usually enough to balance the cost of living. I don’t have any experience in this, just what I’ve seen from looking online for my future.

    If you’re doing it remotely, it all depends on what they’re willing to offer and I don’t know if there’s really a well know average wage.
  22. funky


    You could fit everyone in a full time job as a games jouno in a minibus. And most of them only got work because they had contacts.

    The rest are doing free work / for peanuts freelance work.

    Avoid. Its a dying feild
  23. verygooster


    Yeah it seems like just being a writer in that industry isn't viable these days but if you can build an audience and a following with content you could probably eventually eek out a living from there. The one caveat being the enormous amount of time you have to spend to produce that content.

    Basically be a brand.
  24. Aquavelvaman


    My advice is to build your own blog as a hobby. Just start writing what you can, maybe carve a small niche. Make youtube videos to go with it if you can. You might get some paid freelance work out of it eventually. You might get some freebie review copies and things from publishers too.

    I wouldn't go for a career at like IGN or something. There are not many positions in the world for that, and there is a pretty low ceiling on where you can go as a games writer.
  25. Lime


    It'll destroy your interest in games. Do writing as a hobby, while working with something that you would actually enjoy much more. The reward for then coming home from work to play and write about games is that much bigger.

    Member OP

    Honestly, I always thought this was the avenue I should pursue: I could do it on my own time, play what I want, say what I want (as long as it’s not the sort of things that would get me in hot water...which seems to be a sentiment few YouTubers can follow), and the Patreon thing seems to be a workable alternative to relying on YouTube’s ads.

    But I’ve also shyed away from it considering there are zillions of people with cameras doing the same thing. Even the legitimately talented folks who deserve more subscribers barely get any notice.

    I thought working for a professional website was the more sustainable choice, but it’s starting to not sound that way.
  27. mutantmagnet


    I think there is a serious need for investigative journalism but balancing monetization with integrity is a big problem.

    It can be done as a career but you're almost better off treating such a venture like running your own business.

    Try out kotacku to see if you can establish any meaningful journalist connections, otherwise go solo, work hard and have potential journalists come to you instead.
  28. Power Shot

    Power Shot

    Before I write this- this is an avenue of my research and I've been doing it for quite some time now.

    That being said, the video game journalism industry is a hole. I'm not going to be saying anything new here, but the bottom line is that the majority of games journalism now functions as advertising for video game publishers. Sure, Kotaku and other outlets sometimes to hard hitting journalism, exposes, and all that good stuff, but it's few and far between (and usually reserved for senior staff). While you might have better luck in online media, not everyone gets to be Jim Sterling. Count yourself lucky that it wasn't a Game Informer position, which would have been just writing ads all day. Some of the retro mags (such as Retro Gamer in the U.K.) still do real journalism, but much of video game journalism at this point is just a series of hypers trying to sell stuff.
  29. Garf02

    Banned Member

    unless they give you a 10 years based contract with a hefty pay, you are better off as a free lancer. you will be demanded what to write, what topics, if you dont reach views quotas they can fire your or reduce your pay.
    If you have a passion for the medium and report it, do as other said, keep growing your on personal site, make a patreon.

    If anything, at best see em as a stepping stone to make connections, not with other journalist, but with industry people
  30. Quit thinking about it and start doing it.
  31. Neoshockwave


    As a sole career I wouldn't recommend it. Perhaps some paid freelance to coincide with a more stable job?

    Member OP

    I actually do have a blog, though I haven’t written anything for it in a year or more. It’s something I’ve wanted to get back into, considering I still get comments on stuff I’ve written almost a decade ago.

    I care too much about exposure, though, which is why I often wonder which of the avenues could potentially get me noticed more. That’s why I wonder if anyone even cared about blogs anymore, and whether I’m better off making YouTube videos.

    It sucks that we don’t have a dedicated thread where we could just share our own personal creations like blogs, podcasts and such. This seemed to be a rule in the previous forum, so could we perhaps do something like that now?
  33. Kaxi


    In my country (Central Europe), game journalism is either a side job, a hobby, or just a step towards working in broadly defined game dev: usually marketing, sometimes QA, Localization or Story Team.

