It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that I like writing about video games. However, many lucky and talented writers have managed to make a living covering the gaming industry. It’s easy to see the appeal. Play some games, write some articles and get paid for it? So far, though, it has been a career path full of "trying things on my own and seeing what works," since journalism schools – yes, even Medill – don’t usually have any classes on how to cover a demo or get your work published on Metacritic. However, Critical Path: How to Review Videogames for a Living By Dan Amrichis evidence that there is help out there.
Recommended to me by fellow NBN-tendo writer DJ DeWitt, Critical Path is a great resource for aspiring game journalists written by an industry veteran. Between GamesRadar, Time Out New York and Wired, I would kill to write for any one the publications Amrich has written for. What’s most surprising, and strangely reassuring, is that the world of gaming journalism Amrich describes isn’t too different from the world of conventional journalism many of us learn about in Fisk and McTrib. Yes, he does go into game-specific topics like how to capture screenshots, get dev unit consoles and deal with angry internet forum-posters. However, he also explains what makes good critical writing, how to be a successful freelancer, ways to work with editors and general career advice that would benefit a journalist who wouldn’t know a Magnavox Odyssey from a Gizmondo.
Having already done this for a little while, I wasn’t expecting the book to have many revelations. I hoped it wouldn’t, since that would mean I was doing something wrong and didn’t know it. The idea that gaming journalism really is just a form of journalism affected me the most. When one is devoted to a niche, it is easy to disregard anything not relevant to that niche when studying a broader topic. This book reconfirmed to me, though, that the journalism skills I’m learning here will have plenty of relevance, even if I plan to throw them away by writing about electronic toys for years on end. It reconfirmed that that’s okay. College is a wonderful opportunity to become a more well-rounded writer and bring even more insight into coverage of a niche.
I don’t know if this book can do for others what it did for me, if only because it directly targets my narrow interests. However, I do think that it offers something that can interest anyone who cares about the gaming world or the journalism world, even if they don’t think about them together. On second thought, maybe don’t read it. I don’t need any more competition.