Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
How to Become a Game Journalist

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 8 May 2012 12:00
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Sometimes I still think about making good on that promise/threat I made about shunning triple-A games altogether and exclusively reviewing indie games from now on, because the machinery of mainstream development virtually ensures stamping on anything resembling creativity and innovation before it can risk any of the investors' massive dosh injection with anything that isn't a guaranteed sell. But I think we all know this is an empty threat. If I couldn't hate on games so much I doubt I'd have the energy to get up in the morning. More to the point, it's hard to be on the sympathetic side of discussion when you're tearing apart the output of publishers who don't spend their evenings cleaning luxury yachts out of their belly buttons.

But on the subject of game reviewing, it seems I've been getting more correspondence than usual lately from people expressing an interest in pursuing game journalism, specifically reviewing, as a career, and asking me for advice. Don't know what it is about the time of year, maybe a lot of people completed their liberal arts degrees recently. But I hung onto it as an idea for a column, perhaps even a series of columns, to guide a fresh generation of young minds into the business. And not, let me make this totally clear, use it as an opportunity to give deliberately terrible advice in order to kill future competition for my job.

So, the first thing you need to know about video game journalism is that don't, whatever you do, be good at writing. If you are, you will come across as elitist and pretentious, which might be fine in other kinds of journalism like royal reporting or movie criticism, but your audience have all had their brains addled by all that Modern Warfare, so you need to communicate on their level. Most editors will funnel your submissions straight into the recycle bin at first glance if your spelling, punctuation and grammar are perfect, whereas a block of rambling, uncapitalized garbage with no paragraph breaks will be sure to get a second look.

Also, people tend to overstate the importance of knowing your subject matter. If anything, it's more ideal to know as little about video games and video game history as possible. The slightest cursory glance at the blogosphere and Youtube will show that there is virtually limitless competition in the field of video game journalism so it's vital to have a fresh and interesting perspective, something you're never going to have if you waste time filling up your brain with all the facts and shit that all the other posers have.

Once you're absolutely certain that your writing is terrible and your background knowledge is non-existent, there comes the matter of submitting work. Now, admittedly for my part I first got into the whole reviewing thing when I was discovered on Youtube, but before that I did do some writing for print journalism - and incidentally I strongly recommend holding out to exclusively write for print game magazines because they're honestly just going from strength to strength and I really don't think the whole online fad is going to last much longer and did I mention it's extremely well-paying - so I can pass on the advice that helped me get into that.

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