Dear Freelance Dude,
As you eloquently explain in your blog, pitching feature ideas to editors is a great way of getting started as a freelance. This has proven to be effective to me, as I recently had my first feature pitch accepted – WOOT!
Much as I love desperately squeezing increasingly bizarre feature concepts from my noggin, only to be ignored or rejected by editors, I would dearly love to review games for well known gaming sites too. It seems that reviewing is the holy grail of games journalism, only possible for the most well known writers. Is this the case?
Many folks that aim to freelance about games want to dive right into writing reviews from the get-go, often to the exclusion of other kinds of coverage. While being a game critic is certainly one compelling and crucial aspect of this gig, becoming a successful freelancer in the game industry requires you to diversify and tackle a wide range of pieces beyond mere reviews.
A lot of freelancers have to do their time writing other kinds of pieces before they get a taste of steady review work. That’s not to say you can’t find gigs that let you review games right from the get-go, but with so many other established and capable freelancers out there already covering reviews for any given outlet, it’s tougher to convince an editor to pass off a review title to a new writer when they’ve got a steady pool of veterans to draw from.
Features are the easiest way to break into new outlets because, if you’re doing it right, you’re offering a concrete idea and angle for a piece that’s unique – one that’s compelling enough that it positions you as the best person to write it. Anyone with an opinion and some solid writing ability can play through a game and churn out a critique, so editors don’t have to look that far to find someone more than willing and able to tackle the task.
There is, however, a trick. If you specialize in a particular franchise or gaming genre that’s not as popular among other reviewers, you can use that to make yourself valuable to editors. For whatever reason, experienced reviewers willing to tackle MMOS, sports games, strategy games, and even some of the lengthier or more specialized RPGs are rare. So if you pitch a review to an editor for one of these games and are able to (honestly) bill yourself as an expert or guru on that genre or franchise, you’ve got a far better shot as scoring an assignment.
But to answer your question: no, reviews aren’t always reserved for the most well-known writers. They’re just much harder to pitch. You’ll typically have an easier time scoring review assignments once you’ve established a working relationship with an editor by pitching other content first. I’ll admit though, if you’ve got a strong resume and already cover games for other well known publications, that will improve your chances too.
The Freelance Dude
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As usual, a comprehensive and genuinely useful response from Nathan M – ‘Ask The Freelance Dude’.
You rawk, man.
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