JOBS IN GAMES: The other half of the games media

We’re only three days into our month-long Jobs In Games special, in association with OPM, but already interest is peaking around opportunities in the games media.

But while the vast majority of readers may aspire to follow an editorial career path, GameSpot account manager Chris Thomas says there’s an even more interesting side to the media that people often miss…

The Other Half of Games Media – Buying and Selling Advertising

Something I have noticed in my five years in games media is that 99% of people striving to get involved in the business are all absolutely obsessed with the idea of becoming a games journalist.

Obviously it’s not difficult to figure out why. At first glance games journalism appears to be a non-stop parade of free games, getting paid to play said games, and glamorous press trips and launch parties where everything is paid for and the booze flows like the Ganges.

While this is all true to varying extents, the actual job can be a gruelling slog of C-tier me-too sequel shooters, strict deadlines and hour upon hour of agonizing transcription at three in the morning. And it’s no secret that the pay can be pretty rotten too.

To any would-be graduates or job hunters looking to get into the games media, may I present an alternate solution: the commercial side of the operation.

I know, I know – who really wants to dedicate their 9 to 5 routine to getting banner ads up on gaming websites and ruining all that lovely, lovely content? I’ll tell you who. Me.

Whether you’re buying or selling the ad space, you’re guaranteed that every single week will present you new challenges. Lots of opportunities to get out of the office and out to exciting meetings. Plenty of friendly faces and I don’t mind saying that the odd lunch meeting doesn’t hurt either.

Most of your day will be spent corresponding via email and the phone to negotiate ad placements, coming up with interesting creative solutions and taking meetings. It’s incredibly fast moving and there is always something to do. If you really care about games then so much the better; seeing a game you love and the campaign you meticulously planned play-out without a hitch is really satisfying. If you’re in sales then just closing a big booking can be the difference between a bad day or an incredible month.

For a graduate you may struggle to waltz out of university, diploma in hand, straight into a decent sales or buying role. Sales is typically better paying (if you’re good) but media planning and buying agencies, thanks to their scale, are often an easier way to get a foot in the door, at least it was this way for me.

Your best bet is to research the various media agencies and pick out the ones with gaming clients. For instance MediaCom look after EA, MJ Media take care of 2K and so on. Even if there aren’t any vacancies on the games team you should apply for any vacancies you can find. If your passion for gaming is evident you’ll find a way onto your desired account sooner or later. I was at Starcom MediaVest for six months before I managed to jostle my way onto the Activision account (which is now currently with MEC).

Once you’re agency-side and have your gaming client you will be meeting an obscene amount of people every month, all from different gaming media outlets vying for your attention and client’s ad budgets. From there it’s a simple case of networking and sniffing out new job opportunities.

The commercial side of games media may not be for everyone, and it may involve less free games (unless you know the right people!) – but it’s a brilliant job and very rewarding. In my five years I’ve never regretted a day. Good luck!

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