300 hours in Skyrim. Check. An even greater amount of hours on Overwatch. Check. If you’re finding yourself checking off in-game accomplishments only to realize you’re lacking the most important check of all… a paycheck! – then let me show you how you can get paid to write about video games.
Video games can be a wonderful way to pass the time. They force you to solve puzzles, think critically, strategize, work within teams, and even tap into your creativity – I know, I know, I’m probably preaching to the choir, here.
But your passion for video games doesn’t have to stay compartmentalized into the “hobbies” part of your life, you can use your enthusiasm to drum up extra income or even full-time income, too.
Or, you may not need to drum up lots of extra income – maybe you want the opportunity to be more involved in the gaming community, review new games for free, get early access for free, interview developers, and make your hobby pay for itself, a little. This is still a great option for you!
There are as many different video games as there are people, so by choosing this market for your writing, you can tap into a nearly limitless topic potential. If you are a niche gamer, you can specialize in a certain category, like RPG, FPS, or visual novel, or if you like a little of everything, you showcase your broad experience with a variety of game types.
Be a Freelance Writer
The freelance market is bursting with opportunities for video game journalism.
Major names like PC Gamer, Official Xbox Magazine, IGN, and GameSpot all use freelance writers like you. So do some smaller names, like Cultured Vulture (although you can sometimes expect the pay to be smaller, and it just depends on what your goal is and how good you can get at promoting yourself for page views).
Editors are looking for tutorials, reviews, news articles, lists, blogs, and interviews, so there are a variety of approaches you can take, and you may even mix and match a few of them.
You can contact these companies directly with your pitch. When you do, always be sure to check their submission guidelines and follow them to a tee. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, following instructions on this basic level shows your ability to comprehend and follow instructions on a larger scale, letting the editor know that you’ll be easy to work with.
You can also check the usual haunts for freelance writers – sites like Upwork and Guru can be great resources for locating the gigs you want. The benefit of using these sites is that you know the clients are seeking for these specific jobs, and you sometimes have the potential for an ongoing gig.
This field might seem a little daunting to get into, but once you prove yourself by delivering a quality article or two and developing a solid report with an editor or two, you will find it easier to get assignments for the types of articles you wish to write. As big as the industry is, it’s also somewhat close-knit, so developing a killer reputation will be invaluable to you.
It is important to keep in mind that you will face competitors for the stories you want to write – who doesn’t want to turn this hobby into their career? – so to stay ahead, you will want to hone your writing skills into tip top shape.
You will more than likely be submitting pitches rather than entire articles to potential clients, so you need to be on point with your grammar, style, and voice. Emphasize the things that give you a unique perspective while maximizing your appeal to your audience. Keep in mind you don't have to be a general “game reviewer”, and you can focus on niche areas of gaming as an expert. For example, you could write exclusively about Xbox games, sandbox games, or even mobile games.
While there are a multitude of writing opportunities online, don’t forget that you can often triple (or even more) your earning potential if you get in with physical magazine editors, who sometimes pay as much as $1 a word.
Honing Your Craft
Before, we talked about showcasing your voice. If you’re not sure what your voice is, start your own blog. Running your own blog is a super way to practice and eventually showcase those writing chops, and you may begin to develop a following and even capture the interest of game publishers looking to find homes for review copies.
You can even monetize your blog with relevant ads, making it a source of income in and of itself. Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are all great ways to attract a readership and to make those networking connections within the gaming community that can lead to better-paying gigs.
If you go the route of making your own blog for practice, just bear in mind that once you publish a piece on your own blog, many publishers will not accept it.
So depending on your audience and if you’ve successfully monetized your blog or not, you will want to start being discriminative about whether you use an idea for your own blog or for a pitch, once you feel comfortable submitting work to other publications.
As with any type of writing, reading is key for improving your craft. Read the magazines for which you wish to write. Get to know their culture and style. Think about the types of articles you would want to write. Start a Twitch channel, or make LetsPlay videos on YouTube.
Likewise, don’t stop playing video games. Maybe even play more, or at least branch out and try games that are out of your typical experience. If you play indie games, try a few mainstream titles for comparison. If you play shooters, try an immersive roleplaying game, like Dragon Age Inquisition or Skyrim.
The idea is to broaden your frame of reference. Even if you end up writing in a niche of your preference, having a lot of experience with a variety of games can help your articles to be more nuanced, because you will be able to relate to more audience members with different perspectives, and you’ll have a little more insight since you’ve experimented a bit.
Explore Related Niches
In addition to the subcategories of video game writing we’ve discussed like reviews and tutorials, there are adjacent categories, like e-sports, to consider.
Esports, or competitive video gaming, is (or can be) in and of itself a career, but that’s a topic for another day. There are also folks who write specifically about e-sports, and who find it rewarding because they have a passion for sports, competition, and games.
Games like League of Legends or Overwatch have huge e-sports followings, and entire columns and blogs get devoted to them. Just like regular sports, there are a ton of commentaries, outlooks, rankings, and predictions to be written regarding e-sports.
Writing for e-sports is definitely a niche for someone who enjoys tracking the trajectory of players and has enthusiasm for the competitive and fast-paced nature of sports. It obviously helps to have an understanding of the games you’ll be covering and to monitor the competitive side of the playing field for a bit before diving into writing about it.
Another avenue to consider, if you enjoy and are proficient at writing creative fiction, is writing for video games. While this is a much tougher niche to break into as there are fewer jobs available, if writing fiction is your passion, this can be a category to strongly consider or to work towards while you write some of the other types of articles we’ve discussed.
If writing for video games tickles your fancy, check out Twine, “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.” Do it now, before you come across a game dev job that strikes your fancy, and start learning how to use it and making small projects so that you have something to show developers that you’ve put in the effort and have the skills to deliver what they want.
And as with every other type of company we’ve discussed, target your pitch and portfolio to the company you wish to join, and bone up on their games and interaction styles.
A final note: Because of the competition for all of the jobs we’ve discussed, it can sometimes take time to become established and make a regular income. But if you have patience and are persistent, and maybe just a little flexible, you can turn your passion for video games into something that helps to pay the bills.
As a writer, you have an in-demand talent that can be used to earn you TONS of money online. You can earn money freelance writing, for sure, but it's still just trading dollars for hours. Personally, I recommend starting your own website! Information is the currency of the internet, so why not leverage your talents to build yourself a serious online income! Learn how to create your own blog-style website and make money through advertising.