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Ask Massively: How I mine for games journos


In the last few months, the Ask Massively inbox has received several letters about breaking into the games journalism industry and employment at Massively specifically. This first one came from a reader named Vernon:
I rarely see current journalists write or blog about their own experiences of getting into the industry. I always told myself I would try to figure out how to make a go of writing about games if the opera thing did not work out. So, how did you get there (Editor in Chief), and how do you get there now?
Short answer: the two skillsets rule.

The idea is that the coolest jobs usually require more than one talent. For most of our writers, that meant knowledge about a specific subset of the games industry (MMOs) and respectable writing ability. In my case, it was 15 years of MMO gaming and obsessive copyediting skills. I lucked into my first gig at Massively because I had the precise bizarre combination of skills my original boss wanted (thanks, Shawn!). I also lived near a gaming industry hotspot. Folks in San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Cologne, LA -- you guys have an easy advantage because there's a ton of demand for you and not enough supply.

Now, I am not recommending that you drop everything and move to Silicon Valley or become a professional copyeditor to land a job in games journalism (if you can afford a home in the bay area or can make it as a copyeditor, you are already earning too much money to make games blogging worth your time). That was just the perfect storm that ultimately led to my helming the site. It isn't how most of Massively's team members got their start, however, and it's probably not what you should shoot for either.

So what should you do? Gilbert, another Massively fan, asked the same question:

Are there any paths you would recommend if one wanted to write professionally in the industry? Any tips or advice you might offer to one interested in doing more of this kind of writing is much appreciated.
Tips?! I have tips! I jammed my more writer-centric tips into a blog post last year, but here's a more general roundup:

Oh, the other kind of tip. Don't worry. Our tip button is confused too.Be a good writer. This sounds obvious, right? But most people who think they are good writers are not good writers. We get hundreds of applications every time we put out an open call, and I'd say we are able to eliminate 80% of them within a few mangled sentences. Actually study grammar and punctuation. Read voraciously. Take writing classes. Familiarize yourself with a professional style guide. Practice self-editing. Seek out criticism. Being a native speaker with a keyboard is not enough. Most sites don't have copyeditors or time/money to rewrite articles for you no matter how brilliant your ideas are; they're looking for people who don't need to be trained on the proper use of semicolons. (And if they aren't, they should be, but that's for another article.)

No, really -- be a good writer. Blogging is like a lot of artsy careers: As much as it pains you, you're probably going to have to do it for free first. If you really want to be a blogger, get a blog and start blogging. The worst thing that can happen is that you will get some writing practice under your belt. Ideally, you'll use your existing blog as a portfolio when you're applying for paid jobs. It's your body of work, proof that you love what you do and can commit to writing long-term. It's also a great way to make your name known to the outlets that might someday want to hire you. More than one of our writers were hired straight from an indie blog without ever going through a formal application process. (The same is true of our livestreamers. If you want to be a streamer, start streaming!)

Play terrible games. Oh, I know, the myth is that we sit around in our PJs playing video games we like all day, but what really makes potential applicants stand out is their willingness to play games they don't like at inconvenient times and then write about them critically, knowing that someone (or even a lot of someones) is going to hate their every word. This is a very cool job, but when you're slogging through awful WoW-clone #31387295, you're apt to lose sight of the big picture. It's true that Massively has columnists who play one or two games deeply rather than sample every hunk of junk that launches, but that narrow experience can mean narrow writing if you're not careful. Playing a variety of games, even -- no, especially! -- the bad ones keeps you fresh and gives you the perspective a generalist needs. (It also gives you some job protection if your "home" game abruptly sunsets.)

Cultivate non-writing skills. Massively, for example, features livestreamers, podcasters, copyeditors, community gurus, public relations slaves, social media junkies, HTML-tinkerers, news researchers, and videographers, all in addition to the news writing and columnist crews. The more talents you can contribute to a team, the more valuable you are. Hiring staff will see you as more bank for their buck.

AwwwThe bad news is that Massively isn't hiring right now. Emailing us resumes on the off-chance isn't going to improve your chances, I'm afraid. I know a lot of career help sites recommend being proactive and even pushy with prospective employers, but it just doesn't work here. It might work at sites that take on bloggers without pay, but we cannot do that (everyone here is and must be paid). When we have a position open that we can't fill from within or via staff recommendation, we put out a hiring call, pick someone awesome, and that's that.

The cool thing about blogs is that they don't really care about degrees or experience or CVs, though those things can't hurt. The only thing we care about is can you rock this job. And if it's something you really want to do, get out there and do it -- go forth and fill up my RSS feed!

What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is the edit button on a timer? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every Thursday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at Just ask!

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