Freelance Writing  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Freelance Writing  RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Game Journalism 101: Reviewing on a Budget with Kotaku's G.B. Burford (Interview) https://www.gameskinny.com/g603c/game-journalism-101-reviewing-on-a-budget-with-kotakus-gb-burford-interview https://www.gameskinny.com/g603c/game-journalism-101-reviewing-on-a-budget-with-kotakus-gb-burford-interview Fri, 24 Apr 2015 07:53:12 -0400 Elijah Beahm

Not a lot of bloggers cross the gap between hobbyist to full-time freelancer. G.B. Burford (DocSeuss as many people know him) is one of the few who has turned his passion for games into a career, writing for Kotaku and PC Gamer.

I had a chance to sit down with him this week to talk about game journalism and what advice he has for aspiring game critics.

Alright, first off -- For those who don’t know you, how would you describe your work as a game journalist?

G.B.: You could say I'm a freelance games critic who specializes in explaining how mechanics work. I'm the kind of guy who explains how magic works, basically.

And how do you approach writing your highly detailed, long-form critiques? It's considered quite a feat to make that draw in views in an industry that primarily rewards guides, lists, and snappy news posts.

G.B.: Differently each time. I realize that's not the world's greatest answer, so I'll try to expand on that...

Most of the time, I'm doing the pitching, so I'll try to come up with an interesting pitch. This usually means asking myself what a game's unique hook is. Sometimes it means answering a question about why a game failed.

So--using a game I haven't written about as an example--for Forza Horizon, I might go "hey, why does this work?" and I might come to the conclusion that it's all about the atmosphere or the reward cycles or something. And then I sit down and I write about that.

Sometimes it's a case of comparing one thing to another, looking at the friction there, and writing something about that. Like, there I was, playing survival games, and I kept going "ugh, I don't like this, I don't like what this is doing, why can't they be more like STALKER?" So then I wrote a piece detailing my specific frustrations with survival games  and then presented the game I'd been comparing them to in my head. I proceeded to explain why I felt it was so great.

Sometimes, as I'm playing a game for a refresher--I don't write without playing or replaying the game I'm writing about--I'll actually discover something about it I hadn't noticed before. For example, a piece I'm doing that was initially "what does it mean for Game X to be a part of Series Y" has become "why are we so excited for this game, and why can't I shake the feeling that something's not quite right?"

Do you ever try to direct the evolution or just follow it and see where it takes you?

G.B.: It varies. I only try to force it when nothing's coming and I've got a deadline, but that's pretty rare.

Most of the time, I have a general idea, I see where my mind takes me, and I make adjustments to my initial idea as I go. It rarely changes on any drastic level, though it always changes.

Being a member of the games press often requires you are on top of things, able to play both recent and older games with ease. From what I understand, for most of your life, you've consistently had struggles with money, partially due to covering a genetic disorder.

How have you handled all of that, facing those struggles, along with going to college? Not a lot of people would be able to do that.

G.B.: I remain almost entirely a PC gamer. It helps a lot. Like, hey, THIEF 2014 going for $60? Naaah, I got it for $7 a few months before release. Alien: Isolation cost me a dollar. Part of it is about being smart.

Newegg was dumping AMD codes where Alien was concerned. AMD codes are little bonuses you get for buying a graphics card; for whatever reason, they'd gone with Alien: Isolation, despite it not being out (usually it's stuff that's already out). They mostly give out Steam codes.

So yeah. Smart shopping is like 70% of it. Dumb shopping is another 20%.

What do you mean by "dumb shopping"? Just regular browsing? Or blind buys?

G.B.: Like... I don't have enough money to pay the $100+ a month for medical insurance, but I do have like maybe $20-30, so sometimes I go "hey, that looks cool, I'll buy that" when I should probably stick stuff in savings. The other 10% are gifts.

Some people like how I write and want me to write about certain games, so they send stuff to me. Like 'oh, I really want you to write about Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, so here's a copy of the game!' Well, okay, least I can do is write about it.

Alien: Isolation cost me a dollar.

