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7 reasons why being an online videogame journalist is just as cool as you think

3 July 2012

The world of the online videogames journalist isn’t as straight-forward as it may seem. To give you an insight into what my job involves on a daily basis I detailed some of the negative aspects of the role in the feature “7 reasons why being an online videogame journalist isn't as cool as you think.” But now I want to tell you about some of the perks of the job, what motivates me and why I believe it’s worth working hard if you wish to get involved in such a great career.

1. Playing games pre-release and hearing about what’s coming up…

When you join an editorial team you become privy to lots of information that most gamers won’t hear about until much further down the line. Though I’m often bound by NDAs (contracts with publishers that prevent you from revealing the information,) or publisher trust, it’s always an exciting moment when I’m given information that cannot yet be revealed, or when a courier knocks at the door to deliver a preview disc of a title that isn’t released for months.

Being able to play games way before release date is a real highlight of the role, as is being trusted with secret information that can’t yet be leaked to the masses: it feels a bit like you’re in an exclusive private club. I always find it exciting when I first boot up a new game knowing that I’ll be one of the relative few to be playing it.

2. The buzz of breaking a news story..

I mentioned in my previous article that the daily news grind can be laborious, but at times it can be really exciting. While surfing the net for news, asking questions to publishers and conducting interviews, you occasionally uncover a piece of information that hasn’t yet broken across the web and is therefore of critical importance to any gaming website.

This is where teamwork really comes into play. If we hear of a breaking story at PSU, more often than not a team of us will immediately start researching it, and work as fast as we can to get the information online, make it as accurate as possible and then promote it across various channels.

Being the source of breaking news is critical for websites like PlayStation Universe because more hits allows us to grow and bring in new members. There’s a real buzz among the team as we work together to promote the article as fast as we possibly can so that other sites use us as the source. Knowing that other websites are out there trying to break news first too makes it all the more exciting. This really is a race against the clock.

Most gaming websites will have behind-the-scenes hit counters too, so writers can see how many people read their articles. Knowing that an article has been read by thousands of people and has brought in more traffic than a whole week’s worth of news posts is something to be proud of, especially if it’s an article that you’ve worked spent many hours working on.

3. Meeting and talking with those who make the games...

As a videogames journalist you get the opportunity to interview gaming legends via email and Skype and meet with the producers and designers of some great games. It’s a real privilege to have these people dedicate a part of their day to you. 

                                  

            Don meets Hideo Kojima pre-E3 Sony press conference

Many websites send journalists to community days and major events such as E3 and GamesCom. Before I started working in the industry it was a dream of mine to travel to E3 and it was an incredible experience attending this year. Being around gamers and other journalists spending time talking about what you love is something that you don’t get to do every day, so any event I attend is something to soak up and enjoy.

If you’re trying to get into the industry this is also a great way to get connections. I used to travel to events with my own money and just speak to people. I soon bumped into website editors looking for writers. You never know who you’re going to meet.

Indeed, our East Coast editor, Don Oliveria met the legendary Hideo Kojima at E3 this year and I met David Cage from Quantic Dream. These are moments we’re never likely to forget. If you go to events you will brush shoulders with your gaming heros, meet important people in the industry and widen your network of connections. I love it when an invite arrives in my inbox and a publisher invites me to a press event. Once again, it feels like you’re in an exclusive club where you get to see and play games way before release.

4. Freebies

Yes, most videogames journalists will get freebies, either when they’re at an event, or sometimes they’ll just turn up in the post. If you’re in a position where you’re reviewing games you’ll never have to pay for a game again and you’ll often get a special press pack, which will include anything from mini-figurines to full-scale replica guns to promote the game. Every time the courier knocks at the door I look forward to seeing what he brings. I’ve had top of the range headsets, a Hauppage HD PVR Gaming Edition, controllers, keyboards, mice and much more. Getting free stuff and not having to pay for games is one of the perks of the job. 

                             

Aliens: Colonial Marines pulse rifle turns up in the post

At press events, the publisher will often have a free bar and free food. Who’s going to turn that down?

5. Writing about something you’re passionate about and getting your voice heard...

Though you’ll often have to write about games you’re not interested in there’s also plenty of opportunity to write about gaming-related stuff you’re passionate about. Any good editor will let you pitch your ideas. Our UK Editor, Mike Harradence, for example, loves the Silent Hill and Resident Evil series so you’ll notice over the years that he’s written many features on those franchises and handled the reviews.

Having your work published, up on the internet for all to see, is definitely a buzz. It’s your chance to share your knowledge and passion with other people. Many of the top videogame journalists will even have fans that follow their work.

6. Flexibility...

Chances are, unless you’re employed by a large publishing house, you’ll be working from the comfort of your own home. That means there isn’t a boss stopping you from making a drink, grabbing something to eat whenever you like, listening to whatever music takes your fancy, or even just sitting their stark naked. Having worked from home for six years now, I would never go back to working in an office environment. 

                               

Wear what you want to work

While it does mean I’ll actually spend time working some long days and working in the evenings on occasions, the flexibility of being able to pop out when you want and set up your working environment exactly how you want to is a real bonus.

7. Being part of a passionate community

Most gaming websites have a community who are the heartbeat of the site. Their feedback, comments help drive and motivate us. It feels like you’re part of a really passionate community, almost like an extended family whose love of games binds us together. Being part of forum threads, comments, emails, Tweets and Facebook interaction with the community is part of everyday life. There’s great responsibility in being a videogames journalist as you become the mouth-piece of the community and try and provide them with what they want to hear about and read. I love being part of that family and helping it to grow.

At PSU, we’re always looking for new talent and willing to give up-and-coming writers a chance to build their portfolio. If you’re interested in getting involved please do get in touch.

You can email me at: steven.williamson@psu.com 


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