Today I speak with Brian Crecente, experienced and overworked video game writer, who runs the gaming blog Kotaku, as well as reports for the Rocky Mountain News. He provides some tips for those of you interested in breaking into gaming coverage. I also spoke with some other experts in the field to provide additional advice, to be posted shortly after this.
1.) What is your writing background? You cover hard news in addition to video games.
I graduated with a bachelors in English and another in Journalism from the University of Maryland College Park in December 1993.
I was in a post-graduate fellowship, the ABC/Cap Cities fellowship, for a year following that. Through the program, I worked at three newspapers (The Albany Democrat-Herald, Belleville News-Democrat and Fort Worth Star-Telegram) for four months each, as a full-time reporter. I was mostly a general assignment reporter for those papers.
I was hired as a night police reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997, where I worked for about three years.
I moved on to the Palm Beach Post, where I stayed as a police reporter for three years and started writing video game reviews for them.
I came to the Rocky Mountain News as a police reporter in 2001. About a year ago the publisher was kind enough to let me start writing a freelance gaming column for the News, which I write in my “free time.”
As a police reporter for the Rocky Mountain News I’ve been in wildfires, covered more homicides than I care to count and interviewed a serial killer. Yesterday was a great example of what a typical day is like for me: I spent the morning writing my Kotaku items. Went to the Rocky Mountain News about 2 p.m. and spent nine hours working on a story about a task force of 100 police and FBI agents swarming the city in search of a serial rapist and then went home and stayed up until 3 a.m. working on some longer term freelance projects and Kotaku.
2.) Assuming they’re already a good writer and knowledgeable about games, how would you advise someone to breaking into writing about games?
For me it was more luck then skill, though the fact that I’m skilled at harassing probably didn’t hurt. At both the Palm Beach Post and The Rocky Mountain News, it took months for me to get the go ahead to write about games. You can’t give up, but you also don’t want to be overbearing.
My web writing came about a completely different way. I decided one day to start contacting all the game sites I could find and asking them if they needed game reviewers. It only took a week or so to find a few willing to let me try.
Last year, I decided to launch my own blog, RedAssedBaboon, and through that Gawker found me, which lead to Kotaku.
3.) Do you have any do’s and don’ts for people attempting to become gaming writers?
The most important thing to do is to become a writer first. You’d be surprised how many people overlook that step. If you’re a good writer and know something about gaming, finding a place to write is inevitable.
Don’t get hung up on the myriad of rejection you receive, because you will receive them and some will be down right nasty.
4.)Are there any other topics that gaming writing complements easily? I.e. are gaming writers asked often to review movies or graphic novels?
I think game writing is pretty specialized. One thing I’ve come to learn is that there are many ways to be a game writer.
The work I do for Kotaku and RedAssedBaboon are completely different than the writing I do for the Rocky Mountain News and both styles are completely different from my Gamezilla writing.
You can write game reviews for hardcore fans or for your average newspaper reader.You can write trend stories. You can write hardware reviews. You can write news and gossip. It’s all different.
5.) Are there any topics you’re hoping to write about that you haven’t gotten much experience in yet?
I’d love to be able to blend my two jobs and write an investigative story about crime and gaming, something that uses databases, but is written in a way that is fun to read.