I don't buy nearly as much games as I used to; partly 'cause I got way better at budgeting and realizing that "wow, okay, probably shouldn't be spending that money", especially when I've got a large enough collection as it is.

So in summary:

Smart shopping is like 70% of it. Dumb shopping is another 20%. The other 10% are gifts.
  • Smart purchasing -- Stick to PC gaming, it's waaay cheaper in the long run, no matter how cheap the upfront costs might seem.
  • Dumb purchasing -- Don't do this.
  • Gifts -- Are great, and I miss being able to afford to give them myself.

There are a lot of games out there. How do you go about choosing the games you cover?

G.B.: Oh, that's super easy. Whatever game has the most impact on me gets written about. Some games swirl around in my head and have me thinking lots about what they do or how they did. Maybe it's because I hated them, maybe it's because I loved them. Maybe they're Destiny and they're a beautiful mess of great and awful.

I might not write about Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag at length just because I don't have a lot to say beyond "wow, that was a lot of tailing missions." Of course, I might actually find those tailing missions impacted me in a big way, so I pitch a piece on the mechanics of tailing missions and how to fix them. Last time I pitched that, I ended up somehow writing a piece on Dishonored, though.

All of that stuff said, sometimes there are games that burn brightly in my head and get nothing said about them because I don't have anything to say. Some games need more time on the burner. Oh, and I do my best to avoid writing about things other people have already said. Avoiding discussions about graphics is important, I think.

You feel too much weight is put on graphics?

G.B.: Oh, absolutely. A while ago, some people at Insomniac researched game reviews to discover that the thing everyone talked about the most in reviews was graphics. Graphics are the single most important factor as to whether or not people like a game, according to most game reviews. Well, most reviews are actually wrong, as weird as that sounds. This is controversial opinion time.

Basically, nobody talks about sound in reviews. Framerate didn't get discussed unless it was super bad. A game's review score is primarily contingent on the game's presentation.

You can look at reviews and go "yeah, everyone talks about graphics," but I've seen plenty of games with great graphics fall by the wayside. Far more consistent is great sound design. I don't think I've ever seen a game with bad sound design win the kind of GOTY accolades that Red Dead Redemption or Half-Life 2 did, and both of them have incredible soundscapes.

People will tell you "Red Dead Redemption just feels like a Western," but what they really mean is that it's presented like a Western, and that's heavily done by using sound effects directly from Westerns.

So you'd argue that the -video- aspect of games is actually not as major a factor by comparison?

G.B.: Thinking with the "gameplay/story/visuals" paradigm isn't very helpful. It's how games were reviewed in the '80s and '90s because:

  • A -- Games were still in their formative years
  • B -- Games writing was still developing its vocabulary.

I think this taught us how to think about games, so you've got an awful lot of people discussing them purely on the terms of what we see in review score breakdowns. People end up reaching to explain why a thing does or doesn't work and they're often wrong about it.

Like, hey, That Popular Game You Like doesn't have a great story. Honestly, it's pretty dumb. But... it does have incredible facial animation, and it does its best to put that facial animation in your face.

Using really expressive, sympathetic characters goes a long way towards impacting our feelings, so the game in question gives us really strong feelings, despite having a really stupid story with a ton of plot holes. But most people don't think to write about facial animation as a component of storytelling.

They go with what is most immediately accessible and what most casual gamers might think is the answer.

G.B.: They are the average users. That sounds elitist, I know, but there's not really any other way to say it. Most people who write about games are people who grew up having fun playing console games and now they like writing about why they enjoy them. Most of the people who actually know how games work got jobs making games.

There's the stereotype that most game writers want to get a job working in the development side of things. But very few actually make the leap, and those that do are almost all the ones who understand best how games work.

You occasionally get some who make the jump to "community manager" or something. But the ones who are actually making games are the ones who actually understand games. And as weird as it sounds, I don't think most people understand how games work.

It's like going "I really like how this car looks and I enjoy driving this car, but I don't do car maintenance." If you don't really understand how your car works, then you're going to have a hard time being a truly great car writer.

