Let’s put a lid on this. I’ll close with the three golden rules.
16. Play Everything
Play demos and new releases. Play old releases. Play the oldest releases. Play mods of mods of mods. Play fan translations, but also untranslated games. Play games you know you wouldn’t like, and play them on Hard. Play German WW2 hex-based strategy games. Play Japanese visual novels. Play existential Russian games where you control a kidney who believes he is a man.
It almost doesn’t matter how bad your writing is if you possess that rare guru-level knowedge of games, and no games journalism is more agonising than the stuff written by dazzling professional writers who know fuck-all about the medium. Whether you’re writing it will benefit from you knowing your shit. So play everything, and don’t ever stop. There are always more games to play. Aren’t you lucky!
17. Read Everything
Reading is secretly a pretty important part of being able to write! Really!
Flowing copy, conciseness, proficiency with different tones, being able to tell jokes or stories in text, all of these are skills that reading will help you to develop. The good news is, you read a lot already, right? Of course you do. What kind of journalist wouldn’t enjoy reading. Except the kind that should kill themselves immediately.
Rock Paper Shotgun editor Jim “Sly Dog” Rossignol particularly advises reading other kinds of journalism, then working out how to steal their tricks.
18. Write with Conviction
Feelings and opinions will lose something in transit from your brain to text because written words simply aren’t as good at holding subtext and emotions as a human voice is. This means there’s no room whatsoever for restraint in your writing. If you’re angry then your copy needs to seethe and spit, and if you want people to buy some unknown game you need to put both your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care. You need to write knowing you’re right. To borrow a few lines from the Neil Kulkarni guide to being a record reviewer:
“If you don’t regret what you’ve written after you’ve written it, or find in revisiting past work an occasional INTENSE embarassment (and equally intense pride) you’re probably not doing your job properly. But if ALL you feel is a faint embarrassment (and equally faint pride) then you’ve been writing needily, you’ve been writing to get friends you’re never going to meet, and you’re the next editor of the NME. Congratulations.”
For games journalism, replace NME with IGN. Voilá.
Okay. Done. I’m going to bundle all these rules into their own little page on this blog and call it a day.