Wear Layers and a Bullet Proof Vest
This job doesn't just take writing skill - heck, if I can do the job then that much should be clear. It takes confidence. It takes determination. It takes time and effort that goes beyond what the "wishers" are willing to do. It takes persistence and a thick skin because if you think the rejection of an editor is bad, just wait until you actually get on a platform where thousands of people can tell you how stupid you are.
This is a job worth wanting, but like any other it comes with as much blood and sweat as it does reward and accolade. It will be shocking how little of your effort will actually be focused on playing the videogames you will so eloquently write about.
Here's an example: A number of years ago I was hired by a respected magazine, the kind whose name every gamer knows, to write a preview for an upcoming game from a major publisher. To write this preview, I had at my disposal a press release, a preview written by a competitor, a feature list and the name of a PR person. I spent nearly a week trying to get the PR guy on the phone, but it turned out there was some conflict over where the game would be mentioned on the front cover, and until that was settled there would be no interview. With two days left until the deadline I managed to get some e-mail communications going and wrote the remainder of my work based on what is a catastrophically small amount of actual info.
I never played the game. Never saw video of the game in action. This is just how the business works sometimes. It was not long after that I stopped pursuing work as a preview or review writer.
If you're lucky, like I have been, you get to work for a publication with absolute editorial integrity and a commitment to giving writers genuine freedom like The Escapist. The reality is that most of the time you won't work under ideal conditions and you need a thick skin to navigate the bureaucratic red tape of publishers and developers, the readers who will vociferously drag you through the mud and the occasional editor with whom you just fail to see eye-to-eye.
But When It Works, It Really Works
Like some videogames, a hard job can be frustrating, exhausting and at time hopeless, but when you succeed, well, that's just one of the best feelings in the world. Seeing your name on the byline of an article you are truly proud of and that gets major visibility makes the headaches worth suffering.
We need great videogame writers. We need people who will challenge the industry and challenge their readers. We need people who think the big thoughts and are unafraid to get their hands dirty. We need people who want to change the world, even this tiny niche world of ours, with words. As I leave behind whatever tiny fracture in the games writing community, I hope someone with guts and talent coming out their ears steps in and pushes the walls as hard as they can.
Sean Sands has been writing about videogames for almost a decade. Totally worth it.