How to Make Money From Video Games
Times are tough and money is short, but don’t let those calls to put down the controller and find a real job get you down. There are loads of ways to earn a living while still enjoying your favorite pastime. The video games industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors within the overall entertainment market. For many years now, the annual take from video game sales has eclipsed the box-office receipts of motion pictures released in the United States. People laughed at Charlie Chaplin when he decided to get into the movies, but twenty years later when Hollywood firmly gripped the heart and soul of America, he was vindicated.
Even if you don’t like programming, a career in video games might just wind up being more rewarding than that English or philosophy degree you were thinking of pursuing at college. We have gathered some different perspectives from people who are currently earning money from their video game passion: A journalist, a webmaster, and a designer. In this three part series of articles, we asked each one to describe the process of getting into the industry, the challenges they faced and the advice they might have for someone wanting to travel down a similar path.
Kris Erickson, Video Game Journalist:
It still feels weird calling myself that. I’ve loved playing games all my life, but I never really thought that writing about them could be a career option until I joined the GameFlavor network 6 months ago.
My first foray into games journalism was through blogging. I became really interested in new media publishing at school (I was a communication grad student) and decided to try it out as a learning experience. My site, Portablevideogamer.com launched in late 2006. I was really interested in handheld gaming because I had just purchased a PSP. There were some other sites popping up at that time such as PSP World, and I got really excited about these small, independent news sources. I saw what they were doing and thought “hey, it doesn’t look that hard”.
It turned out that there were considerable challenges. For example on the technical side – blogging software like wordpress makes it relatively easy for anyone to become a publisher, but there are still some fairly heavy technical obstacles in the way. What happens if you want to change the look of your site, or add new features? I ended up learning a fair amount of CSS and PHP along the way.
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On one hand, my first website was somewhat of a success, because it managed to attract a small readership of about 500 visitors per day. Coming from the university, where we are lucky to have half as many people reading our research papers, I was very excited. On the other hand, the site was not financially viable. I put advertisements on the blog, but the low traffic numbers did not generate much revenue. I think I earned enough to pay the web hosting, which came to around $100 per year. Writing was kind of its own reward, because I got to see how the public reacted to my articles and interact with them through the blog.
The best outcome of my whole blogging experience was that the site helped me get the attention of Paul, the owner of this network. My self-taught writing and technical skills helped me land a paid job here as senior editor. Working as a games journalist is not the highest-paid job in the world, but it is pretty cool. The advantages are that you get to play a lot of games. If you are the kind of person with strong opinions it can be gratifying to have an outlet to share those with the world. As you move up in the world there is also the possibility of travel to cover gaming conventions, and lots of free perks from publishing companies.
Based on my own experience, my advice to any aspiring games journalist would be to dive straight in, bite off more than you can chew, and build up a portfolio of great written content. It doesn’t matter where you start, but the practice and insights that you gain from doing it will help you attract the attention of larger, more profitable publications.
Continue to Part 2: Video Game Design