How much do video game journalists make, and what kind of salary can you expect if you're a freelance game writer? The answer can vary greatly depending on where you work, what kind of journalist you are, how many years you've been in the field, and honestly, how good you are at negotiating contracts.
For most freelance video game journalists, their salary varies from month to month and year to year depending on factors such as big game releases and competition in the industry. For full-time salaried game writers, these numbers are more straightforward, but for everyone else trying to earn a good writer's salary, the answers won't be so clear.
Below we'll explore video game writer salaries and to learn how much game journalists earn, how difficult it is to break into the game journalism industry, and what some alternatives to writing about games might be.
What is the average salary for a video game journalist?
When you take out all of the variables and just look at raw pay, the average yearly salary for a video game journalist in the US is around $51,000. Adjusting for currencies, that number stays about the same in other countries such as the UK, Australia, and throughout Europe. This is a relatively high salary when compared to other jobs in the media industry, but rather low when compared to other jobs in games.
Of course, for freelance game journalists this number varies wildly. One informal survey pegged about a third of journalists making between zero and $20k per year, with a quarter sitting somewhere between $20-40k. Only about a fifth of the surveyed game writers made $40-60k, and roughly the same fraction made $65k and up.
Putting all of this info together means about 39% of game journalists make more than $40,000 per year, which is about the same as 20 USD per hour. This survey doesn't control for factors like full- or part-time work, so the numbers will be skewed. If a freelance game journalists only works part-time but brings in $25k per year, that's the full-time equivalent of $50k.
To be a bit more crude with an answer to the question 'how much do game journalists make?', the answer is 'in general, not much'. Don't let those relatively low numbers discourage you, though.
How much you can make with additional skills or experience?
As with any profession, video game journalism offers opportunities for advancement and higher pay based on experience and skill level. Those who have been working as a game journalist for a number of years find that they are able to command a higher salary than those who are just starting out. This is simply because experienced writers can prove their worth to potential employers and know that their time is more valuable than it once was.
Freelance game journalists arguably have more chances to increase their earnings, as the freelancing life is all about seeking new opportunities every single day. The catch is that when you're on your own, working gigs for a variety of different outlets, you need to constantly push yourself to find more work, better paying work. If you stop applying to jobs you'll stop increasing your earnings and your salary will plummet.
Honestly, if you push yourself, stay persistent, write well, and know what your time is worth, you can carve out a healthy salary as a freelance game journalist. It won't be easy, but then again, if it were easy, everyone would do it.Why do video game journalists get paid so little?
You may look at the salary ranges above and recoil a bit at how low they are, especially compared to other salary ranges in the gaming industry. The reality is that game journalism is a tough gig that most people take for granted, especially managers, owners, and anyone holding the purse strings in businesses across the industry. Game reviews and game writing in general is seen as something that's "just there" and is "freely available," much like writing anywhere on the internet. They forget that dedicated and experienced individuals are required to write these articles.
Game journalism salaries may be on the low side, but if you consistently create good quality work and are always pushing for more gigs and better gigs, you'll fall on the high end of that salary spectrum.
How hard is it to become a video game writer?
Unlike other professions, there are no rigid rules or guidelines set in stone for aspiring video game writers/journalists to follow. This means there's no one-size-fits-all path to success, and almost everyone who succeeds in the industry will have a different story how it happened.
For those aiming to become full-time freelancer game journalists, the first step is to become an excellent writer and build a portfolio of samples. This can take time, and you have to either regularly seek feedback on your work or be good enough at self-editing to spur yourself to constantly improve. There will be plenty of bad reviews and awful news posts in your early career, but the longer you persevere, the better you'll become.
With proven experience under your belt you'll find it much easier to obtain a video game writing job, especially freelance journalism gigs. Without this experience you may find it impossible to establish yourself in the industry. Just remember to be patient, be persistent, and never stop writing.
Are there areas besides gaming where game journalists can apply their talents?
If the precise title of "game journalist" or "game reviewer" doesn't quite fit with you, yet you're still interested in putting your writing skills to work, there are some loosely related fields you can pursue.
Tech journalism is a good, broad category to look at. Tech journalists write about the latest hardware releases, everything from smartphones to smart homes, PCs to Raspberry Pi. These devices often have gaming applications, and tinkerers who love to solder and upgrade are often eager to try games old and new.
Another field related to games that game journalists may want to consider is historical or culturally-oriented game writing. Here, you won't be covering news stories or writing game reviews, you'll focus more on events and their impact on gamers. You'll need to be an incredible writer to succeed in this field, but it can be extremely satisfying for game writers who aren't so into the journalism side of things.
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