Hmm, what would you say then the games press could benefit most from, in response to the problem you've found?

G.B.:  Playing more PC games. Seriously.

At first, you're like "hmm, well, that thing I wanted to do isn't working right now, so I should figure out why that is." Maybe a friend tells you to use the FOV slider in one game, and you realize that this makes things a lot nicer, so you start adjusting it in every game, but then you find a game where you can't do that.

So you go "okay, I want to change this." And then you do. Or maybe you watch a YouTube video where Thomas the Tank Engine has replaced Alduin in Skyrim. So you discover mods. Eventually, you're inside the guts of the games you love, messing around to see what happens.

I got my start because the handling of an airplane mod I'd found for Microsoft Flight Simulator 1998 was upsetting me. I figured something made the airplanes fly differently, so I decided to find out what that was. Eventually, I'd figured out how to mod weapon firing into the game.

Tinkering is implicit in PC gaming. The more you tinker, the more you understand. You'll never really understand games if all you do is play them and write value judgments at the end.

"Oh hey I played this game and I had a lot of fun so I think you should play it okay?" We can do better.

And what other advice would you give for anyone looking to get into games criticism? Both to grow as critics and understand games better both as a medium and per-game?

G.B.: Read Film Crit Hulk and Pauline Kael. Familiarize yourself with as many mediums as you can. You can't be a good games writer if you only ever play games. Also, play bad games -- play LOTS of bad games. Figure out what makes them bad. Expose yourself to things you don't think you'd be interested in.

Tinker with, mod, or tweak the games you play. Try to break the games you play (Birgirpall and Banzaii are my favorite YouTubers for precisely this reason). And, most importantly of all, ask yourself why you feel the way you do.

Also super important: start really talking about games. I mean REALLY talking about them. Don't just go onto GameFAQs or something and go "who was the most memorable villain?" or whatever.

Less "Top Ten Shooters" more "why does this sniper rifle feel so good while that shotgun feels so lame?" Why does this element work this way instead of that way?

G.B.: Yeah.

I got my start posting comments about why games did or didn't do things on Kotaku's "Talk Amongst Yourselves" column. Basically, every day, someone would post an article, and you could talk about anything in the comments.It was a real wild west.

I'd bring up something for serious discussion, get people involved, and then we'd respond back in forth by breaking down each others' arguments.

Bolded Version of Their Statement
"Well, I think..."
Bolded Next Remark
"Yeah, for sure. But do you think it could also..."

Alright, but as you said, some of the opinions you've come to from your line of thinking aren't always as popular -- how would you advise aspiring critics handle that? Would you recommend finding a discussion forum like TAY?

G.B.: To answer the first question: stop caring. Write your sincerest and your best and understand that you will be crap at first because it takes like... 10,000 hours of work to get good at anything. I'm definitely nowhere near where I'd like to be. There was a while there where people would give me death threats for writing that I didn't like Game A or Game B, but that passes. It's just harmless stuff on the internet.

Now, as for the second question... Well, I wouldn't recommend TAY to anyone. I wish I could. At some point along the line, TAY lost it's way and became more closed off and manipulative, trying to be a mini-Kotaku. Certain people became authors and could post actual articles which got comments and caught they eye of marketers with free games.

They started telling us what we could and could not say. A friend wrote a negative review of a free game, and some people got really angry about that. Anything that could be seen as jeopardizing their ability to get free games was upsetting.

I learned a very important lesson from that: Just because something benefits you doesn't mean it's good for you. So no, I wouldn't recommend TAY to anyone these days. It's declined massively in terms of output quality and volume. A great many people left, myself included, and I've never found an adequate replacement.

Well, we're actually about wrapped up, but at the end of all my interviews, I like to let my interviewee ask me or my audience a question.

G.B.: I wish I had a question, but I don't. I do have some advice, though.

Alrighty, what additional advice do you have?


G.B.: If you want to write about games, you need a few basic things. Obviously we already talked about how to develop a way of thinking and speaking about games. Once you've got that, keep doing it. Get a blog, but realize that blog's more of a portfolio. It's hard to build an audience when nobody knows who you are. That blog's more for the people you pitch your own work to.

