While the first question a beginner game journalist might ask is how to become a video game reviewer, as soon as they land their first gig, that question changes: how can I become a better game reviewer and game journalist? It doesn't matter if you're banging out news articles, writing opinion pieces, or reviewing mobile games, there's always room for improvement.
Leveling-up your video game writing career takes time and training, but with a little persistence you can land better-paying game journalism gigs. It all starts by doing what you love--reviewing video games--and putting as much time and attention as you can on doing that reliably and doing it well.
Below are tips on becoming a better video game journalists, as well as tips on how to become a video game reviewer who can actually land gigs. These come from decades of experience both as a freelance game writer and an editor for online gaming magazines.
Communicate quickly, communicate well
The worst thing you can do when taking any kind of online game writing gig is to get an assignment then disappear into silence. Your editors need to know what you're up to. Even if you "think it's obvious," it's not. Keep everyone in the loop about your assignments and status. Let them know if there's any kind of delays, and let them know as soon as possible.
When you say you'll write a review by Friday, write the review by Friday. When the team needs a news article out ASAP, pop in, take the assignment, and write it ASAP. Don't be late with work and don't turn in sloppy content. The more the team knows they can count on you, the more they will count on you.
Learn how to self-edit
No matter how good you think your first draft is, it can always be improved. That's why editors exist – to help make your writing better. But if you want to get ahead in the game writing industry, it's important that you know how to self-edit. This means taking a step back from your work and critically analyzing what you've written before sending it off to the editor.
The basic editing questions should always be asked: Are there any errors? Is the piece too long or too short? Does it flow well? Above and beyond that, though, think about the article from the publication's perspective, and from your readers' point of view. Does this article answer questions readers might have? Does it serve your publication well by staying on-brand, on-voice, and delivering good information?
As with many things, the more you practice self-editing, the better you become. Do this with every piece you write and submit. Pay attention to what changes your editor makes and file them away for future self-editing. Not only will this make you a better writer, but you'll make your boss very, very happy.
Get better at SEO
One of the most important skills for any journalist is SEO, or search engine optimization. This is the process of making your articles and website more visible to people who are searching for information on the internet. In order to be a successful video game journalist, you need to be able to write articles that will show up when people are searching for information on video games. This holds true when you're writing on your own personal blogs as well as creating content for other publications.
Up your image game
Every article needs an image, usually more than one. Your publication might source these independently, but in many cases you'll need to provide them yourself, especially when it comes to screenshots.
You may not have the hardware needed to capture images from certain consoles, but if you can source fair use content or generate it yourself, you could be doing your publication a huge favor. This doesn't mean buying a ton of hardware or become a Photoshop master, just being crafty and curious and not being afraid of getting your hands dirty with non-writing tasks.
What can I do to start building a foundation as a game reviewer?
To establish a strong foundation as a game reviewer, there are several activities you can engage in. All of them require work and dedication, but the good news they all involve your two favorite things: games and writing!
1. Expand your gaming experiences: To become a reputable reviewer, it is crucial to have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of various game genres, styles, and mechanics. By actively playing a diverse range of video games (yes, even games you hate), you can develop a deep appreciation for gaming and form informed opinions that will add value to your reviews.
2. Create an online writing portfolio: Game reviewing involves a blend of creativity and technical writing skills. Building an online portfolio showcasing your writing ability is essential for prospective employers to assess your capabilities. Start by writing and publishing your own game reviews on platforms such as a personal blog or smaller blogs that accept submissions from novice reviewers. This will allow you to demonstrate your passion and talent for game reviewing.
3. Network with industry professionals: Establishing connections with fellow game reviewers and professionals in the gaming industry can provide invaluable insights and opportunities. Engage in career networking by attending industry events, joining online communities, and participating in discussions. This can help enhance your understanding of the industry while paving the way for potential job prospects.
4. Consider a related education: Although a formal degree is not a prerequisite for becoming a game reviewer, acquiring education in fields such as technical or creative writing can greatly benefit your skill set and online writing portfolio. Additionally, gaining knowledge in game design, programming, or other aspects of game development can provide a competitive advantage when seeking employment, as it demonstrates a well-rounded understanding of the technical aspects of video games.
5. Embrace passion and persistence: Game reviewing is a highly competitive field, requiring a genuine love for the content, games, and the gaming industry as a whole. Being passionate about your job will provide the necessary motivation to persistently seek new opportunities and showcase your dedication. In such a fast-paced industry, the ability to hustle and the determination to continuously improve will set you apart.