Op-Ed: So You Want to be a Gaming Journalist Part 1 – Getting Started

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Written by Dustin Murphy


There’s always something that can peak the interest in many when it comes to gaming. For some it’s the minds behind the games, the artists, composers, level designers, 3D model renderers, engine developers, conceptual artists, or even simply the project director’s. These are all things that become a huge part of gaming journalism, but so do the minds behind all the hard work at the publishers office. This in-part is a larger effort than it may seem in order to make games come to life, which leads to multiple opportunities, and some of these even require journalists so that they can bring the information to the masses through multiple outlets. Sometimes this is merely by writing about the games, building up speculation, and even discussing the previous titles or even going as far as playing them in order to see where the new ones can go from where past versions or even stories left off. This means hours of work, study, and taking lots of notes to ensure quality, but also a good and sound argument to the statement you are trying to make. All this work may or may not come with pay, but if you are passionate, you love games, and you want to cover them – what’s to stop you? Are you still interested? Good, lets continue on.

/-/ How to Get Started /-/

This is the part that is the hardest and this is one that also left me crippled at first since I had no idea what to do or how, but luckily, I got in touch with another writer. Who? Mike Futter at GameInformer. So what was his advice? The same advice I’m about to give you. Started a blog, even if it’s through free places such as wordpress, a video blog on YouTube, blogspot, livejournal, tumblr, or something of the sort – this will help you practice and get articles up. This can also help you begin to show your knowledge of games be it reviews or simply opinion editorials. All of these faucets can help show your strong and weak points, so don’t be scared to start out small and work your way up. Remember, always write out your arguments, edit them, and even format the so that you have a statement, an argument, and a defense to your argument if you are doing an editorial. These will help you continue on and work on future works. Ever notice how some articles read that way? It’s a good format to have and it’ll keep you from rambling. Want an example of how mine work? Remember, this won’t always work for you.

Since are going to do an example, I’m going to show you the format I use, it allows me to break articles down into sections so I can continue on, but also adjust to the pace of the reader themselves:

-How to Get Started (Part 1)
-Finding Your Target Audience (Part 1)
-How to Format an Editorial (Part 1)
-How to Format a Review (Part 1)
-Going to Press Events (Part 2)
-Working with Viewers (Part 2)
-How Social Media Can Influence Your Reach (Part 2)
-How to Format an Email to PR Teams (Part 3)
-How to Get in Touch with Developers (Part 3)
-Closing Statements (Part 1 & Part 2)

As you can see these are all set tones, topics, and follow ups to the ideas before them. Granted in the end, there is nothing wrong with moving what topic you are covering first and in what order they will go in within your article. This is something that happens when working on topics whether it is a review, an editorial, or a simply press kit article. Just remember, make it yours, keep it original, and set the tone for your readers.

When getting started as a journalist there are a lot of tricks to the trade to learn, the biggest one of them? Is to get yourself situated so that you are comfortable with the media you are about to cover, but also making sure you know your stuff, and not selling yourself short. This means researching, practicing your writing, and even visiting other websites and simply reading how they format articles, how they cover their topics in order to bring out their news, but also what might be trending if it’s a slow news day, but remember to take what is trending, and make it just that much more exciting. Remember that your content should be something you enjoy, something that strikes you as important, but remember to have it well planned out in the process of doing so. Just remember, your target audience may have kids, adults, teens, elderly, and so-forth in order to find out what they are buying for their kids, so the more information, the better, but sometimes keeping it clean is the best option.

/-/ Finding Your Target Audience /-/

Remember in the last paragraph how I mentioned your target audience? This is one of the most important things of all: Target Audience. When selecting a target audience, there are several things to take into consideration, which is important:

-Age Group
-Types of Games and News to Cover
-Are your articles going to be more targeted towards adults?
-What type of gaming products are you going to cover?
-Will it just be about gaming or the people within gaming also?

These are the type of topics that become extremely important when trying to get started. These building blocks will give you, your group, or simply your readers a base idea of who you are trying to target, and the fact that you want them to be your audience. This will enable you to pick and choose what words to use, topics to cover, and images to show. Due to some games being more angled towards adults rather than teenangers and children, this will help you build a demographic of the gaming crowd you want to connect with, which can help out with bring in new followers, readers, and even community interactions. This will give a general idea of what readers are interested in, but will also help connect better with certain audiences. Knowing your audience also means that you will need to know what products to cover.

