All this month, we’ll be publishing a series of articles in association with OPM exploring the world of video games careers.
As part of this, we’re putting together a collection of profiles on some of the most coveted positions in the industry. First up, countless bloggers and members of the enthusiast press dream of being a games journalist, but what is it really like to be a Staff Writer. Play Magazine’s senior staff writer Ian Dransfield fills us in:
How would you summarise your role?
Dogsbody? No – workhorse. Jack-of-all workhorse. Is that a thing? It is now. It’s a very broad role as to what we do, but the actual responsibilities are shallow, all things considered.
What are your main reponsibilities?
The main chunk of work is writing, naturally: news, reviews, previews, features, stuff that makes me laugh. Then there’s blogging, sorting/creating content for the DVD along with the team, spouting off nonsensical video ideas that might get made one day, the odd bit of video work/editing/recording, saying stupid things in podcasts, being a general curmudgeon and drinking a hell of a lot of coffee.
How did you get your job?
It was advertised, I applied, I interviewed twice, I got it. I had two people I know put in a word for me, though I have no idea how much of an effect that had. Thanks Gary and Adam. I think.
What special skills or qualifications did you need?
Well I have a pre-entry NCTJ certificate in newspaper journalism, meaning I’m one of the few purebred (hugely arrogant) journalists in this industry, but I was asked in my second interview if I thought that was pertinent. Always an attitude that interests me. A knowledge of games helps, though from a lot of games journos I’ve met it doesn’t seem an absolute necessity. The ability to write? See above. Is that too bitchy? Sorry, I’m in a bad mood. Also I know a hell of a lot about games and am a great writer. Modest, too.
Describe your average day. What do you do?
Arrive on time, every day. Grunt ‘hello’ to the team. Read gaming news while coming up with a blog. Argue with NowGamer. Argue with Steve Burns. Do a blog. Have the first of many coffees. Argue with Burns again while the coffee is cooling. Remember I’m supposed to be doing work. Listen to anything Darran Jones has to say. Do work, with a few arguments popping up through the day. Drink plenty more coffees. Laugh when I’m told XX% is a ‘harsh’ mark. Work some more. Coffee. Argument. Coffee. Work. Argument. Home. Sit. Rest. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat. Oh, there’s eating at some point in that too. Chicken Sandwiches.
What is the best part of your job?
The fact I do what I always wanted to do. The fact I’m pretty good at it, too. Those rare days when you get to play an excellent game, all day, and it’s your job. The press trips (we’re all whores – better to just admit it). Meeting others in the industry, whichever part they work in, and getting drunk with them. Darran Jones.
What is the worst part?
It’s no secret to say the pay isn’t anything to write home about, unless you’re writing home to complain about how your pay isn’t anything to write home about and oh god this is some kind of existential nightmare. I’ll probably get fired for saying that. The workload can mean we don’t always get to put in the time we want to every single thing we do. Market-driven coverage meaning we have to cover ‘what the people want’, rather than what we want, though that’s understandable. Everyone saying print media is rubbish and backing it up by not having read our genuinely brilliant magazine for 10+ years. Good work on the valid opinion, folks. The fact I haven’t been awarded a pure gold tracksuit for being Best In The World. Darran Jones.
What tips would you give to anyone applying for a similar position?
Address your application to the actual publication you’re applying to – better yet, the actual editor. We’ve had more applications to OPM than I can count (I can count quite high). Know what you’re on about, not just Call Of Duty. Practice writing however you can. Try and get freelance work with any outlet you can, preferably paid. Don’t be a walking ego or a crazy, aggressive knobhead – we’ve got enough of those already. I tick both boxes, for one. Be willing to accept it isn’t glamorous work, and nobody in your family or group of friends will respect you for what you do.
What are your long-term career plans?
At some point I aim to own a clementine orchard, which I will somehow have made into my career. Back in the realms of boring old reality: I am pointing myself towards a more features-heavy route. The work Play has been doing on features recently has been excellent – and totally overlooked by the internet-obsessed mainstream, I have to (rather jealously) say. I want to do more like that, while looking at the likes of Polygon, PC Gamer and Eurogamer’s feature work as well as GameSpot’s video features for inspiration. They all do some excellent stuff.