Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Meunier's guide to games journalism is thorough, sober

5:30 PM on 08.05.2013 // Niero Desu

Up Up Down Down Left Write

I don't know Nathan Meunier personally, but after powering through his book on freelance games writing I can tell that the man has been through the trenches -- and still managing to thrive within them.

Up Up Down Down Left Write is an unflattering and practical guide to living the dream; an earnest look into the geek-glamorous lifestyle of the paid videogames publication word-spewer, and how to sneak in uninvited. This book is as useful as it is just outright brutal, and that's what makes it a page-turner. Meunier does not skirt around the fact that website and magazine editors have 1,000 perfectly valid reasons to turn you down, and only the most creative and pragmatic will succeed.

When you're just 18 pages deep he asks: "Are you scared yet?"

A checklist light on sugar coating

The 250-ish page book is broken out into four major parts, each roughly broken out into ten chapters which are about seven or eight pages deep. You can easily motor through it in under an hour or two, as it's written in plain conversational geek-speak with enough Star Wars and Mega Man references to keep mucky topics like "Pay Rates" and "Moving Hell" a little less gross. I was pleased to find that it touches on what its really like to work for undercapitalized fan sites all the way up to the larger publications, and prepares you for your first review assignment while working on your solution against Catch 22: sites only want to hire people with experience, but nobody is seemingly hiring.

In part one, "Underwear and Keyboards," Meunier covers the ups and downs of the starving writer lifestyle, the importance of routine, and properly checks your expectations. Part two has some of ugly useful stuff: dealing with late paychecks, the brutal tax position you must prepare for, and entire chapters written around topics like "The Pros and Cons of Writing for Free," down to describing his "polygamous relationships" with multiple gaming outlets (eww). Part three gives a practical overview of the actual work, and the book wraps with an appropriate "Survival" emphasis once you jam your foot in the door.

No shortage of real-world examples you can use

I was impressed to find that some of Nathan's best kept secrets are reprinted: I particularly enjoyed reading example cold pitches to editors of top websites (page 122), and additional informal examples are touched in Chapter 29. There are also solid guidelines on what not to generally do, such as sending general pitches into an already healthy magazine. It's notable that in most examples he's made face time with the editors previously, following his own advice to attend conventions and make a good impression (Chapters 5 and more in Part IV). It's also not short of little gems and nuances about the ecosystem of working and binge-drinking (page 228) with the gaming press. For example, on page 33 he says "editors aren't shy about sharing names of writers who've wronged them." 

Like Mr. Munier, I'm also a person whom is obsessed with not only videogames, but also how videogame magazines and publications function, live, and die. Even if you have zero interest in business plans it is fundamental that you understand the challenges that Editor-in-Chiefs face, and how your wet dream of being a games writer can co-exist in a publishing ecosystem that has flushed 3/4 legacy gaming magazines listed in his opening introduction.

Oddly enough, the entire read reminded me of my earlier career as a freelance web designer and animator years before I had the crazy idea of building Destructoid. All of the mistakes I made trying to make that business work are eerily reproduced here: not minding your cash-flow and solely focusing on producing great work will soon find you starving and miserable with a degree on the wall and a dazzling portfolio -- all en route to your parent's basement.

Other required readings and reality checks

As thorough as this book is, you're going to need a few other books to round out your education as a well-rounded games writer. The Video Game Style Guide, On Writing Well, and brushing up on basic HTML and social media marketing wouldn't be a bad idea. The freelancer not paying attention to video going to have a tougher time, in my experience. Chapter 5's "Five Ways to Get your Name Out There" could easily be its own book, as building your own traffic and notorious following is vital to breaking from the pack.

That said, if you're not thinking about video you're going to struggle.

Even if you do and get everything right after reading this book, however, be ready to lose your perfect article pitches to an ADHD comedian or eSports player on YouTube. Video is completely changing the landscape for games critics. I'm not saying they're replacing games writers, but they are a new part of our ecosystem and will definitely cut into the pitches you're hoping to land. I recently spoke to an old pro (whom I shall not name) who couldn't get a PR person to pay attention to him because Tobuscus was in the building.

Personally, I would recommend that students enroll in modern video courses than go after journalism degrees if they want to work in the gaming industry ten years from now. Or both.

Still, this underscores my favorite reason to recommend this book: it constantly reminds you that at once you must be personable, unafraid, adaptable, and possibly a little insane to make it. For those that dare to dream, Up Up Down Down Left Write can be life-changing.

Niero Desu, Blogsmith
 Follow Blog + disclosure destructoid Tips
I host Destructoid for a living. Here's a photo of me at work:  more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
So many people angry at Play-Asia right now. Totally not exactly the kind of backlash Tecmo were trying to avoid by not releasing the game here in the first place.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
If you're a UK kid there's a Wii U 32 GB Wind Waker Premium Pack on Amazon for £240. It says sale... I dunno how much of a saving that is. You tell me.
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: Not strictly speaking video game-related, but screw it. Team Captain America or Team Iron Man?
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I want Just Cause 2 and Metal Gear Solid V + Peace Walker to fornicate together so we can have a beautiful big open world to blow up and/or fulton. Then I want to build an infinitely-sized base of soldiers, each with their own personalities and stats.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
When SFV drops next year we gotta get some DTOID noob battles on, practice with online lag with friends, be really bad casuals together. We can call it Kanye Night Fights. #Swerve on FNF (just kidding...maybe).
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
So someone messaged me on a Lightning fast, comment board that bow they're super depressed. And I worry for them now. Because a comment board is not something to get depressed over, just because someone disagrees with you if your an ass, people will be 2.
arkane9 avatararkane9
Guys, a sequel to Retro City Rampage: Shakedown Hawaii! Someone should really write about it. Lots of Dtoid staff were in the RCR after all.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
Fuck racism man, shit ain't fair. Can't stand it and I shouldn't have to. Nobody should.
Robo Panda Z avatarRobo Panda Z
Embedded pictures in Quickposts seem to be broken for me right now.
Flegma avatarFlegma
To my surprise, I've more or less figured out Rodea Wii U controls. Still a different game from the Wii version, but not as decidedly inferior in my eyes. Did the legacy medals do anything in Wii version?
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
"Am I a kid, or a squid?" I ponder as I stare off into the horizon. A wise man once told me "Son, you can be whatever you want to be. You are only limited by your lack of ambition " And I want to be a squid. A squid now.
Parismio avatarParismio
Captain America: Civil War trailer dropped!: [youtube][/youtube]
lewness avatarlewness
Gah, wanna go Alexander farming but The Old Hunters ;_;
BaronVonSnakPak avatarBaronVonSnakPak
Holy shit, Splatoon is addictive.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Duck Hunt was a trickier unlock than I expected. Jigglypuff, you are next on my list! [img][/img]
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Yay, this arrived today. Nekro is quite happy, as he's been looking forward to playing this game for a while. [IMG][/IMG]
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Dtoid mobile has apparently broken again. This is it. This how the dtoid ends. *black hole opens, dtoid disappears*
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Gave Ronin one more chance before I chucked it in the "never to be finished" pile, glad I did. It could have been so much better but as a frustrating time waster it's not bad.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I'm sitting on the Fapcast's most recent recording. I just feel like I need a day for myself after, you know, freaking out about rent.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Why is every Quickpost now spaced out like poems with random amounts of stanzas that never ever rhyme?
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -