Earlier this week, we caught up with Laura Kate Dale, Editor of Destructoid UK, about her experiences getting a job in the games industry, working as a games media professional and top tips for aspiring journalists.
What made you want to get into the games industry?
For me, video games were always my favourite form of media growing up. In my early teens I realised I enjoyed talking with people about video games even more than I enjoyed playing them. I loved digging into the specifics of games and listening to others do the same at outlets like IGN. I never assumed that writing about video games would be a sustainable careeer and in fact was lining myself up for a career as an academic studying maths and physics.
I ended up screwing up my exams, failing to get into university and working a dead end supermarket job with no career progression prospects. My love of discussing video games resurfaced as a way to keep myself active in a mind-numbing job. I would have a notebook on the desk with me at work and note down ideas for features, thoughts on games, discussion topics and similar things to keep myself engaged throughout my day. I started writing these up at home after work and eventually decided it would be worth finding somewhere online to publish them. What began as a way to pass the time at work slowly transitioned from a hobby, to a hobby that made me some extra cash here and there, so a chance at a career. I eventually began to push my writing as best I could in the hopes it would prove a way out of working retail.
How did you start off on your journey into the industry?
I got my start in the industry writing for free for MCMBuzz.com, a website connected to the UK's biggest comics, gaming and pop culture convention. While I was not being paid I was provided with a professional looking email address, a job title and a list of industry contacts to work with. The convention eventually released it's own monthly print magazine which was looking for paid contributors and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Having worked hard on the unpaid site I was first in line offered paid work for the magazine.
From there I launched my own site to give myself editorial experience, worked hard at pitching freelance features and eventually set up a successful Patreon as well as getting an editorial position offered to me.
Why did you want to pursue a role in the games media over other roles?
I've never really had a creative spark of my own, so game design would never have worked as a career for me. I simply don't have the creativity to design things from scratch that do not already exist. What I have always had is a very good analytical mind, a very strong ability to take something that already exists and deconstruct it, see what works and what doesn't. I think that just made criticism and the media side a much more natural fit for me.
What were your biggest barriers/challenges that you faced when you were making you way into the industry?
Sexism, homophobia and transphobia are all alive and well in the video games industry, at least in the media consumer level. As a gay trans woman I had a real uphill battle on my hands at times. Seemingly out of nowhere I would get waves of harassment my way on the basis of who I was from readers. It's getting better, but it's still a big barrier. More than once I wanted to just give up on this dream before getting to where I am now.
The games media is one of the hardest areas to break into. What advice/guidance would you have for people aspiring to become journalists?
- Write until you've written all you can write, then wrote some more. Lose sleep because you're writing too much. Write about anything and everything, just keep trying.
- Try for opportunities that seem out of your reach. You never know who will say yes. Those unexpected yes answers are what will push your career forward.
- If you're going to write for free, make sure you're getting something from it that will further your career and know when to move on.
- Establish a niche early, work out what audience you're aiming to corner and if you can't get the experience you need then start your own niche outlet to give yourself that experience.
- Keep on trying, it is doable even if you don't have any formal qualifications. Make your portfolio so awesome that editors will have no choice but to give you work.
If you could go back in time and change one thing about your career, what would it be and why?
I'd go back and encourage myself to allow more of my personality to slip into my writing early on. I could have been marketing myself to my current niche audience years ago.
Thanks for your time Laura. Make sure you follow Laura's antics on twitter at @LaurakBuzz