Friendly PSA for Aspiring Journalists: Reading is Not an Option

If you want to become a great journalist (in the game industry or elsewhere), you have no choice: You have to read.

This is a rule for all writers: You can't be a good writer if you don't read.

It's a commonly known and accepted fact, but I think it's especially important to remind blossoming video game journalists. Sadly, in my experience, many big gamers really don't read that often.

Until video takes over the world, journalism is still about writing. It doesn't matter how much you know about video games. It doesn't matter how much research you do, nor does it matter that you've got a knack for getting people's attention. If you don't have the writing ability, it'll be difficult to progress in the journalism industry.

Good writing is the result of lots of practice, a solid vocabulary, and a keenly sharpened mind. The last two traits can only be acquired by reading, so get hopping.

Reading should be enjoyable but it also pays to be diverse

There are countless books out there, so you're perfectly welcome to read whatever you like. However, it will benefit you a great deal in the future if you diversify your reading list. For instance, you should always read articles written by other journalists in the field you have chosen; that's just a given. Beyond that, feel free to read what you like, but try busting free of your comfort zone from time to time.

If you can't resist a great modern mystery or thriller, by all means, have a blast. But if you've always been intimidated by a classic you've always wanted to read, give it a try. The only way you'll get better is by reading more, so make the extra effort. You should also consider trying a wide variety of reading entertainment, including short stories, plays and poetry.

Sorry, comic books and menus don't really count

All reading is beneficial to some extent, but sticking to comic books (or even graphic novels) and the occasional menu won't be enough. You've chosen a profession that will rely heavily on your writing skill, and that relies heavily on a variety of traits that are almost exclusively improved via reading. Not only will it give you a better vocabulary, it will allow your brain to branch out and grow; you'll start seeing multiple sides of any given issue.

One might think it doesn't require much ability to review a video game, or turn a press release into a decent, clean piece of professional copy. But one would be wrong. So please, do yourself a favor and make some time to read each and every day.

Featured Columnist

A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.

Published Jun. 16th 2014
  • Chai Chien Liang
    Contributor
    Any particular books to recommend? This year I've read the first two books in the Game of Thrones series and gone through the whole New Jedi Order series of novels

    Also gone through a few programming books (I don't suppose this counts as true reading?)
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    You may not like what I'd recommend, as I tend to read the classics. :)
  • Si_W
    Agree completely with this, and actually think this is quite an inspirational idea for an article. What led you to even think about this as an article?

    I am really starting to love this place for it's diversity in the type of writing I can read here...

    I used to write reviews for myReviewer.com but kind of lost my mojo, although I still hope to get it back at some point, and this just puts a smile on my face.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Oh, I read all the time. And as I said in the article, it's unfortunate that a lot of gamers don't really read at all (at least, not the ones I've met). Therefore, I figured it was a logical idea for a Tip article.

    Thing is, everyone already knows this in other venues for journalism. But as gaming journalism is still in its infancy, and gamers perhaps aren't always the biggest readers out there, I figured I should say it. :)
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    I absolutely love to read. Used to have a ton of my own books but they got lost in a very unfortunate situation. So right now I have my programming books and books in my Sherrilyn Kenyon collection. I have several purchases on my Kindle tho. They offer lots of books for free and it nice, especially when you are having a low period and want something new to read.

    Whenever my kids are complaining of being bored, I always have one go-to answer. "Read a book."
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    "Whenever my kids are complaining of being bored, I always have one go-to answer. "Read a book."

    The best advice any child can receive, as far as I'm concerned.
  • Ashley Shankle
    Associate Editor
    But Fathoms what if I can't read. What if I was really just blind all this time and have gotten by on luck.

    Joking aside, this is basically all true. A writer can't grow by only reading their own work because it's such a small scope in outlook, vocabulary, and talent when compared with what's out there.

    I had a lot more to say on it, but I just cut it down. The world is a big place, and writers need other writers' perspectives and thoughts to feed. There's always room for improvement. That's the gist of it.
  • Brandon Morgan
    Featured Contributor
    I think having another writer's perspective is definitely a good thing on occasion. However, it does have some downsides. Not everyone has the same writing style or voice, one writer may believe his way his correct over another, leading to poor criticism. It can be a gamble; you have to find a writer you can trust, basically.
  • Ashley Shankle
    Associate Editor
    I can't agree.

    The point isn't to take on their style or voice, but rather to broaden your horizons and think of new tools available to you. Whether or not the work you're reading is written by someone competent (or agrees with your viewpoint on a topic) is irrelevant.

    By tools, I mean sentence structures, vocabulary, and ways of approaching topics.

    Often the effects reading other peoples' work has on your own are as subtle as a fly in a field. You won't (and can't) notice it until well-after the fact, or you may never at all.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I think you're both right, to some extent.

    I've been part of writing groups that were perfectly useless, for instance. It only existed so we could fawn all over each other's work. That doesn't help at all. Furthermore, if they did make an attempt at criticism, I'm not sure I'd be willing to take it, as their writing ability was questionable at best.

    On the other hand, getting together with other writers is often a good idea, especially when it's open and there are no egos or grudges. Then you can really start to progress.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    I couldn't agree with you more on this!
  • Brandon Morgan
    Featured Contributor
    This was a brilliant read. I cannot agree enough with this fact. Far too many individuals just want to write about video games and don't put in the work to improve the necessary skills. Plus, reading is damn enjoyable, pure and simple.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    ^^^ I could open a library with the amount of books I own. I love reading and my variety is extensive as well.
  • Brandon Morgan
    Featured Contributor
    I wish I could say the same. Unfortunately, ever since buying a Kindle, all of my books have been digital. I've still got plenty of physical copies, just not like I used to.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    I have a Kindle as well but I use it for certain books. My MUST-HAVES are always physical.
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    I have a list of must-haves for physical but unless you own your own place, digital tends to be a good investment. We have a huge tub of table-top gaming books and that sucker is like heavier than my two kids combined. Maybe even heavier than myself. Takes two guys to lift that sucker. lol
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Lol I hear you there. Before I bought my own home, anytime I moved, EVERYONE dreaded my book boxes too! I was kind and packed small boxes so they weren't heavy but the downside was the quantity of boxes :)
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    lol. That was defintely me. It was probably one of the best things we lost a few years ago, in my husband's eyes. I'm just glad I didn't have any autographed copies or I would have been madder than heck! lol.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    LOL, I have TONS of those too!!

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