Sometimes if we’re not in the mood to play something, or you want to suss out a game before you buy it, video game journalists come to our aid. This happens even when we’re not aware of it. When you think ‘game journalist’, you might think of someone physically writing for a magazine. But game journalists come in many different shapes and forms, including your favourite YouTuber.
People like IGP and Markiplier aren’t just ‘professional gamers’. They do far more than just play games and should be considered professionals in the gaming industry.
In this article, we will delve into what really makes a game journalist stand out and how you might become one. You could even follow in the footsteps of your favourite professional gamers. Sounds like a dream, right?
If you’re really interested in how to be a game journalist, stay tuned until the very end so you don’t miss out on any key information!
Video game journalism is the practice of previewing, reviewing and discussing video games. It can be done traditionally through the written word, or digitally through online social media platforms.
A game journalist is hugely important in the gaming industry due to the work they do as reporters. They scrutinize every aspect of up and coming games, before and after release.
Well-known game journalists can be described as the influencers of the gaming industry. Particularly those with YouTube and Twitch channels who have built a following base of hundreds of thousands, some even millions. And remember, they started out exactly where you are now.
Some of these gamers are sponsored by gaming companies, others are not. Either way, it is not unreasonable to say that if you see your favourite YouTuber streaming a game, you’re probably going to buy that game or at least try out the demo.
This is a win-win in the eyes of both the streamer and the game developers. You have been influenced and thus are spending money on the intended product.
Starting with a basic description, a game journalist is primarily a content writer (or speaker) who covers new game releases, industry news and gossip, promotional writing and opinion pieces. It’s exactly what you think it is: journalism with a focus on the gaming industry.
Part of what we do here at Music Gateway is game journalism. We have many talented writers who cover news and features, How To pieces, and case studies, all related to the gaming industry. Check out our blog to see what we mean!
Let’s go through some of the roles and responsibilities involved in being a video game journalist.
To preview a game is to purchase (or be gifted) a game and play it while it’s still a work in progress. It may only be the first chapter or the first few hours of a game. It may be all but the ending. Maybe it’s an epilogue or demo-type situation.
Developers release these game previews in order to get a feel for players’ response to what they have created so far. They will read and listen to these previews and might even ask players and fans for suggestions for the rest of the game.
As a game journalist, what you say or what you write might be what determines the ending of a game. It might not, but that’s a good way of thinking about these previews. It might be off-putting to think that you have to write a complete review on only an hour or two of gameplay.
But these are some of the most important reviews because they often determine the success of the game after its official release. They build expectations and force developers to ensure they release the best possible final product to meet these expectations.
It’s important to remember that as a game journalist, you cover all aspects of the industry, including all genres of games. Perhaps when you climb the ranks and become a renowned journalist working for Play magazine or PC Gamer, you’ll get to pick and choose the games you review.
Until then, you’ll have to remain professional, playing and reviewing all kinds of games, from horror to adventure, side-scroller to shooter. Even if they aren’t your ‘cup of tea’. Versatility, the ability to remain objective and a willingness to learn is always favourable in the eyes of potential future employers.
But we’ll get onto the subject of making a career as a videogame journalist a bit further down, so keep reading.
When reviewing a game, you might want to have your own checklist or criteria to follow while you’re playing it. When you’re done, you’ll remember larger issues you had, but you won’t remember what you liked or didn’t like at that particular moment halfway the second chapter right before that other thing happened. You know exactly what we mean.
Your checklist might feature some of the following: user interface, game controls, epilogue, introduction or tutorial, main storyline and side quests, and graphics, both interactive or otherwise.
Of course, these will vary depending on the developers, style, and budget. For example, indie game Mundaun and Resident Evil: Village should be reviewed as mutually exclusive entities; even though they are both horror games and they were both released in 2021.
Try to begin each game review with a fresh mind, leaving behind all preconceived notions or personal expectations.
As a game journalist that hopefully wants to make a voice for themselves in the industry, you must be brutally honest in your feelings toward the game as you play it. You can’t be preoccupied with worrying about the feelings of the developers or other players.
You have to be honest. Whether that means writing a positive or negative review, it’s up to you. Your readers and followers will look to you for guidance, and rose-tinted glasses do no favours for anyone.
Game journalist’s also cover industry news and gossip. Has something happened to the CEO of Sony? Are there rumours of a new Nintendo console? What’s this about a pink Playstation 5 controller?
Some stories might carry more weight than others, but as a game journalist it is your responsibility to cover all aspects. Even if some seem superficial or tabloid-y. Not everyone wants to read hard hitting journalism everyday. Some of us love a bit of gossip or a celebrity drag.
Keep an eagle eye out on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter for potential scoops before the bigger magazines like IGN or GameSpot catch them. Something you think insignificant might just be the maker of your career! Check out @gamingbible on Instagram for examples of what to be looking out for.
If you’re employed by a magazine or online website, you might be asked to write some How To guides for others hoping to get into the industry, just like this article. You might tackle subjects like How To Become A Video Game Producer, How To Become A Professional Gamer or How To Make An eSports Logo.
These can be of great benefit to people looking for a career change or those who aren’t sure what university course to enroll in. But make sure you take great care in the information you provide.
Remember that you are not a professional in those fields (unless you are), you are simply advising them on what the role entails and where to start looking.
A case study is an in-depth study of a certain person, company or subject that involves extensive research, statistics, fact-checking and sometimes interviews.
