This Blog, Freelance Games Writing, Money, And Why I Do it

A couple posts from other blogs I recently caught have encouraged me to talk publicly a little bit about why I update this page and maybe some of the inner workings of what goes on here and at some other gaming websites.

Mostly this has to do with where money is and isn’t going as well as how these blogs relate to the job market surrounding games writing. If you’re trying to break in this post might be slightly useful.

First let’s get this straight: I don’t make a single dime off of Multiplatform. Whatever revenue might come form the ads at the bottom of this page probably goes entirely to WordPress. I haven’t really looked that up to be honest. The fact that I blog here for free is sometimes slightly mind-blowing given how much energy I devote to updating it three times a week, each time posting between 500 and 1,000 words. All that said, when it comes to writing elsewhere, I’m pretty much done writing for free.

What got me talking about this out in the open were two posts focusing on money and freelance game-centered writing. In January Joe Martin wrote this post that shed some light on the mass of games websites that don’t pay their writers. It’s a really good illumination of what much of the freelance games writing world looks like. Another blog linked to it today with its own post about the difficulties of the market. I suggest you read that one too if you want to look in on the whole subject.

These “fan sites” or whatever you want to call the small, lesser-known gaming sites that don’t really generate any money are pretty much how I started writing about games. I’m just now noticing my biography page on this site is missing but won’t spend too much time on it here. I actually started writing reviews and regurgitating gaming news on the old Nintendo Nsider forums 11 or 12 years ago around the tail end of high school. During college that went on to “fan sites,” some of which I more or less co-founded. I’m pretty sure you can still find some of that work.

All of that was for free. At the time I considered it to be about building my resume and building experience, which I guess it did. Through all that I never received review code or other stuff as “compensation.” I reviewed games I either bought or rented with a GameFly subscription. Mid-way through college I started finding paid work both locally and online, and at that point I decided I needed money in return for what I consider to be my main skill. Since then this blog (and its predecessor on 1up) has caught the attention of websites offering purely volunteer work and even people who just want smarter posters on their forums. The “fan site” landscape I came up through a decade ago pretty much seems to be what exists today.

There are some that might pay a small amount per month or per article (like, really small), then there are the ones that pay based on ad clicks, advertising the freedom to write what you want and control your own career and so-on. I tried that one or two times. I don’t know if it’s what I chose to write or that I never got the hang of search optimization, but I never saw a dime from ad click revenue. Actually I think a dime is about all I got.

The posts above suggest the lack of pay is an issue of low value being placed on games writing. That might be the case. I don’t know what it’s like compared to other entertainment or hobby-oriented writing. I definitely think it has something to do with the sheer number of websites out there along with the number of people who want to write. However, I also think there’s still a mentality at those places that they’re just doing it for fun. That was the main reason I did it on the Nintendo forums and some of the sites that followed. What seems to be missing or just really hard to get is the bridge between that and actually doing it as a profession. Never mind getting any kind of livelihood out of it.

I personally know a handful of people who started blogging or writing on fan sites who “made it big” if simply being a paid full-time editor is what you would consider “big.” It happens. There’s a path, but for every two or three people you see doing this stuff who started out doing it for fun and for free, I can show you probably dozens of sites full of people still doing it for free or very little pay, and another few people who straight-up quit.

I don’t profess to have the solution to what’s likely a market-wide condition. I’m not even sure I have hope of it changing. As for what I’m doing now, it’s not like the free-writing-to-getting-noticed route is the only one.

The stuff you see on the “My Work” section is contract work I get from sending out query letters, which is pretty much what freelance feature writers do if you don’t know, gaming-oriented or otherwise. To tell you the truth though, and if anyone who has a freelance budget is reading this, my real aim is getting into reviewing games again.

The advice I’ve gotten is that you should become known to websites by doing contract features first, then ask if they need help with reviews, and so that’s what I’ve been doing right now, though the pace has been glacial in my experience. I dabbled in writing Steam user reviews and might do it again when I have time, but that brings me back to the issue of devoting all that energy towards writing for free. I definitely enjoy doing it, but my time is more limited than when I was in school.

Then you have YouTube and streamers. I always imagined I’d be doing that if I was more interested in cameras and had a good enough internet connection to stream. I certainly have ideas about what kind of video I’d like to see that I currently don’t see from YouTube or Twitch. My main thing though is words. I’d like to think there’s still a place for the written world in gaming and journalism in general. To be honest I still prefer to read gaming content rather than watch it in most cases.

Why don’t I have a Patreon? Well, for a couple reasons: Firstly, the people I know who have Patreons are pretty much starving artists trying to pay their bills. I’m definitely always looking for paying work, but I’m currently in a position where food and shelter are not immediate concerns. If I established a Patreon right now I’d have to be honest and say whoever subscribes to it is basically paying for my pocket change and health insurance. Secondly, I’m not sure yet what I would even offer on Patreon. Words? Selling yourself as an artist for instance is relatively straightforward. I know a guy who carved out a niche there of analyzing particular games from a design standpoint. I haven’t figured out what my “thing” would be yet. Certainly not this blog.

And why do I update this place? Mainly to keep my writing ability from atrophy. Paying assignments right now are few and far between but I like to keep writing in the meantime. That and I have a lot of thoughts I like to put down. Some might draw similarities between those thoughts and what you see in editorials or opinion pieces. The difference is the guys who write those pieces have established credibility, at least enough to get paying jobs at those sites. Right now I’m kind of just a guy who writes about games and has done a little bit of paid work.

BULLETS:

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