Well, plane tickets or no plane tickets, a great point was brought up to me during Dragon*Con -- why don't we do any panels on how to break into gaming journalism? This year we focused on all of the titles that are looming on the horizon, like TERA, Guild Wars 2, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but we didn't do any panels on the industry we're all already a part of.
So, today, let me change that for you guys, even though we're not currently hiring. As a person who does look over the infamous "slush pile" here at Massively (the industry name for the pile of applications that get sent to us), I'm more than happy to offer a few pieces of advice on how to break into gaming journalism.
Tip #1: Make sure this is what you want, and make sure you're prepared
Gaming journalism is a strange beast. It's fast-paced world of strict deadlines, surprise announcements, and over-saturated stories. It doesn't pay particularly well, it can be extremely stressful, and everything you do is constantly being judged by readers who have absolutely no qualms about telling you how wrong you are.
So why do this? Why stick with a job that has all of these hazards (and more) lurking within? You do it because you love games and absolutely no one can tell you otherwise. No matter how many people doubt your intentions (either by saying you're paid off by everyone under the sun or "not a real gamer") you already know that you love games. You want the chance to talk to people about your greatest passion, and you'll put up with the problems that the industry presents just for the chance to do what you love.
If you want a taste of what this is all like, then start your own blog and start talking about games. Start attempting to do what we here at Massively do -- post news regarding the daily headlines and provide commentary on those headlines in separate articles. Don't shy away from games you may not understand or may not like -- you have to tackle all games equally, even games you may not like or fully follow. You'll quickly get a general idea of what this job is all about and whether or not this is the industry for you.
"Do not attempt to think outside of the box by answering questions they didn't ask -- it doesn't do you any favors."
If you find that you just don't have the time to run your own blog, then you probably don't have the time to freelance in gaming journalism.
Tip #2: Follow instructions
When you're applying to different news sites, make sure that you follow every instruction on their hiring applications to the final period on the page. Do not skip or change a single line. Do not attempt to think outside of the box by answering questions they didn't ask -- it doesn't do you any favors. Also, no, I don't want to hear about how you led your guild in claiming the Keep of Everwinter over your oppressors, the Beer Pong Pwners. (Unless I asked to hear about it, of course. Then I'm quite interested on how you kept the bropocalypse from destroying your server.)
Here at Massively, on any given hiring period, we'll get somewhere around 100 to 200 applications for two to three openings. Because of the amount of people who apply, we have to look for the best of the best. We need people who are not only passionate about gaming, but also good with small details. Sixty percent of the job is being able to research games, and missing a few small details can get you booed off of the stage.
This is why we look for people who pay attention to our instructions and fill out our application exactly how we ask. They're taking their time because they really want this job, and that's what we want to see. What else do we want to see?