    You can't feed a family or buy a house with it, so it's good for young or single people mostly.
  34. Twilight Suzuka

    Twilight Suzuka
    Banned Member

    Treat it as something you do with 60-70% of your effort, while you always keep 30% invested into something else. Always. Do not ever count on this as your career. Do it for a short period of time as you AT ALL TIMES spend 30% of your energy on building towards something else.

    Have you ever seen a 50 year old games journalist? What is the retirement plan for games journalists?

    Most commenters would write Kotaku style articles for free. Destructoid gets most of their writers from the commenters. Some people making OT threads on this site put in more work than many game journalist copy and paste articles, and they do it for free. You're never going to get compensated enough to make it a viable long term career strategy.

    And the entire advertising model for these sites has just collapsed by the way, so it's not even necessarily clear that they'll be around in their current state in 20 years. You're rolling the dice with your life. You may be one of the 1% that manages to use it as a great spring board into a PR job at Nintendo, or you could be one of the ones that wakes up and suddenly you're 40 years old with nothing but regret.

    I say take the job. Just don't ever feel comfortable with it as a long term thing. At all times treat it as a temporary thing you are using while you build up other stuff.
  35. demi


    Dude if you become a freelance write for Kotaku you can make a post on why Treasure of the Rudras doesnt work on the Mini SNES yet, think of the exposure
  36. APZonerunner

    Features Editor at VG247.com Verafied

    Hello! I did this, and I feel qualified to answer.

    A bit of background on me: When I was, like, 11, I got involved with the Final Fantasy community and set up a FF fansite. By the time I left school, it was making a bit of money, and by the time I left university it'd changed focus but crucially was making a decent amount of money. I didn't bet the farm on games media or do a degree in it or anything like that - I studied English Language (with a minor in Journalistic Studies, Ethics & Law), and I had other paths I could take. I think that's important, to be honest - not because games media is inherently unstable, but because having that other stuff gave me context and skills that really helped me. The FF fan site eventually morphed into rpgsite.net, which is now a profitable endeavor that I'd call semi-pro. It's no Kotaku or IGN, but there's still millions of readers a month and our writers are paid, trained and edited as on any larger site; we rock our niche well (imo). Through my work there was recognition from publishers and media outlets alike and I began to get invitations to write for other publications, especially about my areas of expertise. Eventually, a larger company approached me offering me a role and I took it, and years later I'm still at it while acting as a general overseer/manager on my own websites.

    I note this at the start because my path to the job wasn't normal (for all intents and purposes it was sort of an accident, even), and it's important context before you read anything else I say.

    Anyway - What is writing about games like? Well, it's amazing, I think - but it comes with caveats - but so does everything.

    For one, the money can vary wildly and at the low end it can be particularly poor. I was lucky in this sense, because I was able to back up my wage packet with my independent endeavors prior to slipping into a role with an outright good wage, but I know a number of people who left the profession because they were struggling to find promotions and progression to live the life they wanted to live. The ceiling also feels relatively low, which I figure is why a lot of people ultimately transition to PR, Marketing, etc - and they transition into those jobs not because journalists are paid shills, but rather because over years of working with PR on coverage, media tend to begin to understand their jobs - it's a natural shift. The games media is disproportionately young for this reason, I guess, and there's a lot of reasons - a lot of people will work for free (which is bad for everyone, I think, as it devalues everyone's work at all levels - there are mid-tier sites at the level of my site that don't pay and just exploit people with the promise of exposure despite making money), ad blockers, yadda yadda.

    Caveat two would probably be that it isn't all roses, obviously. I think a lot of my friends think I just sit on my ass playing all day, but there's a lot of stuff to actually do. I really consider myself more of a games critic than a journalist (though there are many people like Kotaku's Jason who do proper, amazing journalistic stuff) but even in that it's not all playing - there's a lot of writing, of course, clerical work, remaining on top of embargoes, schedules, whatever whatever. It's the same sort of advice given when people ask about games QA: don't just expect to play lots. Also expect the turmoil that any writer faces: loving a piece of work one day and hating it the next, writer's block, all that stuff. Expect to have to do things you don't like - to cover games you wouldn't usually play, or build extensive, high-effort guides.