Get an editor. Listen to your editor. Under no uncertain circumstances should you have a poor relationship with an editor. Always. Respect. The. Editor. Never work for free unless it's for yourself. Write on your blog for free. Write on community forums for free. But professionally? Never write for free. Never write for exposure.

Expect to fail a lot. Grow a thick skin and learn to take criticism--people get invested in games, and everyone thinks they're right, so consider this when talking to people and expect to upset others. Eventually, maybe, just maybe, someone will pay you less than you're worth.

Oh, and write for an audience. Be a reader's writer. Expect that not everyone knows what you're saying, but do that without talking down to people. Treat the audience like a peer. And when you've done all that, go read the comments. Comments are a barometer for how you've done. If they're negative and horrible, chances are, you can fix that next time. The end!

Can you tell I overthink this?

If it is any consolation, I feel more people should be "overthinking it"! Alright, thank you for sitting down with my today G.B. Where can my readers find you on Twitter?

G.B.: Hey, no problem.

@forgetamnesia for my professional work.

@thegonzologist for my personal, non-freelance writing. It's also a great place to ask me questions!

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Freelance Open Call - GameSkinny is Hiring https://www.gameskinny.com/pimrs/freelance-open-call-gameskinny-is-hiring https://www.gameskinny.com/pimrs/freelance-open-call-gameskinny-is-hiring Wed, 11 Feb 2015 03:50:35 -0500 Rachael Johnston

GameSkinny is currently looking for fresh talent to join our freelance team with the sole purpose of creating traffic-driving content.

Candidates must be able to research current trends and keywords and write quality articles, slideshows, and guides based on those terms. A successful writer will bring in new audiences through research, self-promotion and content marketing. Additional bonuses for content that hits it out of the park.

Here is the type of content we are looking for:

  1. Evergreen
  2. Socially Shareable Lists
  3. Mobile Games Guides - (Be on the bleeding edge of mobile game trends and jump on hot games so we have guides ready 5 minutes before they become the next Flappy Bird.)

Here are the types of subjects we are looking for:

  1. All game genres
  2. Almost all specific popular games - we are open to suggestions, but we are specifically looking for writers for League of Legends and Minecraft

You are the right person if you are:

Experienced - This isn’t your first online publication; you’ve written about gaming before. You either have your own blog or have contributed to an outlet. You know how to communicate with an editor, gracefully incorporate feedback, and understand how to write with formatting and SEO keywords in mind.

Independent and Motivated - GameSkinny prizes writers who bring savvy research and Google Trends know-how to the table. You know that editors can help guide you, but you are comfortable pitching and delivering your own researched topics.

Knowledgeable - Your primary focus is gaming. You do what you write and you know the ins and outs.

Professional - You don’t just meet deadlines, you hunt them down. You know how to communicate in a timely and professional manner and know how to keep your cool in the comment section. You see your extremely rare mistakes as nothing more than opportunities to learn from so you can further improve your skills.

To apply:

  • Email your resume and 3 writing samples to WriteForUs@GameSkinny.com with the subject line what you are interested in writing about and the word “Writer.”
  • Must include 2-3 example headlines you think would be successful on GameSkinny (strictly for vetting purposes).
  • Include your per article rate based on an 600-1200 word article. 
  • Check out our application tips for a leg up!
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GameSkinny is Looking for a World of Warcraft Freelance Writer https://www.gameskinny.com/b4l0j/gameskinny-is-looking-for-a-world-of-warcraft-freelance-writer https://www.gameskinny.com/b4l0j/gameskinny-is-looking-for-a-world-of-warcraft-freelance-writer Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:26:23 -0400 GameSkinny Staff

GameSkinny is an open publishing platform - anyone can sign up and write. We believe that if given the space, and a little direction from professional editors, gamers can have a place to publish written work, have their voices heard, and thrive. We just need gamers to know about us. The more eyes we have on GS, the more people learn about the platform, the more people sign up and post, and the more our community grows. 

