Mario Kart Blanche: How to Score a Video-Game Journalism Dream Job

By Rachel Kaufman June 6th, 2014

If you grew up on Atari, if you remember staying up past midnight because the princess was in another castle, if you spend your time raiding dungeons with your guild, getting paid to write about video games might seem like a dream job.

Turns out it’s pretty close to that. At least according to Nathan Meunier, a freelancer who has written about video games the past eight years for most of the premier gaming publishers—IGN, GameSpot, GamePro, and let’s not forget Nintendo Power. (He’s also the author of three guides on the business of freelance video games journalism, with more coming later this year.)

“Being able to write about geek culture and games is a lot of fun,” Meunier said. “And it’s one of the most rewarding beats a freelancer can have.”

We sat down with Meunier to discuss the tricks of the trade.

The industry needs you. “Pretty much every single publication uses freelancers, which is great for us,” he said. Even though a number of big players in print, like Nintendo Power and GamePro, have shuttered, new outlets are popping up all the time.

But they won’t tell you that. “When I was starting out, I was looking to Writer’s Market, and I couldn’t find anything even close to the industry,” Meunier explained. That’s because most video game publications don’t advertise they’re looking for contributors or how to reach them. When publishers do post opportunities for freelancers or full-time writers, they get bombarded. Half the applications are from people with no writing experience who think it would be cool to write something about their hobby. So, openings are usually kept a little more secret.

Social media is crucial. One place you will find information from editors who need freelancers is on Twitter. “It’s a close-knit community,” Meunier said. “People are generally friendly… Editors will often put on Twitter that they’re looking for someone. I see that quite a bit.”

Like with other beats, beefing up your social media presence and taking the time to network online with other writers and editors is important. Approach editors in a professional way, follow them, and engage with them.

Don’t expect to spend your whole day playing video games. It’s very difficult to break in by pitching a review. Instead, you’ll want to start by pitching a feature. “There’s a lot of attention paid to the culture, the behind-the-scenes stories of the games.” If you have a unique angle and a great pitch, you’ll have much better luck.

Meunier said he’s often so busy with work that he saves the play—even for game reviews—for his off hours. Then again, there are occasional play days. “The cool thing about being a freelancer is you can structure your day however you choose,” he added. “There are days like today, I have a review that’s due pretty soon, and I was able to get some features off my plate, so now I have the afternoon. I can sit and play the game all afternoon.”

Journalism and freelancing skills are more important than gaming skills. You may be able to snipe the opposing team from 1,000 yards away, but if you can’t write a good pitch or manage your time effectively, you won’t make it. Meunier started his journalism career at a weekly paper in Vermont, so he has a journalism background covering fires, city council meetings, and crime. “Many people gunning to get into the industry are younger writers who are just starting out. If you have experience already and you can write a good pitch, all it takes is a little bit of time to get familiar with the topics that are covered in games journalism,” he said. “You don’t have to be a good gamer to be a good games journalist.”

Image via Games Radar

Tags: , ,