Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Games Journalism 101: "Style"

As a failed games journalist that is leaving the party, he was never really invited to, it seems fair to impart my knowledge and experience in the business, should you feel the need to step into the world of games journalism. In all honesty, you would be smart to do the opposite of what I've done. So if you've played more than one game, like the idea of snorting coke off of a 3DS touchscreen or you're just a shameless shill who lives for free t-shirts. Then read on! This entry in the series will look at "style"
More often than not, you'll see a job ad or request from the editor to write a pitch for an article of example of your writing: "in the writing style of the website/magazine."
"In the style of" means: "Exactly like." Look at the reviews, news posts and articles on the site or magazine, observe the structure of how they're written and the language used: jokes, use of metaphors etc. And write something exactly like it.
A site or publication likes to have a single identity. That means one voice, one personality. Not several different ones. Which is why some reviewers get asked to be more forgiving with their scores, thus giving a consistent, overall, opinion to whatever games they cover. An editor is not looking for the next Charlie Brooker. They don't want someone to exhibit a flair for expressing an opinion,  playing devil's advocate on a hot topic, or injects their writing with humour. They want someone who can knock out a -by the numbers- piece, that doesn't need any editing and meets the deadline.
I use Charlie Brooker as an example, because although he's become successful and relatively well know -as a critic/writer and Konnie Huq fucking, misery guts- nobody knew who he was when he was a games journalist. It's only when he left to work for more legitimate  press, his own personality came through and got peoples attention. And Brooker's not the only one. 
What you have to understand is, Editors - on the whole- don't like being in the games business. Like everyone else, they look down upon it. Instead of wading through waves of obese Pokemon cosplayers at events or reviewing whatever Dynasty Warriors game has come out this week, they'd much rather be writing the great unwritten novel or doing the one hundredth rewrite of their fucking awful sitcom. They want to be the ones breaking out of games and fucking a crap TV presenter.
That's not to say, there aren't any gaming sites that encourage creativity and individuality. But they either pay very little or no money. And then the only thing you'll be writing is an application form for shelf stacking job at tesco. If games journalism is something you want to do. Then that means starting off doing the same standard writing, on demand. It'll make you soul cry, but it will teach you the importance of keeping to a deadline, learning to edit down or stretch out a piece and -if nothing else- improve your grammar and spelling. Because editors hate to actually edit. So the less they have to change, the better.
Just remember, if you do actually want to express yourself, creatively. The games journalism isn't the place to do it. It's gonna be the first step to bigger and better things. And if you just like getting games for free, then go for it. Just ask yourself, would you rather finger Ellie Gibson? Or accidentally hang yourself, in a  sex game gone wrong with one of the Saturdays?
I know which I'd prefer.

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