10 tools for the video game journalist

(Seeing as I’m not a hired, professional video game journalist, this is by no means definitive or a check list for the future success of any budding young writers. It is, however, a collaboration of items which I have discovered to be most useful in my blogging habits.)

1) Notepad and pen
Lets get back to basics. For ease of use and reliability, the reporter’s notepad is still king. It is a fantastic tool and one which stays with me wherever I go. The article idea that pops into my head when writing, the game that I need to complete and have most likely forgotten, or the phone number of that developer I met at a recent games convention; it doesn’t matter. As long as I’ve got a notepad and pen to hand, I can jot them down in a flash.

2) Camera
Your images are just as important as your words. Take a snap of the queue waiting for Call of Duty, or that fantastic new Street Fighter cabinet that’s been installed in your local arcade. For every moment of gaming goodness you discover, make sure you’re ready to document it with a great photograph. Some journalists have started ditching the traditional camera in favour of their smartphone, but I still encourage the use of a dedicated SLR. Quality content is still paramount in journalism, so why compromise with a grainy shot off your Blackberry?

An experienced journalist will produce their best work with a digital SLR. They are understandably expensive and cumbersome, so a high resolution compact camera is a good alternative for stowing away in your rucksack. Not everyone can buy the top of the range equipment, so think about your budget and buy the equipment that is appropriate to you.

3) Dictaphone
In video games journalism, you’ll more than likely end up talking to people. Game developers, PR officials, store managers, gamers and a whole host of other people inhabit our thriving past time. Recording every word can lead to a new story, quote or angle for your piece. If anyone doubts what you’ve said, it also means that you’ve got some evidence to back up your story. Along with a spare set of fresh batteries, the Dictaphone is a small, lightweight addition to your bag.

4) Video Camera
Editors are constantly seeking high quality video content. Online shows such as Bonus Round on GameTrailers and Zero Punctuation on The Escapist have attracted considerable followings. If you can offer websites exclusive footage from an interview or event, they’ll be dead keen to commission your work.

Or if you’re just interested in blogging, video can still be a great way of capturing your opinion. With a cheap video camera, it’s easy to edit reviews, rants and video diaries on software such as Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. Video cameras are by no means cheap, but it’s a worthy investment if you want to capitalise on the medium.

5) Magazines
Print is dying. The future is online. I’ve heard it all before, so save the lecture. Despite the doom and gloom surrounding magazines, I still find them to be a valuable asset. I regularly find indie titles which the web seems to have missed, or interviews with industry figures that I hadn’t considered. Their approach is frequently different to their online competitors, so it’s worth keeping up and following what they’re doing. In the United Kingdom, multiformat publications such as Edge and GamesTM are highly recommended.

6) Handhelds
Waiting is incredibly frustrating. Waiting for a press event to start. Waiting for the train to arrive. Waiting for someone to call you back. If you’re out in the field, waiting is an excruciating part of video games journalism. So why get bored? If you carry a handheld in your bag, it means that you can always be playing through a new release. Which can also be helpful for increasing productivity!

If you’re at a convention or public event, handhelds can also be a great way of meeting other gamers and finding out the inside scoop. Local multiplayer games, such as Dragon Quest, Monster Hunter and Mario Kart are great for breaking the ice. Never be left twiddling your thumbs.

7) Twitter & Facebook
To spread the word on what you’re doing and network with everyone involved in video games, you have to be signed up to Twitter and Facebook. There is no excuse. The pulse of online thought and comment revolves around these social tools, so use them wisely both at home and on the go.

8) Laptop
The ideal laptop for a video game journalist is small, light and powerful. Make sure it fits in your bag easily; although it’s unlikely that you’ll need it every day, it’s good to know that you can carry it easily when needed. Live blogging at events and being able to edit audio, video and any other material you have back in the hotel room shows commitment and planning.

Of course, having a decent computer at home is no bad thing. Especially if you’re into Starcraft 2, World of Warcraft or Steam.

9) Smartphone
Mobile technology can do some pretty amazing stuff. Reading e-mails, twitter responses and blogs are just a swipe away on an iPhone or Android device. Bringing up maps if you’re lost in the city and ringing the shop that was meant to have pre-ordered your most anticipated game is a lot easier when you’re using a well made device. I’m sure I don’t need to lecture you on the pros and cons of choosing between a Blackberry, iPhone or Android device. It’s completely up to you, almost all of the leading manufacturers will do a decent job of keeping you connected – which in video game journalism, is essential.

10) The next big thing
Journalism is changing. I can only guess what new revelation or evolution will come along next. Just as video games evolve and improve, so should your awareness of the tools available to you. Always be on the lookout for new way to make your output better and faster.


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