So I heard you want to become a professional game journalist? – Part 2
You might remember how last Sunday I made the first entry of this -now- series of articles, where I’ve talked about some requirements I’ve been told I need to comply in order to be taken as an “official” gaming news site.
Well, I decided not to stop there, and to bring this to a new level, by doing some further research, trying to get in touch with some of the biggest names in the industry, something that has brought some awesome information, coming straight from one of them -so far-, and one person I’ve admired for quite some time now.
I like to keep some suspense, so let me tell you a little bit more about my idea with this series of articles.
Basically, thanks to the overall reaction I got on my first entry, I decided to dig deeper into the topic, try to get some more information, and not just from anyone, but from some of the biggest names in the industry, yes, allow me to point straight to the attached image (quite awesome, isn’t it? should show how much of a graphic designer I am!), where some of the names are mentioned.
Not all of the names are there, but that’s just because if I added more it would’ve looked…weird! But well, all in all, I’ve tried contacting them, I’ve gotten some information and started to dig around the net in order to be able to contact some of the highest commands in these entertainment sites.
To be honest, the hard part isn’t to contact them, according to my own personal experience, the tough part is for you to get a response, whether it is because they’re pretty busy (which should most likely be the case), or that you got the contact information wrong (believe me, some contact information seems to be hidden!) or whatever other reason you may think of, it is quite hard to get a response, but I’m really glad to say that I’ve gotten one response -as I mentioned before-. This time, Mrs. Sophia Tong, Editor in Chief for GamesRadar has answered my contact request and we’ve had a short but sweet chat, which I’m happy to share with you all!
Ever since I first got in touch with her, she’s been quite friendly, and without hesitation, she agreed to answer some questions I had around, which I hope helps you as much as they helped me.
How did you start in the video game journalism?
“I didn’t realize it, but I started back in 2002 when I was writing for a game music site for fun. I didn’t think I’d make a career out of it but it led to me writing game reviews for smaller sites. I wasn’t even freelancing; the idea of getting a copy of the game early to play was enough for me. I don’t know if what I’m doing is called journalism, unless I’m covering some kind of news. We call ourselves entertainment writers.”
What made you take the decision of making a career out of writing?
“I was working in inside sales and while it was easy and the people were nice, I really didn’t enjoy what I was doing. It wasn’t stimulating and I just felt like I was wasting my time, despite the pay being good. Since I had been writing on the side for fun, I decided to go back to school and study journalism, and then make my way into the industry.”
I know that feeling first hand, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, am I right? But there’s more, way more to share!
When you decided to make a career out of game journalism, how did you manage to get into it as a professional? Was this a tough journey?
“It wasn’t easy,” -she said- “and I feel like there was a fair bit of luck and timing that was on my side.
I had a bit of experience interning at a game site and a developer studio, but I got lucky when I bumped into a freelancer, Jack DeVries, on my way to my internship. He worked for IGN and offered to pass along my resume to get a freelancing gig (for pay) since I was interning for free. I was offered a job by their EIC at the time, Jeremy Dunham, without an interview within 2 weeks. I worked part time helping with asset gathering until I finished school, and within a few months, I applied to GameSpot and they decided to hire me.
Before getting into IGN or GameSpot, I had applied to every job opening at both outlets in hopes of getting an interview. I actually got a callback from GameSpot once. By the third time, I got in. I was told they never even saw my resume before, because they hired me within a few days after seeing it. So I know I got lucky there, since hundreds of people apply for these positions.”
“Luck and timing” that, not to mention skill, and conviction! Take note, as these are things to keep in mind.
This industry is always moving forward, keeping us all as just expectators, trying to stay up-to-date with what’s going on, how do you achieve this?
“You have to read the news from various sources. It’s the only way to keep up. Read editorials, read what developers have to say. The Game Developer’s Conference is also a great way to stay up to date.”
How did you manage to become the Editor in Chief for such a company as GamesRadar?
“When a position opened up at GamesRadar, the EIC at the time, Gary Steinman, wanted me to come over and I was in a place where I felt ready to move on. He left 8 months later and Future offered me the EIC role. It certainly was never expected, and I owe it to my time spent at GameSpot. My mentor, former EIC of GameSpot, Ricardo Torres taught me what it was like to be a professional in this industry, how to work with people, and he always supported me with my random endeavors. He still does.”
