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Want to be a game journalist? Consider volunteering.

One common misconception I see with aspiring video game journalists is they assume as soon as they write their first review they’ll be rolling in cash and free games. This just isn’t true for any job, writing or otherwise, so why would it be any different in the field of video games? If you want to get your foot in the door, you have to start small. Very small. Like, working without getting paid small. It may sound like a waste of time, but if you aren’t willing to sacrifice a little for your craft, you might as well hang up your video game writing hat right now.

This elephant has nothing to do with being a game journalist. It's just kinda cute.
This elephant has nothing to do with being a game journalist. It’s just neat.

Volunteering with a fan-run news site is an easy way to put published reviews under your belt and get a feel for what video game journalism is all about. It helps you hone your writing skills, teaches you to be prompt with your articles, thorough with your research, and timely with your news bites. It also drops a weighty truth that early writers need to get through their heads: writing about video games is work. It’s not just screwing around all day, it’s real work that can be extraordinarily demanding at times. The sooner you learn that the sooner you’ll know if you’ve got what it takes to walk the long path.

I gained invaluable insights with my first few volunteer writing jobs, and when I started applying for paid positions, these served as excellent references to show that I’m dependable. Editors want more than anything someone they can put their trust in to deliver articles and reviews on time. Volunteering at a fansite, even a small one, helps shape your work habits into something more presentable to the career-oriented press. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Send queries to several sites at once, shout your accomplishments from the hills, run your own blog, and after you’ve built a foundation of writing for the sake of writing, you can easily jump into the field of writing for the sake of paying the bills.