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How Possibly To Do Good Games Journalism, Maybe – An Introduction

Rule one: don’t write headlines like that.

Rule two: don’t spend time you should be using to improve and grow as a games journalist instead writing nonsense like this.  Especially if you’re a nobody.

I’m a nobody.  I want to stress this right from the start of what I vaguely hope will be the finest example of TLDR I’ve ever penned.  I have no formal training in journalism.  Probably half the stuff I write I still do for free.  My girlfriend still gives me a look when I said it was a “hard day at work,” as I work from our bedroom or, if work involves playing games all day, the living room.  I probably have less experience than you, am almost certainly younger than you, and am in absolutely no position to lecture anybody about what they’ve been doing so bloody well for years.  But I’m also a precocious little shit who loves the sound of his own keyboard a little too much.  Thus, you’ve to put up with this sort of bollocks from me occasionally.  If that turns you off, call me a dick in the comments thread and never read a word from me again.

But actually, this mammoth blogathon idea has stemmed from the very simple fact that I think games journalism is brilliant.  In recent days, ie. since I’ve been on my high horse about it (rule three: stop using clichés), I’ve found an enormous steaming pile of nonsense that claims games journalism is full of corrupt hacks, talentless idiots, or kids playing games all day.  Er.  I’m totally that last one.  But the other stuff bugs me.

It bugs me on a personal level because, well, this is what I’ve inexplicably chosen to spend my time doing.  So indirectly that’s a personal attack.  But it bugs me more because games journalism – while always with room for improvement – is clearly better than it’s ever been.  The rise of the internet and fansites has obviously generated a hell of a lot of guff, but ultimately there are no two ways about it: there is more fantastic writing about videogames than there ever has been before.

That causes a problem for me.  If I was doing this seriously even five years ago, and was at the level I’m at today, I reckon I’d have been able to walk into a writing job pretty easily.  These days, that’s not the case.  I’ve been lucky, in that a few kind people have taken a risk on me.  I hope I’ve served them well and it’s paying off.  But it also means there’s an abundance of fantastic new writers and everyone’s having to raise their game.  So when Phill Cameron’s writing eloquently and intricately about a range of interesting and rarely covered gaming topics, Fraser McMillan’s emerging onto the scene – barely into adulthood – and analysing obscurist games hardly anyone his age has heard of with more care and attention than many experienced critics, Barry White’s producing remarkable, heartfelt stories about building relationships in Team Fortress 2 (it’s too late for link-hunting. Go to The Escapist and have a search around) and Quintin Smith manages to make every single game he ever writes about sound like the most remarkable thing ever and then convince me I think the same thing when I immediately play it… well, then I start biting my nails.

The last generation of truly great games journalists are moving on.  Brooker’s in telly now.  I’ve not read much by Campbell in a while.  Gillen’s doing comics.  Rossignol, Walker, Rodgers and others who I’d probably inexplicably refer to by surname only as if I’m talking down to a child in a Victorian school are still writing loads, and that’s great, except it means it’s doubly difficult to get work.  Now there’s a new school of games journalists emerging, of which I hope to be a part, and the whole market is suddenly incredibly competitive.

I need to up my game.

I need to up my game really bloody quickly.

How do I do that?  Y’know, I write stuff like this.

So here’s what this is all about.  It’s going to be a series of blog posts, across the week hopefully, in which I dissect the practices of games journalism and work out how to make myself as brilliant as the many writers I look up to.  Or should that be “to whom I look up”?  Does that even matter?  That’s the sort of thing I’ll be considering, as well as bigger, broader issues.  And I’m doing all this publically so everyone will probably immediately steal any vaguely useful ideas I may have.

I’d love for that to happen, though.  Again, this whole idea has emerged because I absolutely love gaming journalism and would love to see it progress in any way, through any methods.  I probably don’t have any answers, but if by some incredible miracle I do, I’d adore it if they had some effect.  A lot of this is going to be contradictory, contrary, disagreeable nonsense that no one’s ever going to use unless they’re a worrying fool.  But heck – I have trouble organising thoughts in my own head.  Let’s get this down, turn it into something concrete, and see if I can benefit from it.  If I can, brilliant.  If others can too, multiply awesome.

Told you I was self important.  Rule four, probably: don’t do that.

So that’s what we’re doing.  I’d love if people could chip in with their thoughts in the comments, or maybe even run parallel blogs… whatever.  Let’s keep talking about our craft, and keep honing it.  And for the little guys like myself: let’s see if this can help us make real moves into doing something we genuinely love.

It starts tomorrow.  Wish me luck.  I wish you luck.  You’re going to need it.

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6 responses »

  1. Too late to put many in-depth thoughts together, but I will be keeping track of this all week Lewis, just so I can steal your ideas and get better myself! 😉

    Reply
  2. You do love the sound of that keyboard, don’t you? 🙂

    I look forward what you have to say, as a former comrade, a writer always looking to improve his craft and a games ‘journalist’ who spent far too long away for his own good. But i’ll belt you one if you mention the ‘NGJ’. Grr.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Worth Reading: Links for 9/29/2009 | Jason Evangelho (dot) com

  4. I look forward to learning plenty from this, and will follow with great interest. As someone who fell into the games jornalism world only a few months ago, I know I need the help. As a person who wanted to write for years, I have loads of partially written stories around my desk, all unfinished. My problem is that I move on to the next idea before finishing the last. In that respect, writing reviews suits me more. They are shorter to start with!
    I know I have a lot to learn before I can even be classed as mediocre, but at the moment I am willing to learn and feeling very comfortable in this role.
    Anyway, I’ll shut up now and wait to read your thoughts with interest.

    Reply
  5. I’m really looking forward to these. I’m unbelievably insecure about my writing (especially at anything even approaching a professional level) so anything that can help is more than welcome.

    Reply
  6. Seems like I came a little late to the party, regardless, I’ll read the other parts, just wanted to leave a comment.

    Reply

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