This is where you come in.

GameSkinny is looking for a freelance writer for World of Warcraft content.

We are looking at our freelancers to help generate high quality and high traffic content in order to inspire and grow our community of writers.

This is a paid opportunity, payment details will be discussed if your application follows the below directions. All GameSkinny writers start out at the same base level of pay and there is room for advancement based on performance.

You are:

Experienced - This isn't your first online publication; you've written about MMOs and/or World of Warcraft for at least a year. You either have your own blog or have contributed to an outlet. You know how to communicate with an editor, gracefully incorporate feedback, and understand how to write with HTML formating and SEO keywords in mind.

Independent and Motivated - GameSkinny prizes writers who bring savvy research and trend know-how to the table. You know that editors can help guide you, but you are comfortable pitching and delivering researched topics.

Knowledgable - Your primary focus is World of Warcraft because you've spent countless hours leveling, PvPing, running dungeons, and raiding. You know the game inside and out, you keep up to date on the latest bosses, and you know what the community is asking about.

Professional - You don't just meet deadlines, you hunt them down. You know how to communicate in a timely and professional manner and know how to keep your cool in the comment section. You see your extemely rare mistakes as nothing more than opportunities to learn from so you can further improve your skills.

You Will Write:
  • Attention grabbing discussions about the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion
  • Useful tips/tricks guides
  • Relatable and accessible "How to" guides
  • Evergreen content that will outlive the latest news (if you don't know what evergreen is, this isn't the gig for you)

This gig is currently restricted to 4-5 WoW related articles to be completed by the Warlords of Draenor November 13th release date; there potentially is room for additional work after the release.

To Apply:
  • Email JayR [@] GameSkinny.com with "[WoW Writer]" at the beginning of the subject line.
  • Include your resume and/or LinkedIn.
  • Include a short cover letter of introduction.
  • Provide links to 3 samples of relevant published work.
  • Provide 2 example headlines you think would be successful (strictly for vetting purposes).
  • Application Deadline is October 4th.

NOTE: Your application will not be considered if you do not follow the directions above. Also, I might recommend this article for some tips.

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GameSkinny is Looking for a League of Legends Freelance Writer https://www.gameskinny.com/mdgrx/gameskinny-is-looking-for-a-league-of-legends-freelance-writer https://www.gameskinny.com/mdgrx/gameskinny-is-looking-for-a-league-of-legends-freelance-writer Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:20:49 -0400 GameSkinny Staff

GameSkinny is an open publishing platform - anyone can sign up and write. We believe that if given the space, and a little direction from professional editors, gamers can have a place to publish written work, have their voices heard, and thrive. We just need gamers to know about us. The more eyes we have on GS, the more people learn about the platform, the more people sign up and post, and the more our community grows. 

This is where you come in.

GameSkinny is looking for a freelance writer for League of Legends content.

We are looking at our freelancers to help generate high quality and high traffic content in order to inspire and grow our community of writers.

This is a paid opportunity, payment details will be discussed if your application follows the below directions. All GameSkinny writers start out at the same base level of pay and there is room for advancement based on performance.

You are:

Experienced - This isn't your first online publication; you've written about eSports and/or League of Legends for at least a year. You either have your own blog or have contributed to an eSports outlet. You know how to communicate with an editor, gracefully incorporate feedback, and understand how to write with HTML formating and SEO keywords in mind.

Independent and Motivated - GameSkinny prizes writers who bring savvy research and trend know-how to the table. You know that editors can help guide you, but you are comfortable pitching and delivering researched topics.

Knowledgable - Your primary focus is League of Legends because you've spent countless hours playing and ranking up in ladder. You know the game inside and out and keep up to date on the latest champions and meta.

Professional - You don't just meet deadlines, you hunt them down. You know how to communicate in a timely and professional manner and know how to keep your cool in the comment section. You see your extemely rare mistakes as nothing more than opportunities to learn from so you can further improve your skills.