You’ll be dedicating yourself to your assignment for a set amount of time and gathering as much information as possible about the topic in question before putting together your case study.
You must remain professional and objective at all times, regardless of what you might find during your research.
Case studies are often the kind of hard-hitting journalism that, when successful, is what will get you recognised as a professional videogame journalist.
So, you’re interested in how to be a game journalist? Alright then, let’s take a moment. We have a question for you.
Are you the type of person who, when playing a game, makes a mental note of anything that you particularly like; any dialect or speech feature you think could be improved upon, or an ending that didn’t live up to the hype?
If yes, then you’re already well on your way to becoming a game journalist. Becoming a video game journalist has no one route to take, so let’s take a look at a few options.
While writing is something that does take real world practice and experience, getting a formal education is very beneficial to someone who is looking to work as a professional game journalist.
Many companies nowadays require candidates to hold a degree of some sort, otherwise they are considered on a case by case basis or not considered at all. Journalism is a dog-eat-dog world but don’t be discouraged.
Further on we will discuss how to get into the industry without qualifications.
While there aren’t many specific ‘video game journalism courses’, if at all, a good place to start is with a basic arts degree. Perhaps you could major in English or media studies. You will learn the necessary skills to write for a living, be that academic, fiction or, well, journalistic writing.
Once you’ve finished your undergraduate degree, you could enroll in a postgraduate or Master’s degree that specialises in journalism. Once in, you could focus your work on the gaming industry.
This would introduce you to in-depth research, analysis and case studies in that specific area of work.
Instead of a postgrad, or as well as, you could try and find yourself an internship in a gaming company like EA or Activision. Or maybe there is a magazine or social media platform that is specifically looking for a games writer or journalist.
During the course of an internship, you would take on real world professional responsibilities while simultaneously continuing your education.
It’s a fantastic way of gaining work experience in a real world scenario. You might even achieve the equivalent to a video game journalism degree in the meantime. It’s a win-win.
Internships give aspiring journalists access to the inner circle of the industry. You’ll have one foot in the door which is often the most difficult step.
Many companies take on interns as full-time employees once their learning period has ended so it’s definitely worth your time, even if it’s an unpaid position.
Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t hold a degree in some sort of third-level writing-based course. It is helpful as we’ve stated before, but there are ways to get into the industry without it. So, let’s discuss.
The best way to get started is to simply get started. Be proactive in your approach, no one is going to hand you a job on a silver platter. With the rise of digital media platforms, you would be a fool not to take advantage of the services available to you.
Play to the masses. You could start a podcast for discussion and have friends on as guests, or a YouTube channel where you could stream games as you play them. You would be discussing them as you play through a live stream or recording, sharing your genuine reaction to the gameplay.
All going well, you could build a following and gradually start making an influence in the industry. Twitch is also on the rise and fast becoming one of the most popular live-streaming services used by well known professional gamers including Ninja and Plumbella.
When writing your reviews, remember to include what we said above with regards to the user interface, graphics and so on.
Just because you’ll be writing of your own accord in your spare time, that doesn’t mean you can’t act like you are a professional. One day you will be!
Start an Instagram or Twitter account dedicated to your blog, get your friends to share your written pieces, raise awareness of your platform in any way you can.
Persistence in making a name for yourself particularly doing something you love is very appealing to future employers. If you can become an influential game journalist without receiving a formal third level education, you must be doing something right. And you must be pretty good at it too.
Like so many other jobs in the gaming industry, a game journalist salary varies. If you’re wondering really how much do game journalists make, it really depends on your experience. It also depends on who employs you and whether you’re working freelance or not.
Firstly, if you’re thinking about doing freelance work, you’ll need to have some sort of back-up material that shows that you are serious about this work and have the skills necessary to work freelance.
It’s a good idea to start your own blog or self-published written workspace. It will stand to you in the future, paying you in experience rather than money.
If you succeed in bagging a gig as a freelance writer with a gaming company, magazine or alternative platform, you will most likely be paid per article you write and how much time you spend on them. This rate can vary from £10 to £15 per hour in the UK and $30 to $37 per hour in the USA. It depends entirely on who has commissioned you.
In a professional role, aspiring writers can expect a game journalist salary to range from as low as 18K up to 56K in the UK, and from $26K up to as high as $103K in the USA. Woah, right? Unless you have proven experience, you will begin at the lowest level.
But that just means you have the opportunity to work your way up the corporate ladder. A six-figure salary is exactly the kind of motivation you need to keep writing and improving upon your skills.
So you’ve made it this far and you’re still interested in how to become a videogame journalist. Fantastic! We’ve given you the tools, now it’s time for you to get to work. Whether that means enrolling in an English undergraduate course, seeking out an internship or starting a blog, the ride starts now.
It’s not all just fun and games, pardon the pun. Journalism is a difficult enough industry to get into. And specialising in something as specific as gaming journalism makes things slightly more challenging. But by no means does that mean you can’t, you’ll just have to work that bit harder.
Who doesn’t dream of writing about their favourite games or game developers for a living?
Throw yourself into your writing. Make friends in the game media industry. Reach out to companies and ask them for online gaming industry experience. Prove to them you’re worth their time and effort. We know you are, let’s make sure everyone else does too. Good luck!
Are you a game journalist? Well, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to share this guide across your socials and tag us @musicgateway!
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