This could simply range from games that are imported, hardware, gaming platform(s) to cover, type of games to review, and what genres to review. These will help build even more of an audience depending on how many of the genres actually match your very own. This will help figure out who you are looking to reach out to, the groups you want to get in touch with, but also will help you build up your community. Remember, it never hurts to just start out, see what others are writing, and see what the trends are and attempt to break the trend. It’s something that will help you grow, obtain information, but also find a suitable building ground for your arguments, but also a way to start a thoughtful debate when needed be. So lets move on as I’m sure you’re more interested in learning how to get started versus learning all the basic fundamentals I’m sharing with you that helped us here at Blast Away the Game Review get started.

/-/ How to Format an Editorial /-/

The biggest question i’ve always gotten is how to start out writing an article, formatting an editorial or preparing to write in general. The first part is to build an idea around how and what you wish to discuss, whether the topic is about a new game, a piece of interest going on within the gaming culture or simply an entirely new topic of your own. The first part is learning how to build your argument or even your statement, but once that is done – defending it. Looking at an article is simple, but so is writing. When it comes to writing one or even an editorial? That’s a whole new thing to look at versus just looking at what articles can cover what topics. So what do you do with this idea? Build your introduction, discuss the topic at hand, make a solid background behind it, but also explaining what the editorial is about. This will set up your entire article itself to see if you can hook the readers or not. Through this method you will be able to set up a reader’s understanding of what they are reading about or even what the entire argument is covering.

Much like your introduction next will be your covering of the topic, trying to provide as much information as you can, your body of your entire article to be more precise. Within this body of text you will be working on covering everything you can, but not taking away from your introduced topic, the topic that you used to set your entire statement. Within this article it is help to provide a good argument behind your stance, but behind the good argument, there should be a rather solid and helpful defense that will help you write, but also will help you keep your readers on an understanding of your entire topic.

So what exactly is a ‘defense’ when writing your editorial? Your defense is your capability to bring your argument to a whole, but at the same time, ensuring that you can defend your topic itself and provide a shieldwall against any debates that may be brought up because of it. This defense needs to be as strong as your argument that you started, but also your chance to set up as to why you believe in what you do or see the things the way you do. This is to provide another viewpoint on both bits of the information itself. Doing this is quite tough from time to time, but it will always come out as intended as long as you lay out what each paragraph is about before coming to the conclusion of the article itself. Something you will find quite a bit easier when reading through the editorial.

/-/ How to Write a Review /-/

When writing a view, there are a few things to remember as a gaming journalist, there is a few things to remember are that Pros and Cons should always be at the start. You might find this odd, but it is in the interest of readers who can’t sit and read full reviews, but instead, it is for those readers who may only be capable of reading a few sentences for those few tidbits of information that they are looking for, which sends them into a small bit of searching frenzy, but by providing those tidbits of information at the beginning of the review, those people can get the few pieces of information they want before having to go digging for the review score that has been chosen for it. By doing this you have gained there interested and a chance for them to read completely through the review if they find what they are interested in, which may lead them to wanting more information in turn.

Once the review has been started, it’s hard to build a solid description of how you’ve encountered the game, but a key piece of information that may or may not be forgotten: be unbiased. By being unbiased, readers are given a chance to see an honest review, one that allows the readers to understand how the game was approached, but also the fact that the review was given a just and fair score as well as opinion set upon it. When writing the review it is important to touch down on several things: mechanics, gameplay, story, sound quality, and known bugs, but also details to graphics quality. With all these, it helps players understand what they are getting into when it comes to game content with the title they are purchasing so that they might be able to enjoy it a bit more thoroughly. One of the best things you can do is actually make sure to cover even what platforms the title was or was not played on to give players a just idea of what they are getting into. Do note that it is also a wise idea to state what changes have been made if the review is a review in progress.

/-/ Closing Statement /-/

With all this said, it’s not hard to actually look into what it may or may not take to be a gaming journalist, but what it is hard to do is approach it seriously and work as hard as you can on it. Doing this will enable both a wide array of skills that will be needed to take an approach to being a journalist as well as a critic into the gaming industry. It is these minor steps that will help you get started by starting up your blog, writing your articles, and even getting your editorials into the online world. Just remember, when quoting an articles by someone else, always source them at the bottom, give them the credit when it’s due.

About the Writer:

DustinBATGRPhoto1Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable and can’t be softened by even the biggest names in the gaming industry. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on his Google+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.

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