Tips for Aspiring MMOG Writers
Over the years, I've received countless requests for advice from people interested in writing about games, either in general or MMOGs in particular. It probably won't surprise you that I can count the number who have specifically asked about F2P on the fingers of one hand. In any case, I thought I'd pass along a few tips in the hope that they will help someone who will end up producing material I want to read.
In this regard, you should be aware that within my perspective as a reader and gamer, previews and reviews don't rank high on my list. They are obviously bread and butter categories for most publications, but I seldom rush to read them. I still end at least skimming through quite a few, but more out of professional necessity than personal interest. So keep in mind that what follows is based solely on what attracts my attention these days.
Dare to be different
Don't restrict yourself to the obvious types of articles. Lots of writers can produce previews and reviews that meet the industry's expectations. But frankly, it's not easy to remember the last time I read one I considered outstanding. Not that it's completely the writers' fault. No matter whether they're staff or freelance, they have to turn out what their editors pay them to. The problem there, at least for me, is that this leads to a form of enforced uniformity, with few awful pieces, but no great ones either.
The situation with interviews is somewhat better, but still not completely satisfactory. I can think of a few writers who consistently pose better informed and more incisive questions. But only a few. The rest? Well, it's not hard to look at a game's feature list and to ask about each item on it. However, this does tend to encourage a fair degree of similarity. Don't get me wrong here. I've done this myself, mostly because it can take much less time, so I'm in no position to be holier than though. But I don't have to like it.
What I most want to read is articles that make me think and help or at least encourage me to learn. This is much more likely when writers go outside the box - and when editors let them. So if you have any thoughts at all about entering this profession, whether part- or full-time, please, please, please dare to be different. Aim to do something what will stand out, even if it's only once in a while.
Practice, practice, practice
To be a writer, you have to write. For the vast majority of people, myself included, this is a skill that takes practice, first to acquire and improve to a stage where you can hope to sell your work, then to improve beyond the level of barely acceptable hack, and after that, to continue your professional growth. Personally, I hope I'll have the good sense to quite before I stop trying to better myself.
Critique yourself, and be harsh
Just writing isn't optimal, no matter how much you do. It may become easier and faster, and even better. But to learn and improve faster, it's a far superior strategy to identify and work on specific areas of relative weakness. In more of a micro vein, once you've written something, set it aside for a while, then go back over it seeking things you can fix, add, modify, enhance, etc. Maybe some people can sit down at the keyboard and turn out their best work. I can't, and in all likelihood, neither can you. As for being hard on yourself, the more need you feel to improve, the more likely you will, and at a quicker rate.
Learn as much as possible the entire business of MMOGs
Look beyond the games themselves. To cite an example I've used before, there's little if any dispute that community is a critical aspect on any MMOG. But how often do you see knowledgeable, insightful writing about this topic area? Yes, I'm well are there isn't universal demand. But maybe seeing more quality content would foster greater interest. If not, well... I did say this column would be about what I want to read. :p
The same can be said about development, marketing, operations, etc. I believe there are audiences out there that can be better served. And doing so, even occasionally, also helps writers stand out from those who don't, or won't.
I hope the above hasn't dissuaded anyone who wants to try writing about MMOGs. The more new talent that enters the profession the better. Just don't expect it to be easy.