You Will Write:
  • Attention grabbing discussions about mindset
  • Useful tips/tricks guides
  • Relatable and accessible "How to" guides
  • Evergreen content that will outlive the latest patch (if you don't know what evergreen is, this isn't the gig for you)
To Apply:
  • Email JayR [@] GameSkinny.com with "[LoL Writer]" at the beginning of the subject line.
  • Include your resume and/or LinkedIn.
  • Include a short cover letter of introduction.
  • Provide links to 3 samples of relevant published work.
  • Provide 2 example headlines you think would be successful (strictly for vetting purposes).
  • Application Deadline is October 6th.

 

NOTE: Your application will not be considered if you do not follow the directions above. Also, I might recommend this article for some tips.

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Calling All Video Game Journalists - Round Table Media https://www.gameskinny.com/psdht/calling-all-video-game-journalists-round-table-media https://www.gameskinny.com/psdht/calling-all-video-game-journalists-round-table-media Wed, 01 Jan 2014 10:16:26 -0500 Coatedpolecat

Entering into 2014 there are a lot of writers young and old, who are looking for opportunities and visibility. People figuratively clawing and fighting for every last shred of limelight, hoping that folks will read and discuss their article. The process may seem difficult and tiring to some.

Websites like N4G, Reddit, and GameSkinny provide a place for writers to speak their minds and expand their audience. A new community would like highlight pieces submitted to them through both a website and a weekly show. The purpose of this program is to highlight both relevant topics and outstanding writing.

Carmen "Shrivasta" DeMint, the founder of Ladies of the Round Table (LORT) has this to say:

"Round Table Media LLC (RTM) and LORT are looking to expand our current staff of contributing freelance video game writers to help produce a steady stream of gaming related content."

LORT conjured some unique talent in the video gaming industry to support this diversly driven community. With hosts like Rebecca "Bonks" Rothschild and Heather "Xia" White, to the advisory boards Megan Gaiser, Sheri Graner Ray, and Matthew Holmes. This niche corner of the internet desires to gain even more attention than it already has.

In the month LORT has started, its gained thousands of users begging for content. To help meet those demands they've asked for writers to submit relevant topics to their website for a possible feature.

When I asked Carmen about the content submitted, her response was:

"...we need writers who can commit to at least one article per week. You are free to write about whatever you want, within reason, as long as it fits within our demographic and is gaming related. You may write game reviews, previews, news, guides/walk-through's, slide shows, and opinion pieces on any platform -- PC, Mobile, PS3, Xbox 360, Ouya, etc.."

"Posts/articles go through a normal editorial review process. We have a fantastic publishing that includes polls, slide shows, and a built-in editorial workflow to make the process to add media images easy."

In addition to the thousands of eyes grazing over the site, some of the best material gets promoted to discussions during the weekly show. The opportunity for said article, intends to benefit both author and LORT. A "scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours" kind of mentality. These topics can range from news to culture, and written in a non-offensive tone. In other words, don't be rude, no name calling, things like that. You can express an opinion without degrading someone, so be tasteful.

Who's the right candidate for this task you may ask? Carmen was specific when she replied:

"We are looking for active and experienced online writers. [People who are] friendly, engaging, and passionate about video games and enjoys those discussions. [This person should] dedicate enough time to contribute at least one article per week. They should actively engage with the rest of the team on social media sites."

"Remember, when RTM and LORT needs to fill an editor or director position, we ALWAYS look to our existing team. We look for the brightest, best, and most active writers to promote from within."

As I've watched this community grow in the last month, the diversity and range in which its audience spans is outstanding. If you're a beginner or just want to help a good endeavor, this would be a great place to start. Though this gig is not paid, you're still generating views, expanding your audience and gaining tons of invaluable experience.

As 2014 begins we have many choices to make when entering into the video game industry at any capacity. Getting involved in a positive community and growing your audience never hurts. Besides, you might find yourself applying for an editorial position or a director's chair before you know it.

Do you have what it takes for the LORT community? Do you want to start discussions about games to an audience that's craving it? Then what are you waiting for, go to Ladies of the Round Table and get started.

@Coatedpolecat

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