As we head towards the tenth Games Media Awards on October 11th, we continue our retrospective of past winners. Today we speak to Simon Parkin, who picked up two awards last year – being named as Features Writer and Mainstream Voice.
How did you first get into the games media?
I had an idea for a games magazine while I was at university: a Record Collector for video games, in essence. I wrote to the publisher of Edge (whose email address I found in the front pages of the magazine) who invited me to visit his office in Bath and pitch the idea in person. While the idea never made it into production, I was invited to pitch to Edge's editor as a result. In this way a modest, nave career as a freelance writer began.
And what advice would you give to someone currently looking at a career in games media?
Specifics are difficult, in times like these. But in general: find what interests you about video games and identify the specific way in which you want to communicate that interest to the world (there are all manner of different ways in which to deliver both video and prose). Obsessively follow the writers or commentators whom you admire and try to figure out how they do the things that you find appealing. Do whatever you can to find out who you are so that you can begin to find your voice. Learn how to tell stories. Develop cultural interests outside of video games, else your insights all be too narrow. Once you have something to say, and a somewhat unique and skilled way of saying it, people will start to listen.
What's been the best advice you've ever received?
I can't point to a single piece of advice so much as the interminable efforts of a number of editors who have, over the years, guided my writing and helped me to improve my clutch of bad writing habits.
What are you most proud of in your career to date?
Exposing the financial links between arms manufacturers and some video game publishers. Becoming a contributing writer for the newyorker.com
And what has been your biggest challenge?
Coping with the rejected pitches.
Which of your competitors do you most admire and why?
My great friend Christian Donlan, a freakishly gifted writer and storyteller, is a constant source of inspiration.
Who's your favourite non-games writer/presenter?
Janet Malcolm, Ariel Levy and Kathryn Schulz are three very different contemporary feature writers, who each inspire me in different ways at different times. I often re-read Martin Amis' journalism, particularly his work that was published in the Observer in the 1980s.
If you weren't working in games media, what would you be doing?
I'd find a place to be a writer away from games, I hope.
What are your best memories of the Games Media Awards?
Having the chance to do this work professionally should be reward enough, but winning the 'mainstream voice' award last year was a treat. That year I'd spent a lot of time learning how to write about games for sceptical audiences without, I hope, lapsing into medium-advocacy. To have those efforts recognised in this way brought me some joy.
Who should win an award this year?
Oli Welsh's reviews are consistently exemplary. I notice every time and I think others do too.