I’ve been gone for bit and haven’t written anything gaming related in a few weeks. I took things slow and some time for myself during my birthday in January, caught the SMITE bug after the SWC, and have spent most of my writing time doing work for clients. I recently ended up with my own place, which gives me the opportunity to be more prolific and I fully intend to take advantage of the situation as much as possible.
Now that we got the update out of the way, I want to talk about a topic that’s turned me off from working in games media altogether – unprofessionalism.
The level of unprofessionalism in games media is disgustingly high. I’ve spoken to quite a few gaming site managers and CEOs at this point, and the landscape is a hellish wasteland of greed and dubious intentions. From the deplorable rates sites like Only Single Player insult writers with (seriously, $0.25 per article won’t even buy lunch in a day) to the inane hiring methods employed by people claiming to be part of sites like mmorpg.com, it’s clear why so many personalities within games media have decided to go the independent route.
A Prime Example
I was contacted by someone named Bris Posh the other day. She claimed to be part of mmorpg.com and was offering “$10-15 for a 200-500 word piece.”
As any established writer will tell you, those rates are “meh” at best. Sadly, they’re the best I’ve seen by a mile within the games media industry, outside of MMOs.com, so I decided to respond and find out a little more about the position. I replied saying I was interested and gave Bris my Skype ID.
She responded quickly, which was a good sign but it turned out to be the only one. Upon accepting her contact information on Skype, she invited me to a group conversation with a supposed colleague of hers named Dale Richardson. The group conversation gave me a sneaking suspicion that she didn’t intend to speak with me directly.
If a potential client will not speak with you through voice communication, they’re not serious about hiring you. Serious clients will always defer to speak with you directly, opting for a personal means of communication so they can actually get to know who they’re working with. When a client defers to speak through IM only, they don’t deem you worthy of their time or attention, which is a dead giveaway they don’t really care about hiring you.
The IM chat went as poorly as it possibly could. Dale immediately said “You’ve got talent kid.” I asked what he’d read and knew I wouldn’t get an answer well before Bris told me he was being sarcastic, a response that took 15 minutes to relay. Dale was trying to blow smoke up my ass, and I immediately let him know it wasn’t going to work.
People will tell you everything they think you want to hear in order to butter you up into writing “samples” or working on speculation. They’re basically trying to get you to like them so they can con as much free labor as possible from you, promising payment later IF they like what you do. It’s all complete bullshit that I’ve dealt with since I started writing professionally over seven years ago, and the games industry is oversaturated with people who are trying to take doe-eyed gamers and literary amateurs for as much as they can.
Rule #1 of being a professional: Never work for free.
How can you expect other people to value your work if you don’t? I had a freelancer of over 20 years mentor me when I first started, and he stressed that rule to no end. Don’t work on speculation, don’t create tailored samples, and don’t ever work for free or less based on the promise of more work.
After an elongated moment of silence, Bris proceeded to ask, “What’s your favorite video games? Why?”
This question may seem innocuous enough, but it’s actually another dead giveaway that they’re not looking for serious talent. If you were hiring a contractor to build your house, would the first question you ask him/her be what their favorite kinds of houses are? No. You’d ask about their experience and background in building houses because you’re looking to hire them to do a job, not make inane small talk that isn’t relevant to their ability to actually build houses.
The purpose of this question is to get suckers to think about their passionate interests instead of the job itself. It’s the distraction in a magic trick, meant to get you to think more about how much you love video games than the terms of your actual agreement. Instead of going on a long tirade about video games, I answered the question succinctly.
After not receiving a response for over 30 minutes, I asked a few clarifying questions about the supposed job opportunity and their specific roles at mmorpg.com (neither Bris nor Dale are listed as part of the staff).They never answered my questions about the actual job, never even brought it up, and quietly slinked away – I assume to try after some other suckers.
The only games media company that didn’t start with this ridiculous question was MMOs.com, the only games media site that actually has paid me decently and is clearly run by gamers who care about the community and the content they provide.
I know there will always be wide-eyed teenagers and delusional amateurs who have been tricked into thinking they have to work for nothing or pennies just to get their foot in the door, but I hope someone takes what I have to say at heart and ditches their rose-colored glasses to see the truth before they waste years of their life trying to break into a promised land that doesn’t exist.
Games media is a cesspool of greed and unprofessional jackasses who don’t care about video games or you. They vast majority of people in the industry only care about squeezing every penny of ad revenue they can out anyone they can trick into working for them. They’ll say whatever they have to say to get you to work for as little as possible. Approach every supposed opportunity with skepticism and trepidation.
If you’re like me and are willing to accept working in muck to potentially do something you love for a living, at least do yourself a favor and don’t get taken for a fool.