To some, the idea of a guy who’s been part of an industry for a meagre four years (having completely missed the golden age of print) talking about how the biz operates might be a little bit rich. So let me cut the little smirk and the comments containing the words ‘young blood’, ‘upstart’ and ‘that little prick’ off right now. After the ‘Why So Serious’ Panel at PAX, I realised that there’s a huge disconnect between ‘The Old Guard’ and, for lack of a better term, ‘The Noobs’. Whatever may have once been the golden path into gaming is now covered in the abandoned, rust-covered corpses of trolleys and the torn remnants of Mario plushies, and for one article only (I lie, I’ll probably do more), I’ll be your guide on this dilapidated path.
1You’re 110% never going to get in the industry in a meaningful way
At one point during the ‘Why So Serious’ panel, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed student eagerly raised his hand and asked with the innocence of a Disney song the question: ‘how does one get into the gaming industry?’. An esteemed person from the panel proclaimed that he simply loved giving new writers a head-start, and offered to see him after the panel to help him on his merry way.
To say that the few in the room currently traversing the same path as myself were a tad miffed would be an understatement. Aside from the fact that most of us there had asked if freelance opportunities were available at the publication the gentleman was representing, and that we’d been attending events, reviewing, recording podcasts and videos and running community websites (on top of the other one or two jobs most of us have), the real spit in the retina was the fact that all of our work had gone seemingly unnoticed by the only people in the biz that should be noticing us.
Personally, I would have asked if the student cared if his work was never seen, never paid for and ultimately remained unloved in some dirty backwater of the internet. Because if he’d said yes, there was the slightest chance he just might not have made it.
As for me, I’m one of the lucky few that have no idea how to give up. Hell, I’ve won gold at a state championship at tae kwon do while I was, for all intents and purposes, unconscious. But even that doesn’t compare to my amazing powers of
Another grand suggestion made at the panel as a ‘good way to get into the industry’ was that of Nepotism. It’s great to have a friend in the industry. And you know what? It is amazing! Especially for a guy like me, who after years of waiting tables can shake hands like JFK and smile like Satan at a used soul dealership. I’ve had my silver tongue so far up people’s arses that they’ve felt it tickling the back of their eyeballs, and what’s more, they loved me for it. But, like everything, it comes at a cost, and that cost is never knowing whether it’s your smooth talking or talent and passion that have gotten you to where you are.
‘But it’s just video games! Why would you even care!?’
Because there’s a good chance you love games and gaming. Because you might believe they are the ultimate form of entertainment – a mechanical art form that allows true involvement, empathy and experience on an entirely new scale. That’s why your best pieces are on something that are objectively pretty banal, like my magnum opus on the things that actually make Final Fantasy great.
For those who really care about their work and what they’re saying, the cost of getting in through friendship and contacts are long, sleepless nights staring at the ceiling, wondering your own worth and whether or not you’re a hack that nobody has the balls to call you out on.
Nepotism will get you in, but knowing your work is solid will keep you sane. And there’s a good chance the work you care about will be sidelined anyway, because
3Readers love garbage
I’m sorry, guys, but a lot of you really do. You can slap up a couple of new Grand Theft Auto screenshots and people will blow their collective loads. Hot cosplay chicks? Bring on the hits! Mindless, asinine, barely thought out articles on sexism? The servers melt down. Some kind of competition between Xbox and PlayStation? You better have your coats ready, because it’s ALL ABOARD THE INTERNET TRAIN TO CLICKVILLE.
And I can’t blame you. If you like that, fantastic, and moreover, unlike the guys on the ‘Why So Serious’ panel, I would love to provide you with as much faff as I can. I like rumours of rumours, because I remember what it was like to be without the internet, when someone’s brother’s friend of an aunty that was once mauled by a platypus, had been told by a passing stranger that once was inside Sony head offices, that the PlayStation 2 would have a different controller. Rampant speculation is fun. Faff is fun, and when it’s not fun, it’s easily digestible, and I cannot, having watched so many hours of puppy videos on YouTube, blame you for that.
What I can say though is this: I would write a billion faff articles to gain the following needed for people to read the stuff I actually love writing about. Let me be your performing monkey, just read what I had to say about Dante and Vergil. Here’s pictures of what the next-next-next-gen might look like, and while you’re here I beg you to glance at my article on why Ni No Kuni was Lame or why F1 All Stars can barely be considered a game. For the audience that cares about the serious things I write, I do it (and mostly have done it) for free. Apparently, though, I’m at risk of damaging my brand, meaning
4Never write for free (of course you have to write for free)
This piece of advice was probably the biggest slap in the face for me. ‘You’ll damage your brand if you write for free at a paid publication’.
While I’ve never seen anyone give a slow clap while simultaneously flipping the bird before, every single cell in my being was convincing me that I was the chosen one who should have performed the action for the first time (I don’t know what to call it though – slow fingering sounds a little off).
Guess what? To get in… to really get into the industry, you’re going to need to have a solid portfolio. To have a solid portfolio, someone respected in the industry needs to have published you. Someone respected in the industry will almost always undoubtedly be a paid publication. At one point or another, you’re going to have to write for free at a place that might usually pay, and you’re going to have to be grateful for the opportunity, because, guess what? There are hundreds like you willing to do it unpaid. But, if you’re proud and brand-concerned, don’t do it.
Let me know how you go.
I was once talking to a friend of mine, a real journalist (she’s the result of a science experiment where they crossed a bloodhound with an obsessive compulsive who eats newspapers and shits golden stories), and she told me she longed for the day that every writer in Australia put down their pens and said ‘no more until we’re paid’. I saluted her. I really did. And then I told her the day that everyone puts down their pens will be the day that I pick them all up and write like it’ll bring my first dog back to life (I miss you, Gabby).
You know how to get writers paid? Have people want to pay them. You know who can do that? The people who allocate the money, and someone with enough influence to try and divert that sweet dough into their pockets, and that requires an
DC is a great site, and while we’re not getting a million hits a day, our views are solid. Real solid. So solid, in fact, that I’ll get someone asking to contribute to the site at least once a week. After I’ve taken the time to talk to them, to look at their work, to edit it and then never hear from them again, you can imagine how daunting the subject title ‘writing opportunities’ has become to me. However, if you want to grow into a decent writer, you’re going to need a bloody amazing editor. Someone who, despite having deleted your previous fifteen emails about how much you want to write about games, considers opening your sixteenth, and then actually reads your twentieth.
Then they might actually reply.
Thus begins your journey to make god damn sure that you don’t let that opportunity pass you by, and this means constantly learning, trying to improve, and being grateful when you’re told your work is terrible and needs improvement. To hear it’s terrible and then be given suggestions on how to improve is the Holy Grail of becoming a better writer. Remember: they don’t need you. There are a million like you. You are replaceable and about as unique as a land card in Magic: The Gathering.
DC was inspired by the above reasons. We try, as very best we can, to give writers the chance to show off their work on what is Australia’s best-looking video game site. Even with my scarce time, I endeavour to offer direction to writers on their work and to give and take advice.
To those young hopefuls, I would say to always persist, to actively seek those who can tell you what’s wrong with your work, and always, always, strive to be the change you want to see.
Mark Ankucic, EIC