Ask The Freelance Dude #6 – Die, Debugs, Die!


Dear Freelance Dude,

I’m wondering what the rule is for debug consoles and freelancers. I’m trying to branch out, and one of the things I’ve realized makes one more enticing to publications is access to a debug. As freelancers, are we able to obtain these magical machines? If so, how?

Matt H.


Dear Matt,

You speak of a magical techno-wizardry coveted by many established and aspiring freelance game journos alike – artifacts that are necessary for certain kinds of coverage, particularly in the print world, but not easily acquired by freelancers. Editors do indeed value freelance writers with access to debug units that let them play early pre-release code on. The problem is so few freelancers are granted access to these machines, without the direct assistance from an editor at a reputable publication, that pursuing them on your own becomes an exercise in futility and frustration.

Is it possible to obtain debugs as a freelancer? Yes. But you have to be super well-connected and have editorial support flexing its muscle for you. PR is the gatekeepers to the debug world, and each console maker has its own warriors to guard access. Microsoft uses Edelman. Nintendo uses Golin Harris. Sony has its own internal hardware PR folks. Appealing to them, assuming you get any response at all, often gets you plunked down on “the list.” 90 percent of the time, it’s a nicey-nice way of saying you’ve just been round-filed. Do not pass Go. Do not collect your debug unit. Do not expect to get anywhere with repeated attempts to get updates on your request. Etc.

That’s the reality for a lot of folks. Yet others manage to score these coveted units with relative ease. The good news is you can still break into a lot of print outlets without one. You just need to pitch them with features instead of review and preview coverage. Hopefully things will change in the future, but for now, trying to score a debug as a freelancer is like pissing into a tornado with your mouth open.

The Freelance Dude


Follow @nmeunier on Twitter for more writing advice, game industry commentary, and freelance shenanigans.

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