I ran into an old colleague of mine the other day; he and I used to work for the same newspaper.
“So, what are you covering these days?” I asked.
“The music industry,” he replied.
“Eh. It’s a beat.”
The pun was actually unintended and I didn’t even realize it until now.
The point is, this is how the majority of mainstream journalists feel about covering any given entertainment medium. I remember it well, as I covered music and comedy for the papers. It was a gig; something that was occasionally entertaining but for the most part, it was a job. Granted, there are plenty of journalists with a passion for what they cover, but it’s completely different in the video game industry.
We’re not rock stars; we just love games
Nobody gets into game journalism because it’s “just a gig.” I’ve never met anyone who got into this game (now, that is an intended pun) because they “just wanted experience.” The video game journalist doesn’t get paid much. In fact, a great many operate on a purely volunteer basis, and many others can only pull in part-time pay. Furthermore, because you don’t exactly see gaming bosses parading down a red carpet, covering this industry is hardly glamorous.
See, our guys – Hideo Kojima, Ken Levine, David Cage, etc. – are well-known to individuals within the industry. They’re even recognized by mainstream outlets around the world; Levine, for example, was featured in Time. However, in the realm of celebrities, they barely register. Those covering the movie industry have the option of working for huge publications like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, and they’re rubbing shoulders with the Tom Cruises and Angelina Jolies of the world on a daily basis.
Of course, not all journalists covering movies can do this, but the opportunity is there. The bottom line is you can become more visible and generally, earn much more money when covering other industries.
“What do you do THAT for?” “…because I love it”
That’s really the only answer a game journalist can give. They cover events because they love to. They interview our pseudo-celebrities because they love doing it. They spend hours and hours playing a game and writing a review because they love it (regardless of the flak they may – and often do – receive from the readers). It’s really too bad that passion doesn’t equate to earning potential in this field, because if it did, we’d all be rich by now.
However, look at the rosy side: If you do what you love, you’ll always be happy, right? I mean, you still have to find a way to pay your bills, but if you can, you’ll be plenty satisfied. You’ll get up every day with a smile. You’ll tackle everything with an ambition and gusto most mainstream reporters never feel. Yes, I know several journalists who love what they do, but typically, they’ve come to love it over the years. We game journalists loved games to start with.
We do this because we’re gamers. Period. Find me a game journalist that isn’t also a gamer, and I’ll find you a three-legged giraffe. And despite all the frills that we’re missing, despite the lack of champagne and red carpets, I have to say, loving what you do is an unparalleled feather in your cap.