Video Game Journalism—Extra Cash or a Career?

Against all logical advice and conventional wisdom, Cody Hargreaves decided to turn his back on the corporate world for one shot at a career in the realm of journalism. Most people don’t recommend quitting your day job to follow your dreams, but Cody decided to take the risk, and had the ambition and the drive to turn his dreams into reality.

The video game industry has become one of the largest entertainment industries in the world and the steady growth of journalism in this field is a reflection of that.
There is no certain pathway to become a professional video game journalist and no particular course that journalists can take in order to get a job, as it is still not widely considered as a major part of journalism.
I interviewed Cody Hargreaves, 23, a charismatic writer who has been a video game journalist for a number of years. Before the interview, he jokingly asked me if he could smoke in his own residence, although I get the feeling he would have smoked no matter what my response was, judging from the overflowing ashtray. With the blinds closed to keep the dreaded daylight at bay (many gamers are creatures of the night) he tells me about how he got his ‘break.’
Cody wrote a weblog on an MMO (massively multiplayer online) website which contained reviews, opinion pieces and other articles that he had written for himself. As the number of blog views increased, so did the demand for his articles and he was contacted by several editors of websites and magazines who were interested in receiving contributions from him. He now receives pay for many articles, although he still does voluntary ones to continue building his folio.
Payment for freelance video game journalism isn’t too hard to achieve, although the amount paid for an article is another matter entirely. I was told that wages are low when you first start reviewing, or writing feature articles, but with time editors will use you more and pay you more.
‘It’s easy to get twenty bucks, but it’s difficult to actually make a living out of it,’ he says.
Games journalism is a particularly difficult career and it takes time, self-motivation, good writing skills, and the appropriate hardware to play the games that you write about. It can be difficult not to procrastinate, as there are lots of distractions when working at home. There is certainly a lot of talent and skill necessary to keep articles fresh, especially if you’re doing several reviews a day, like Cody has done previously.
Amongst other things Cody would like to see more support towards the industry, including education facilities as well as a suitable course focused on this particular aspect of journalism. Most video game journalists do not receive much recognition for their work, which he thinks is a shame considering how much work goes into a single article.
‘Some film critics are as renowned as actors—this is not the case with games journalism.’
A definite passion for criticising video games is required to have any hope of keeping motivated. If you don’t have that passion—forget it—for it would be too difficult to compete against other aspiring journalists. Writing skills can be improved, but intrigue cannot.

‘You could end up writing lots of articles before you get your break; and even then the pay is not great.’
A bachelor’s degree can be useful and set you in high stead; however, it is not necessary, and Cody does not currently have a degree.
Despite the many downsides of the trade, there are some upsides. Seeing your work published can be a rewarding experience and there are many ‘game launches’ that only VIP’s and game journalists are invited to. These events can be vital for networking and meeting other people in the industry.
Cody has been published in 3 different magazines and 7 websites and continues to review games regularly, although not full-time anymore, as he feels that writing a review everyday is extremely daunting and it takes the enjoyment out of the job, and more importantly: gaming. He also prefers writing for publications which allow true thoughts and free opinions, without editing too much out, as he is passionate about his reviews.
‘My integrity is more important than my bank balance,’ he laughs.

Many games developers bribe journalists into giving their games favourable reviews; however, Cody says he is very much against this, and values his own opinions far too highly to accept any bribes.
Cody is looking forward to see what the future holds for video games and its associated journalism, and currently sees a bright future for the industry.