Due to the constant demands for new content on any columnist, there are certain gimmicks and pitfalls to which they all eventually succumb. Eye-rolling features like The List, The User Submission, and The Pictorial are all the last refuge of a writer that just can’t think of a decent topic. Naturally, being a pretentious new games journalist (whatever that means), I’m quite immune to such base banalities. Naturally.
Write a mere common column?! Guffaw! Never!
However, a confluence of circumstances has put me in a foreign land with cable cars and corner stores with only three hours of sleep. This has eroded my resistance to such things. So, just this once, and only this once, I will indulge. Today’s column (in so many words): How You Can Be Like Me.
The drive from Dallas, Texas to San Francisco gave me considerable time to reflect on my writing thus far, and the silly, stupid things I choose to do for it. I also realized that even though I consider my acquisition of my current position here at thegamereviews.com to be a product of happy happenstance, it’s really a statement of what’s required to get a job like this in general. All of us would like to get jobs in the industry, as such positions are ubiquitously classified, but most fail to embrace what that requires (generally because it’s not what they want to hear).
So here’s the tale of how I found someone with requisite brain damage to pay actual currency for the words that I write, and what that means for you. As a short cut to finding your own, I suggest searching local toxic waste disposals. If you are unfortunate enough to not be near one, read on.
The process started innocuously enough with the bi-annual breakdown of my desktop computer. After a ten-second string of curses levied at the manufacturers of my RAM, the first symptoms of internet withdrawal started setting in. With quivering hands and drool starting to collect in the corners of my mouth, I unpacked my laptop, circa the time of Christ, and plugged it in to my monitor.
Putting some more RAM in it helped a little.
Shortly after booting up the old girl, I plumbed the depths of the long dated favorites folder in the laptop’s (long outdated) installation of Firefox. A mysterious link glared at me – one for Journos, a networking website for video game journalists. The memory of signing up for the website and bookmarking it had long since faded from my memory. In an attempt to assuage the hate growing within me for my RAM’s manufacturers – a hate that could potentially summon a dark netherbeing capable of tearing a man’s soul from his mortal coil – I browsed the networking site.
Shortly I found a listing for thegamereviews.com. I had already been volunteering writing for various websites for a year, so I gathered up links to my best work and fired them away. A few days later I was a staff writer, official and everything. The whole circumstance of finding fortune from misfortune originally warmed my cockles, but there’s something more fundamental behind all this than mere serendipity.
My current position is the product of luck and hard work. Both are equally necessary. Without my computer breaking down, I would never have seen the job posting for new writers. Without years of volunteer writing under my belt, I would not have had the samples or the skill necessary to get the position. The same is true for any job in this industry – you have to get a lucky break, but also be prepared when the break comes along.
The catch 22 here is that you have to be willing to do it for free before anyone will pay you for it. Take game development – you have to be the sort of person that will code for hours or work away on concept art just for the hell of it. When crunch time comes, neither a paycheck or the glamour and status of being a game developer will keep workers in their cubicles. The sort of person that doesn’t front the effort and have anything to show will flake out when times get hard.
While it may seem like this isn’t true for writers, the principles still apply. Prospective writers need to write on their own without any motivation to develop the talents and insights necessary to produce content more valuable than your average knee-jerk hyper emotional forum post. It may seem easy – but things like reviews require empathy and perspective to understand what other people might want instead of making a snap judgment. Additionally, there’s no internet fame to be won in typing yet another NPD sales article (especially when Wii Play is at the top, again), but it has to be done.
I’ve heard the question asked so many times – “How can I get a job making games?” Every time the answer is the same – work, work, work. People keep asking the question because they don’t like the answer, perhaps hoping for some magical shortcut to earning a living off this pastime we all love so much. Unfortunately, shortcuts of that nature just don’t exist. Either you have the drive and passion to build a future for yourself, or you’ve implicitly made the decision that it’s not worth it (a decision nobody would blame you for). The moment I embraced the fact that a shortcut didn’t exist, I finally buckled down and worked – and incidentally started seeing results. It’s the only way to achieve your dream, so crack open that copy of Visual Studio or register a new WordPress and find yours.