    A subset of this is also that, yeah, you should expect burnout. Not just on the writing, but sometimes on games, too. I love games with every ounce of my being, but over this last Christmas after a really hard run up to the holiday I really just enjoyed... stepping back for a bit. Aside from a little multiplayer, I didn't touch a thing. The flip side of that is I came back absolutely ready to sink a hundred hours into Monster Hunter and then write tens of thousands of words on it in a very short period. Incidentally, I think those breaks are vital, because if you don't get them you can become one of those miserable writers who clearly now no longer really, truly loves games, and that sucks. So if you go into it, take your breaks and breathers.

    Caveat three is that... it's not a very respected field, as the 'cereal journalist' comment from Teh Hamburglar shows. This is just any form of criticism, reporting and writing online now, but it goes hand-in-hand with the writer turmoil comment I made earlier - you'll write something, love it, then realize a good chunk of people in the comments haven't even read it, and you can expect abuse, disrespect and just a general 'it's not a real job' attitude from a lot of people - enemies, friends, the works. You have to be prepared to deal with that.

    But, for these three points, the thing I want to say is that it is an amazing, wonderful place to work so long as you do it right. Like I said, I consider myself more a critic than a journalist, and when a piece of criticism or analysis I work on does well I always feel absolutely ecstatic. Games is absolutely full of amazing people, too, and so the people you get to hang out with, work with and even work against in terms of rival publications are all for the most part absolutely superb. If you love games you get to work on and around things you love, too, and that is really magical. Right now the field is in an interesting place since there's the 'pivot to video', but I think there's a renaissance in really well-written text content, and in the UK at least our print media is currently really fabulous, too. Choose where you work carefully, but I think the vast majority of places are very safe now. There's some lovely perks, too - like the chance to travel a few times a year in most roles, meet and question people who are legends, etc.

    I work for a larger company and I absolutely love it. I feel safe, I feel supported etc. Obviously this can vary greatly because of the nature of the games press - there are many very big sites that are basically independent outlets ran out of somebody's house that don't have things like a Head of HR to look after you or a Head Office you can visit if you have a problem. That stuff largely depends on where you apply and where you end up, and those are things to inquire about at interview if you get to that stage.

    My main pieces of advice if you want to do it, mind:
    1. Value your work. I'm not going to say 'never work for free' as I did lots of bits for years and it was a serious help in terms of both exposure and experience, but know what your work is worth and demand that. One of the problems in the medium is people just happy to be there let themselves get exploited, but don't let that be you - if your work is desirable, people will pay well for it.
    2. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Do other things, have qualifications in other areas, and consider having a blog, youtube channel or other outlet so your personal work isn't entirely tied up in wherever you happen to be commissioned or working that week. That may start making money, you may get a following - it might end up supporting you as bonus income or even become your main source of income. Even if it doesn't, it'll prove excellent practice. This all works as a great contingency if you decide to leave games.
    3. Be tenacious about pitching, and do so well, soliciting as much advice as you can. Get to know people, and get out to events.
    4. Read endlessly - and not just games stuff. There's a whole lot of really bad games writing on the internet, but the best way to improve in my opinion is to read and write more yourself. Read critic and journalistic work outside games, too - see how they approach their work, because much of that can be applied to games really well.
  37. Bear


    Good luck dude. If you really want to be involved in games from a non-technical side, I'd recommend going the way of marketing or PR. Much more manageable.
  38. XandBosch


    There's a reason that pretty much everyone who works for IGN has their own side-Patreon gig where they try and raise supplemental income. I'm sure it's a dope job, but when it comes to being realistic and what your concerns should be long-term, it's probably not the best choice.

    That being said, YOLO, like the kid's say.
  39. lasthope106


    You can think about it all you want. But there is no better experience that just doing it. Making YouTube videos that are decent is harder than it seems. I could write a book in all the annoying shit people do. And finding what works and what doesn't is a process that you will only get with experience.

    There is still a rule here not to self-promote.

    Good luck!
  40. Kthulhu


    Not a journalist, but I'd love to read some of your stuff.

    Make sure you don't sign up with a site that'll screw you. Medium, WordPress, and YouTube are great platforms for you to do your own thing, so if you get tired of working for a big site, you definitely have an out.
  41. Sarobi


    You'll find that writing about literally anything else will be you a higher chance of actually making a living. I'm not even joking. You can make a personal blog today and start writing, and you may find yourself making more money off of AD revenue than being paid by someone to write about video games.

    YouTube/Twitch is more of a viable option honestly.
  42. stumblebee


    Start one! I'd contribute.

