I am only as good as my last article. I am only as good as my last article. I am only as good as my last article.
After reading through all 320 pages of Dan Amrich’s new book, Critical Path: How to Review Videogames for a Living, I’m left with these nine words echoing through my skull.
While the book contains invaluable advice for all aspects of sustaining a career as a game journalist (landing a paid job, maintaining your position, and even leaving it if you so choose), the most important thing I took away from it is the importance of staying humble. You never know which (paid) article might be your last.
I can’t speak for the rest of the community writers here on Bitmob, but judging from the recent wave of articles covering the trials and tribulations of breaking into video-game journalism, I imagine that at least some of us hope to transition our hobby into a legitimate career. Seeing as how the industry is so young and always prone to change, there seems to be no right path to take. If you scour the web for origin stories of your favorite journalists, you’ll find that many of them had a slightly different way of arriving to where they are today.
Amrich himself is a veteran journalist who has written for multiple publications, but to me, he is best known for his GamePro alter ego, Dan Elektro.
As a kid in the late '90s first becoming obsessed with all things video games, GamePro (next to PlayStation Magazine) was my go-to source for news and coverage. From their awesome cover art and layout to the colorful, illustrative depictions of their editors, GamePro just oozed the right amount of "cool" to earn it a permanent place in my Power Rangers backpack.
When I found out last month that Amrich had just published his book on how to break into the industry, I immediately bought it without question. Many writers have espoused their own tips and advice in posts and blogs around the Internet, but never before has such information been readily available in one place. Trust me, if you’re at all serious like I am on trying to make a living about doing what you love, then Critical Path is a must-have.
The title might be somewhat of a misnomer, however. Although writing reviews is the bread and butter for game critics everywhere, much of his advice is easily applicable to other forms of writing within the games-media spectrum.
In some chapters, for instance, he offers advice on how to formulate and pitch your story ideas to websites and magazines as a freelancer. In others, he covers the art of taking screenshots, which, surprisingly to me, has a lot in common with the rules of photography. Dan's writing strikes the perfect balance between honesty and entertaiment — he makes no qualms about the brutal difficulty of writing about video games for a living, but he also supplements these harsh truths with encouraging and informative advice.
Prior to reading the book, I always thought that trying to navigate the uncharted waters of games journalism felt like an old-school text adventure game: Without any real "map" to speak of, you poke and prod and "get lamp" as much as you can in hopes of provoking some kind of reaction or revelation that will lead you to the next step. Now, we have Amrich to thank for providing us would-be writers with a handy blueprint to work from. Just like the GamePro magazines I used to keep around as a child, Critical Path has earned its rightful place on my book shelf next to Strunk and White and The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual.
I have no doubt that it’ll be a vital resource for the months and (hopefully) years to come.
You can find out more information about Critical Path here.