What sort of responsibilities do you have as Editor in Chief?
“I manage a team of editors and video producers, (and oversee a small team in the UK) making sure that content goes up on the site and that we have a strategy in terms of what we want to be. I also work with other groups, like sales and tech to make sure we have what we need to thrive as a site. I work with PR regularly to plan events and appointments, and I have a pool of freelancers that need to get paid. I have a managing editor and team leads that help make my job easier.”
As you can see, being Editor in Chief brings quite a lot of responsibilities, you’re no longer just writing articles for the site, you’ll be be head of a team, which will guide it in the right direction, and you become the one people will look at when anything happens.
This interview isn’t really over yet, because the main reason for this is to get some advice from experienced personalities from the industry, such as Tong is, but we’ll get to that after some other questions.
How do you imagine a day at this sort of job? Do you think it is a calm walk in the beach? Or do you think it should be a total chaos?
What about some words about how’s the recruiting process over such a big company as GamesRadar? What are they looking for when it comes to new talent on the industry, what are they expecting from people applying for the open positions…let’s see what Sophia Tong had to say about this!
How’s a “normal” day in the office for you?
“It’s usually a mix of meetings and emails. I don’t write very much, but I’m here to make sure things are running smoothly and to address and solve problems as they arise.”
From your point of view, how could someone who is starting in the game journalism move up this ladder?
“I never intended to climb any sort of ladder. If you work hard, and excel at what you do, people will take notice. Being able to work with others and being proactive certainly helps. It’ll make you stand out among the rest. Jobs are limited, so it’s never a guarantee.”
How’s the recruiting process for new journalists?
“I usually go through dozens of resumes and cover letters, and I can tell you this: most of them are terrible. If you want to make it in this industry as a professional, you need to be able to write a proper cover letter, have stand out clips, and be professional about it. Loving games is only a portion of the job. You need to be able to communicate and work well with others, as well as have some writing chops. I often run into people who already think they’re the best at what they do. I can tell you that the best people I’ve ever worked with, never think they’re the best or the smartest. Positive attitude is key.”
Having a good resume will help you enhance your opportunity of being selected. Check out this video that gives some really useful advices on this matter
We’re almost at the end of the interview, so just keep going, you won’t regret it!
Which qualities/qualifications must someone have in order to be seen in the “radar” of big companies such as GamesRadar?
“Depends on the position. I’ve hired people with various backgrounds, some fresh out of school with little to no game review experience. I do in-person interviews to check and see if they’d fit into the team since we collaborate on a day to day basis. I look for someone who can write well, and is willing to read/write as much as they can to improve. I also look for people who are willing to play a variety of games. You can have preferences, but you can’t ignore genres that you might not enjoy as much.”
Finally, this is something that I would’ve never forgotten to ask, as I’m sure this is of great importance for all of us, aspiring game journalists, I mean, entertainment writers, as Tong mentioned before:
What advice would you give to anyone that is starting in the industry and trying to get into game journalism on a professional level?
“I think having a background in writing or journalism is a huge asset. That may not have been the case before, but I studied journalism and it helped build a foundation. You should have good clips that you can share. Start by pitching ideas to outlets and freelancing. If your ideas and writing skills aren’t at a level that people will want to publish, then you will have to go back and hone your craft.”
This concluded my short interview with Sophia Tong, Editor in Chief for GamesRadar. I hope you all enjoyed this as much as I did, and hopefully the expertise of Tong on this matter is of help for anyone interested in making a career out of writing.
Also, a special thanks to Sophia Tong, who took the time to answer these questions, and was always quite nice and friendly during our chat!
I can’t really give a time-frame for a next release on the series, as this doesn’t depend only on me, but I’ll do my best to bring more entries to this series, and even more depending on how well this article does, so share it with your Facebook friends, Tweet if for the world to see it, talk about it, just by checking it out you’ll be contributing, remember, this is for all of us, the ones wanting to make a career out of doing what we love doing, writing!