I've been in the gaming journalism biz a little over four years now. Closer to five, or six if you count my work with other official websites. I've poured countless hours, days, months, and even years of my own personal time into ensuring that I have a place among the more well respected gaming journalists. As a one man reviewing army I think I've pulled off some impressive numbers in my time. More so than most paid off, or bought out mainstream gaming journos. Sometimes I honestly feel that the struggle to stay relevant in this industry isn't worth the hassle though. If that makes any sense? As a lowly blogger it hasn't been an easy road getting to where I'm at today. Not by a long shot. I've had to prove myself over, and over to various PR of the same studios which I've worked with in the past due to constant staff changes among other things. The PR turnover itself is, but one of many stumbling blocks I've tripped up on on my way to covering retail releases. The fact that gaming journalism is an actual "J-O-B" that requires actual dedicated work often times makes me second guess what it is I'm doing, especially since I offer up my services for a game code that costs the developer/publisher nothing in the grand scheme of things. That, and the added fact that I pour my heart into what I do to provide some of the more notable reviews on the web really makes me question things.
For the longest, before all of the knit picking guidelines, review material hassles, PR bullsh*t and journalism requirements were introduced I was a successful indie exclusive blogger. I truly loved the time spent exploring, and sharing what I found in regards to those lesser yet innovative indie games. It was easier to convince indie developers to have faith in my work, and in turn made it easier for me to provide critiques that were attention getting simply because the games themselves were unique. Jump forward to today though, and you'll find that the retail phase I'm in doesn't allow me to provide as many review posts as I did in this blog's earlier years. Sure the support has grown as have my followers, but I feel like I'm letting the lot of you down by not staying up to date with what's going on in the gaming industry, game-wise. Like other journalists I'm slowly losing motivation to continue onward due to the various complications that I run into. Whether it be PR like that of Atlus's who won't give you the time of day in regards to a request/follow-up inquiry or the lesser and lesser amounts of available review codes it always seems like something is getting between me, and what I aim to do with my blog. At times I've lost heart, and felt like retiring. Enjoying some gaming for myself doesn't sound all that bad, to be honest. To hell with developers, publishers, and PR who have the business etiquette of a spoiled child (you know who you are). At least that's the way I see it sometimes ...
I realize in saying what I've said that some of you out there are still looking to get into gaming journalism for whatever reason. Some of you likely like the ideal of getting to play, and review the games before other gamers get to. Some of you may be in it for the writing experience, and some of you still may have the selfish ideal in mind that it's all about getting freebies for little to no effort. The truth of the matter is that gaming journalism is not some glamorous job filled with amazing opportunities, free stuff, and tons of fun. Sure it has it's upsides, but it is work. In fact to get where I'm at requires a lot of hard work, and dedication. In effect it is very much like any other job you'd be hired for. It requires serious dedication to the job, prior journalism knowledge, constant postings, and full-on audience engagement. The freebies, as one might refer to them are anything, but free. You work off what you get much like you'd do when working at a job for weekly pay, only to a lesser value. The developers, publishers, and PR expect results once you've promised them, and if you do not follow through with quality results your reputation as a gaming journalist will forever be tarnished. Word does get around the journalism circuit, so don't think posting elementary school level reviews for a retail game is going to get you anywhere fast.
I think that's the biggest misconception about gaming journalism, and about those who provide the reviews that you read. It is truly a job in every sense of the meaning. We (the legit ones) literally lose hours, weeks, months, and years of our lives as gaming journalists trying to capture readers' attention in order to secure our place among some of the best review providers out there. In retrospect we don't ever really get compensated for that time spent either, unless you sell your journalistic soul to the corporate devil in which case you lose your integrity for income. There's definitely some gaming journalist big wigs out there who lie through their teeth just for the sake of money, or other lucrative business ventures. They agree to promote a game in exchange for pay outs. It's one of those darker things that are slowly, but surely coming to the surface of the gaming industry. Sadly, it will eventually turn gamers away from gaming journalism altogether, and in turn may very well turn gamers away from gaming itself. If gamers can't trust journalists to give them proper insight on video games how will they trust the developers, and publishers who are continuously shoveling out sh*t while paying said journalists to tell said gamers that the games are worth buying? It's a messed up situation, and like the career itself can be rather questionable at times.
So, if you aren't going to bother putting in the time, and work that's necessary in order to provide quality honest reviews for your readers I don't think gaming journalism is a job you should seek out. You'll find out quickly, if you aren't in it for the right reasons, that the workload can become overbearing, and that the hassle often times outweighs the effort invested. As for me I'm going to continue doing what I set out to do. Firstly, because I will not give up on something I've invested this much time and effort into, and secondly because I value my readers. Believe it or not, but I would have quit long ago had I not have had the support I have received from the gaming community. Just be aware what you are getting yourself into if you ever dream about becoming a gaming journalist.