Sunday, 19 May 2013

Ready Up can only pay you in disappointment

Hey you, are you a aspiring games journalist, looking for their break in one of the most insular and down right incestuous industry? Well young lion, look no further than the GMA nominated "blog" Ready Up, who  are looking for a news writer. Which means you'll be, "researching, writing and editing your own topical stories, one day a week."  Meaning, if you get the job, you'll be required to write daily news posts. Which is easy as piss, it really is. All you have to do is get up in the morning, copy-and-paste  the latest press releases from game publishers (making sure to change enough words to keep it legit) or reading all the big video game sites, find a interesting story, copy-and-past it (making sure to change enough words and linking the source to keep it legit) in the "house style", for the sake of those who didn't read my post about "style",  basically means, look at how the other articles are written on Ready Up and copy exactly how it's written. Get the job and that will be you away on the journey of a professional games journalist, working for a website recognised by the esteemed Games Media Awards, three times no less! Your career will have truly begun...Well, actually you'll have to keep that day job at the cotton farm because Ready Up can't pay you with actual human money. Because even though the human toad and former Ubisoft PR person that run the site of sad mediocrity have more game industry contacts than you can shake a rolled up fiver at and yet somehow don't pull in enough to pay their writers? Funny that

 Ready Up's editor and owner taking advantage of the catch-22 situation all budding games journalists find themselves  aside, I find it odd that Ready Up seems to be allowed an exception the one golden rule all established game journalists and writers will tell you, don't work for free. That's why all professional games journalists look down on blogs and fansites. Because it cheapens the profession.  And it's not just people in games writing, you'll get that from news journalists, writers and esteemed science fiction author, Harlan Ellison will tell you himself.

And it's true. If someone wants what you produce something, then there is value to it and you should be compensated for it. Which begs the question, why would the GMAs, an award show dedicated to games journalism, even have a blog category? If working for free is slowly killing industry by undercutting the professionals with unskilled, inexperienced writers then why celebrate any of  them? Because if it wasn't for writers working for free, games -and by extension all popular magazine and web- journalism would grind to a halt overnight. This is part of the grand hypocrisy you'll find in games journalism. The bloggers are all killing the business, but only a handful of the pros ever speak out over sites that could pay their writers  and the big publishers that run their magazines and websites with glorified slave labour. Of course in journalism it's  called a "internship." Where you'll do little bits here and there for a short period of time for no pay. If you're lucky you may get reimbursed for travel and perhaps a job offer at the end of it. But normally they say thank you very much and the old, "we'll keep your CV on file" bullshit and fuck all else except another name to pad out your CV with. So blogs that pull in less than a thousand views a month are murdering everyone's mortgage payments, but Ready Up are good guys and Future publishing are a market leader, so shut up, do that news collating  for eight hours a day and fucking like it.

I've been at both ends of the scale. I've done both paid and unpaid stuff, so I  see both points of the argument. When you're just starting out, you don't know anyone who can pull a favour for you (which is how I got my best paying work) and you have no work experience to even warrant a reply from a editor. So if you don't have the ability to set up a blogspot or wordpress site of your own- although you really should use one as a online portfolio at the very least- then what other option do you have, if you want to develop your writing style and get feedback on it?

If you honestly can't get a break anywhere and you want to write about games then there's nothing wrong with not getting paid in the beginning. And some blogs and burgeoning sites are decent enough to pay writers a small fee or allow individual writers to receive the AdSense revenue from their own posts. If you're not doing it as a hobby then you should be always on the look out for paid work while you're finding your voice as a writer and getting your name out there. Very few people make a living from writing for just the one outlet, so it's a good exercise in providing content for different audiences. It's a early investment in yourself to learn how to get review code, interviews with developers and getting invited to press events and conventions. If a blog/site can't offer you any of those opportunities then move on, it's of no benefit to you.
However, whether you've only had your photo posted in the writers section of a site or have been plugging away on every blog and amateur site in Christendom. If you do something for a established, professional site, they should pay you. Unless the editor is gonna come round to your house and personally give you feedback and career advise, then you are getting nothing from it. Don't fool yourself in thinking that doing free work for a proper site/magazine will see your hard work be recognised and eventually rewarded with a full time writing gig. It wont, they'll just keep allowing you to work for nothing because they see no value in what you do, or else they would pay you for your work.

Writing and journalism is a solitary practise. You are your own commodity, so everything you do must be for your benefit, first and foremost. There's no pension and the money is minuscule,  if you want to make a career out of it, then you need to do what's best for you. If you can't get work anywhere that pays, then that's because no editor thinks you're any good. So get good, plug away on working for sites where the only thing you get is experience. In that sense you're working for free, but you're not working for nothing. But if you're starting to get more replies from editors (even if it they're rejections) and bits of paid work, here and there, and a editor tempts you to work for him but for free, turn them down, because they still don't see any value to your work. If a site can pay for  podcasts, get-togethers, HD cameras for their shit youtube videos and  travel to events,  then they can afford even a minimal amount to pay you. And if they can't, then leave  for some place better, because either they don't value your work or have no ambition to try and properly monetise their site. But if you think it'll be a laugh  writing daily, generic news posts for little to no recognition for people who enjoy all the perks of sucking off the games industry but share none of it, then don't let me stop you. Just don't expect Eurogamer to kick your door down for work any time soon.

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