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How Not to Get a Job as a Game Journalist

Susan Arendt | 8 Oct 2009 17:16
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There are times when being a game journalist is a trying experience. We're regularly assumed to be on the take, sometimes criticized when we're not, generally disrespected, overworked and underpaid. I've been snubbed, slighted, derided and insulted. I've been driven to tears, threatened with violence, and told to "get back in the kitchen." It is still the best goddamn job in the world.

This fact has not gone unnoticed by the legions of people who email me every day asking for a job. They want in on the game journalism party, too, and their enthusiasm is, sadly, matched by their near universal inability to pursue a writing position in a way that's likely to actually earn them one. Not that emailing the Senior Editor of a gaming website is a bad way to start - in fact, it's one of the strategies I recommend to people who ask me how to get a job like mine - but more often than not, the people doing the asking are doing so in such ill-advised ways that I have to wonder if they're suffering from some kind of head trauma.

So here are a few things to keep in mind if you're one of those folks who'd like to someday get paid for writing about videogames. Following these tips will improve the chances that your email gets taken at least somewhat seriously by the person who reads it, at which point you're at the mercy of their mood, your talent, and sheer dumb luck.

Mistake #1: "I've been a gamer all my life."

The vast majority of prospective writers choose to introduce themselves by professing their undying love of videogames. So why is it a problem? Because everyone who wants to write about videogames for a living has an undying love for them, so telling me that you love gaming is pretty much the biggest "Duh" on the planet.

Solution: Tell me something I don't know

I can pretty much assume that you enjoy the pew-pew, so tell me something that I don't know about you that might make you more intriguing to me. Maybe you were inspired to start writing by a girl you once met on a bus. Maybe you've made a hobby of playing every game that starts with the letter F. Maybe you have a pony. Until I actually get to know you, you are nothing more than a name and a few sentences to me - sorry, but that's just the impersonal nature of electronic communication - so make those sentences count.

Mistake #2: Bad grammar

You'd think this one would be common sense, but sadly, it actually has to be said: When applying for a writing position, it is in your best interests to make sure your email is perfect. No typos, no spelling errors, no grammatical mistakes. It speaks not only to your mastery of the English language, but also to your desire to produce good work. Taking the time to proof your email shows that you give a damn. Also, though you'll often have to send your email to a general address, such as "[email protected]," in those instances when you can direct it to an actual person, make sure you get their name right. Yes, my last name is somewhat unusual, but it's only six letters long. If you can't pay attention long enough to get that right, how am I supposed to trust you to write something longer?

Solution: Proof, proof, and then proof again

The great thing about email is that you can save it as a draft, take a break, then go back and look at it again. Read and re-read your email before you send it, and if you have any doubts at all, ask someone that you trust to give it a look, too. Do not rely on your email application's spelling and grammar checks, because they're not going to catch everything. You don't have to sound like a robot, but you do have to make sure you're not trying to sell me on a column about "game moments that should of happened."

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