Monthly Archives: September 2014

Over the last few months, I’ve had people coming to me for advice about wanting to break into the video games industry as a reviewer or journalist. To be entirely honest, I’m not sure I’ve actually gotten into the industry yet but I’ll give you whatever advice I can give. I’ve also asked friends who work in journalism or video games about what advice they’d give people, so that’s thrown in too.

“Video Games Journalism”

Let’s be honest with each other, there aren’t that many legitimate journalists in the video games industry. Not traditional journalists, anyway. A lot of what video games journalism is these days is regurgitating media releases and reporting on rumours. Doing legitimate journalistic work is pretty hard to come by, it’s more editorial work. Not that there work isn’t out there, but it’s probably being done already. You’ll need to prove yourself.

So, the advice I’ve got:

                On writing

It sounds simple enough, but depending on where you want to get into, your writing style needs to suit that style of publication. Read previous reviews of the publication you want to write for and get a feeling of their style. Having a range of writing styles is a great thing to have in your arsenal as a writer.

Write about anything and everything, it’s the only way to improve this utmost vital skill. Find press releases and rewrite them, write fake news stories about the characters in games, write reviews on everything you’ve used, played, seen or read. Start yourself a blog and put your opinions out into the world. You’ll get a range of people looking at your stuff and they’re going to give you their honest opinion. Just remember, all criticism can be useful if you don’t get upset by it.

On video games

Understanding how video games work is probably important if you’re interested in video games. Ask developers what goes into making a game, or take a basic coding course (there are some available online) to give you a greater insight into how what goes into a game. Your passion for video games is what got you interested in this kind of writing, a deeper understanding never hurts.

On industry shows

Go to every event you can get in to. Last year at PAX Australia, I introduced myself to indie developers showing their wares and built relationships with people. A few weeks later, I got an email from one of the guys I’d met asking me to review their game. I took down business cards with my contact details (work email, mobile number, website) and they sent me a copy of their game. Going to industry events is important for networking. Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s in your best interest to know everybody.

For stuff you can’t get to (E3, anyone?), streaming and live-tweeting are going to be your friends. Getting involved in hashtags will help you get into the conversation and gauge the reaction of your intended audience.

On the Internet

The Internet is a big, scary place and it’s full of individuals who have strong, conflicting opinions and you’re likely to meet someone who disagrees with you. And maybe, they’ll disagree with you so much they’ll call you nasty names, say horrible things about you to their friends and try to rubbish you so that you don’t get more work. It’s bound to happen. What’s important to remember is that there are people who agree with you, too.

It’s also a vital part of what you want to do. Traditional print doesn’t have much room for video game editorials or reviews (outside of video game publications), so it’s best to make yourself an online presence.

About yourself

Be honest. People will read your work under the impression that you’re being completely honest and transparent in your work. This is especially important when reporting news and writing reviews, even your editorials needs to accurately represent your opinion. If someone pays you to write something; announce it upfront. If you’ve been provided with a product; acknowledge that the product was provided by a company. If you don’t disclose everything, people will find out and you risk your reputation.

Have confidence in yourself, and your writing. If you’re not confident of what you’re writing, it’ll be reflected in your piece. This is something I struggle with time to time, but I have a good circle of support to help me realise that sometimes I write English good (yes, that was intentional.) Find people who are willing to read your work and give you feedback, it’s the only way you’ll learn.

If you’ve got the talent and the drive to be successful, you’ll be successful. People respond to people who are confident in their ability to progress and succeed. With help, I’ve written for Player Attack, been retweeted by PAX Australia and reviewed for ASUS and Walk-Thru Walls. Have the guts to ask for help and send your stuff to everyone. If they reject you, ask for feedback about what you can improve. If you’re accepted, ask what they liked about your piece. Every little bit helps.

 

Thanks to James McGrath, Lauren Grey (and her friend) and Scott Rhodie for their help with this post.

With crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter giving developers direct access to fans and Steam’s “Early Access” …thing (what is it, anyway?) allowing people to test their games on the fly, it’s a pretty sure fact that gaming has gone through some dramatic changes. Except, I’m not entirely convinced it’s for the better.

Let’s talk about Yogscast; some great evidence about what I’m talking about.

For those who don’t know, Yogscast is a YouTube channel who gained thousands (if not, millions) of fans by doing Minecraft videos, backed on the success of their podcast. They had the idea of creating a new videogame; inspired by Minecraft’s design. By all accounts, this should have been a pretty simple Kickstarter and everyone walked away into the sunset.

But it wasn’t, and they didn’t.

The Kickstarter itself was successful. Yogscast and developer Winterkewl Games raised double than the original goal of $250,000, but money isn’t everything when it comes to developing a game.

Winterkewl Games was new to the development world and it started to show almost immediately. Rumours of people making ridiculous amounts of money for little work circulated like wildfire, their December 2012 release date was broken with the alpha release of Yogscast game being released in March 2013.

Winterkewl addressed their lack of experience and nearly impossible goals in the official Yogscast forums, citing that the project was too big and their team (only consisting of 6 people) was too small. By 2014, the company filed for bankruptcy.

Backers (some of which donated $10,000 for high-tier rewards) were denied refunds after the project failed but promised free games in compensation. Yogscast incorrectly stated they were under no obligation to return the money to the backers, which directly conflicts with Kickstarters Terms and Conditions.

Is a creator legally obligated to fulfil the promises of their project?
Yes. Kickstarter’s Terms of Use require creators to fulfil all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfil. (This is what creators see before they launch.) This information can serve as a basis for legal recourse if a creator doesn’t fulfil their promises. We hope that backers will consider using this provision only in cases where they feel that a creator has not made a good faith effort to complete the project and fulfil.

Everything went to Hell in a flaming hand basket.

Finger pointing was rampant and no one really knows what happened. I doubt even those involved in this mess actually understand how it all went so horribly wrong.

The story of Yogscast and Winterkewl is a prime example of why I’m weary of video games being backed through crowd-funding. Ambitious projects can be easily spun to impress fans and no one ever considers the risks. Once all the money that was so generously given is gone, there’s very little people can do about getting it back. People are left in the lurch with very little legal recourse.

The same goes for Early Access on Steam. The idea is that you pay a smaller fee for the game now (while it’s still being developed) and get access to the game through its various stages of completion until it’s finally ready for release. It’s a pretty alright idea, as long as it’s executed properly.

People who buy into Early Access games are promised frequent updates in exchange for their continued support of the game. These games are being purchased by people with massive parts missing. Some games, like Don’t Starve for example, were still worth their price when they were in Early Access. I was impressed with how it was reviewing and purchased it. But this isn’t always the case. You can go through the pages and pages of Early Access games and see how people who have purchased these unfinished games and see the scathing reviews they’re getting. Games aren’t being updated and are still unplayable.

I’ve got genuine concerns for this trend of games boasting finished game price tags, but are only sending out half a game. Most developers stay true to their promise of completing a game, and it gives gamers a better understanding of how games are actually developed, however there are a lot of developers in the Early Access section who has little experience in development and publishing, setting themselves unattainable goals and inevitably tricking their customers into buying a game which will never be finished.

Maybe I’m too cynical about these practices and I’m entirely wrong, but the evidence seems to point in my favour. It’s interesting to see how gamers investing their money into games has changed the industry and I can only hope that it continues in a positive fashion.