You like video games right? Surely it’s not possible to make a career out of something so fun? Well Kate Gray, staff writer at Official Xbox Magazine, is living just that dream, and we were lucky enough to chat to her about how to get into video games journalism, her highs and lows as an Exeposé Editor and what life has been like for her after university:
Exeposé Games and Tech: What have you got up to since finishing at Exeter?
Kate Gray: Well, I stuck around in Exeter until graduation, then moved back home (because I didn’t apply to any jobs at Uni! Bit of a mistake). I did temp work (PPI calls, door-to-door fundraising, a live-in job with people so terrifying that I left after a week) and it made my soul shrivel up like a salted slug. It did, however, give me slightly more financial freedom to apply to jobs, travel to interviews, and so on.
Then, I applied to the Official Nintendo Magazine role (I always had one eye on Journo and Media Jobs – excellent sources) and after a phone interview and an in-person interview, I was hired! I worked in London for 6 months, and now I’ve been in Bath for 6 months at Official Xbox Magazine. A busy couple of years!
EGT: Describe a typical day in the life of a graduated Kate Gray.
KG: Haha. “Typical” is tough! So, there’s normally tea, writing and one hell of a lot of social media involved. I’m lucky to have a job which lets me write and play games all day, it’s like a dream come true EVEN THOUGH that sounds cheesy as hell. In the evenings, I’ll either go for drinks with the other people in the office – GamesRadar, Official Playstation Mag, PC Gamer etc – or go home and play even more games. Or do freelance. Or watch TV. At the weekends you will normally find me haunting video game bars in London because I’m a sucker for games-themed drinks.
EGT: You were Exeposé’s Online Comment Editor in 2013. What were your high and low points?
KG: Ooohhhh, well… You might be aware that drama can be a part of life in the tense world of Xmedia. With things like high-pressure deadlines, big personalities and everyone’s ambition floating around in one room, it can get a bit hectic, and lord knows we had some tough times, but being around other people that loved writing as much as me was a great way to start a career in the media.
High points probably include being the on-stage camera hand for the National Student Television Awards in 2013, covering Eurogamer for the Games section (as it was called when I was there) and writing a huge, one-page feature on the 3DS release.
EGT: How has being an Exeposé Editor helped you in your life after university? What skills have been especially useful?
KG: It’s less that being an editor helped me specifically – although if you want to go into news or something like that, they pretty much require it – and more that writing, and writing, and writing some more helped. Having a student paper is not only useful for having experience and a style, which you can work out at uni, but it also helps when you’re making friends in your first week at work and you find out you were both Music Editors, or even that you both worked on Exeposé! I’ve met two people just in games that used to be on Exeposé. Good times.
Useful skills include proofing, using InDesign, knowing how to keep to an article brief, a deadline, a style guide and a word count. And, like I said, developing your personal style – this is the most important thing for things like features and reviews. People will hire you based on how you write.
EGT: What would be your top tips for a budding games journalist?
KG: Practice. Push your boundaries. Step outside your comfort zone. Research things you find interesting. Come up with new and exciting things to talk about. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, it doesn’t have to be breaking news, just write how you want to write. Make your voice a recognisable one.
Also, video is important. It’s the direction most publications are moving, and you don’t want to be caught out. A good video background will get you far. And if you’re really successful on video, you could always just become a YouTuber…
EGT: What cool things are you working on at the moment?
KG: Nothing too exciting at the moment other than the standard preview/review cycle, but I always like writing the back pages, which are our space for jokey dumb stuff like The Alternative Videogame Awards – things like “The Bumblesponge Crunchypants Award for Best Detectiving”.
E3’s not too far off, though…
EGT: What’s next for you?
KG: Not sure yet! The game world moves quickly, because it has to – and I’m constantly seeing people leave fantastic jobs for even more fantastic ones. I’m pretty happy where I am right now, because this job is pretty brilliant, and I’d be content to do this for the rest of my life.
EGT: We’d make a wild leap and guess that you kind of like video games. What is your favourite, and why?
KG: My favourite is Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. It’s a GameCube game that really pushed the boundaries of both game humour (which was mostly profanity at the time) and how good a game could look on limited hardware. I began at Official Nintendo Magazine, so while I have huge Xbox favourites now – like Dragon Age: Inquisition and Bioshock – Nintendo had the consoles I grew up on and their games mean something different to me.
EGT: We asked our readers to choose their Game of the Year 2014, what do you make of their choices?
KG: Honestly, I’m surprised to see Child of Light on there! I reviewed it for ONM and loved it – I think I gave it 80 something per cent – but obviously it got lost in the deluge of AAA games like Grand Theft Auto V and Destiny. Interesting that it’s a Ubisoft game too, since they got a lot of bad press this year but Child of Light was something they did quite well.
The Last of Us: Remastered and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft have been choices for most publications, so that’s pretty standard, and it’s good to see a Wii U game on there. No Destiny though, no Alien: Isolation and no Dragon Age: Inquisition, which have been on a lot of GOTY lists. Obviously GOTY lists for big publications have a lot of factors – PR, page hits, controversy, and you’ve got a bigger team to vote, so I’m not saying you’re wrong – it’s just different. That’s a good thing!
EGT: There are some big games on the horizon after the recent deluge of delays. What’s your most anticipated game of 2015 and why?
KG: Have to say The Legend of Zelda Wii U. So, so excited for that. It looks gorgeous, and watching the Nintendo Direct when that was revealed was incredible – and I’m excited to get my new 3DS in a couple weeks’ time. I’m hoping the release schedule will be beefed up as the year goes on, because it’s all looking a bit ‘Gruff Man Goes On Adventure’ for the time being.
Harry Shepherd, Online Games and Tech Editor
Are you looking to pursue a career in journalism? Or maybe we should just shut up about boring things like jobs and work and just talk more about games! If you have any questions for Kate then scribble them down in the comments below, or drop us an email at email@example.com. For more on everything else games and tech, check us out on Facebook and Twitter.