    As for your question, yeah games journalism isn't really something anyone makes a living off of anymore. I think the 30 people estimate was a bit low. Consider all of the game informers and easy allies and giant bombs out there and think about the people behind the scenes running that show. I'd say... maybe 200 people make a good living doing this sorta thing without the help of patreon/donations of any kind.
  43. hwarang


    This is the worst advice I've come across on ERA yet.
  44. Brian Crecente

    Brian Crecente
    Video Games Editor, Variety Verafied

    Journalism is a great profession and covering video games as a journalist can be quite rewarding.

    I teach a class on game journalism at NYU, so if you have any specific questions, fire away and I'll do my best to answer them.
  45. Bonki


    If you want to be a journalist, be a journalist who writes about games, not a “games journalist”. I don’t see how you’ll develop the skills of a journalist in an industry with as much mutual back-scratching as this one. At least have something behind you like a college degree.

    99% of games journalism is just glorified blogging—or worse, content-farm labour—and you’re better off developing transferable, marketable skills that can always be applied to whatever you want.

    If you saw what conditions the people in the industry worked under and the way they’re compensated, you’d be more horrified than by anything PT could throw at you.

    It’s like when people take computer science thinking they want to make videogames. It’s a rude awakening.
  46. Youtube seems to be a dead end too. It literally takes millions of followers to make any money, and either they or Patreon (if you go that route) can change the rules at any time and just screw you over.

    Written games journalism is useless as a career too. Take it from someone who did eight years for plenty of "exposure" but aside from a few free games never earned anything.

    And you can get free games as a smalltime blogger no problem, but that also forces you to play games that you might not care for to do them justice.
  47. is this true? you weren't paid at all for your work at gamereactor, or are you talking about before/after then?
  48. Arkestry


    The major thing you need to keep in mind is that anyone who's successful at this now got in the door when it was wider than it is now, and it's always closing. There are more and more people trying to do it, and fewer and fewer publications that pay a reasonable wage. Anyone who is already in doesn't really know how to get in today, because the circumstances are different. Your best bet is to do it entirely on your own time, for your own enjoyment, but never work for anywhere that is earning money from your words without appropriate compensation.

    I honestly don't think there are more than a few dozen reasonably paying jobs left in the industry for pure writing. And they're all taken.

    Member OP

    APZonerunner Hello! We’ve worked together a few times! Glad you’re at this site and still doing what you’re doing!

    I’m curious, is this a more thriving market in the UK? I’ve noticed for a while that the sites that I’ve worked for and are still active today are mostly UK sites. It’s a good thing most of Sony’s hardware is region free; nearly my entire Vita library is the result of covering reviews. I think I only ever bought two games at the most for it.

    I totally get the advice you and other people are saying: do the writing/content on the side at your own time, but don’t make it your main career.

    Let me ask though: at what point do you look at an opportunity in games writing and decide that you CAN make it your main career? On the one hand, it sounds very scattershot and risky, but it sounds like you made it to that point and are living comfortably as a result.

    If a publication like Kotaku isn’t sustainable enough, than what is? Again, you’re in the UK, so perhaps the rules are different there. It seems as far as the West goes, it’s either having a popular YouTube/Patreon or nothing.
  50. APZonerunner

    Features Editor at VG247.com Verafied

    Kotaku's mega sustainable, it's a big site with a great audience and a strong parent company - or at least as far as I know. Certainly their team is brilliant, and seems to be very happy there.

    I'm not sure why the UK is like this, but there's definitely a lot of strong UK-based websites and parent companies, and unlike the US (which basically has, what, one magazine?) we have loads of different ones, each with slightly different approaches and audiences, which is brilliant. There's still plenty of opportunity in the US though, I think. The biggest sites of all are still mostly based there.

    I think the point you look at an opportunity and think "this is my main job" is the point at which you look at the wage and say you can not just scrape by but live comfortably on it - have a half decent car, pay the mortgage, not be screwed if you have kids. It's not all about money, obviously, but at a point that has to define it, right? What I'm saying is on the journey there don't bust your balls, and don't say "it's this or nothing" - try to do it while exploring other things, have options open, and if it lands, great. If it doesn't land, you'll still be able to pick up freelance commissions from time to time as some bonus cash if editors take to your work.