There have been plenty of “how I got into esports” articles in the past year or so. Most of them have been by people a lot more successful than me. This isn’t really going to be one of those. If you want a guide on how to get into esports or read how others did it I recommend these two:
- Good News & Advice for Content Creators by ESPN’s Jacob Wolf
- My esports journey by Misfits’ League of Legends Head Analyst Naser Al-Naqi
This isn’t so much a guide on how to get into esports. More or less, this is a survival guide so you’re prepared for what getting into the industry is going to take.
Get a Degree or Learn to Write Well
While I was the Managing Editor at GAMURS part of my job was to go through all the applications of people who wanted to join our content team. There was a consistent and somewhat appalling trend in a lot of the emails I went through; there were dozens upon dozens of applicants who either were not in school for journalism or English or who openly admitted to not being writers. And yet, they expressed enthusiasm that they were quick learners and would get the hang of it with the proper guidance.
Before going any further forward, I want to quash a myth right now.
Just because you are knowledgeable about esports or because you’re an esports fan does not make you qualified to be an esports journalist or writer/content creator.
This is a hard thing for a lot of people to accept. Throughout most of your schooling, you were led to believe that an editor’s job is to clean up your writing for you. As long as you can get your point across and your logic is sound, everything else will fall into place. This just isn’t very true. An editor’s job is to catch the glaring grammar issues, spelling gaffes, and improper syntax. But I’ll be honest in saying that there have been more articles than I care to admit that were submitted to me without any proper sense of how to write coherent thought.
This isn’t to say that you have to be formally trained in writing. There are plenty of people who work in esports right now who didn’t have formal writing training like Ginx TV‘s Web Editor Josh Raven and PVP Live Staff Writer Dustin Steiner
What I am saying is that don’t prepare yourself to be the exception to the rule. The truth is, there aren’t many paid opportunities out there and hoping that you’ll get by with just your opinions won’t get you very far. Even Josh or Dustin will probably tell you that experience and writing consistently is how you get anywhere.
You’re asking yourself now “how do I become a better writer?” For starters, write daily. Make a Medium, a Tumblr, or a WordPress site and put something on it every day. Some of it is probably going to be bad. But the only way to get better at something is by practicing.
Read. A lot. Read a lot of different styles of writing. Read fiction. Read science journals. Read entertainment features. Think of it like this; reading frequently and often is like following the guide to build your Ikea bed frame. Sure, you can probably look at the pieces and maybe figure out how to put it together. But having the guide will be way more efficient.
And speaking of reading, here are some books that will help you improve your craft:
- Feature & Magazine Writing: Action, Angle, & Annecdotes by David E. Summer & Holly G. Miller
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. & E.B White
- Journalism Next: A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting & Publishing by Mark Briggs
- Sports Journalism: An Introduction to Reporting & Writing by Kathryn T. Stofer
Wrapping up what I have to say about the actual writing side of esports is to not be afraid to seek out feedback and guidance, even if it’s from people who don’t work for the same site as you do. When working on an article about the Smite + Teleport meta that occurred in League of Legends, I reached out to Kelsey Moser and Nilu Kulasingham for assistance in shaping my content and editing it.
Find Colleagues to Work With
Speaking honestly, I don’t think I’d be nearly as far along if it weren’t for taking some shots in the dark about working with people. My very first interview in esports was with Richard Lewis. How’d I get it? I tweeted at him.
@RLewisReports question, I am doing a project where I try to complete 365 interviews in 1 yr. Would you be interested in being interviewed?
— Amanda Stevens🌊 (@sagegnosis) February 28, 2015
@sagegnosis Sure thing.
— Richard Lewis (@RLewisReports) February 28, 2015
From that moment forward, I learned that it was possible to just tweet at people and hope for the best. Because I had interviewed Richard Lewis, there were people working in esports who decided I had important things to say and followed me on Twitter.
If you continue to put yourself out there you’ll find people who are willing to work with you. There are a few good Discord communities out there to help you out. For starters, and shameless plug, there is the StayFree server. There are plenty of content creators, journalist, and editors in this server alongside esports professionals and everyone is pretty willing to help each other out. Similarly, there is Matt Demers eSports Content Creator server which is a great networking hub of, well, esports content creators.
Don’t be afraid to ‘@’ people and engage with them on Twitter. Journalists like James Chen, Cassandra Marshall, and Steven Nguyen are pretty likely to give you feedback if you reach out to them. There are even freelance editors like Domenic Sherman who are willing to help you out.
If you’re going to survive in esports, be willing to ask for help and seek out criticism. You won’t get far without having people in your corner. Trust.
Esports is Booming but the Jobs are Lagging Behind
If you’ve been reading articles, looking at Twitter, or even have been watching the news you have been sure to hear about how fast esports is growing. And, in one sense, that is completely true. Just look at reports of how much a slot in Blizzard’s Overwatch League costs or the recent merger of Splyce with Delaware North or The 76er’s acquisition of Team Dignitas. This is all great for esports, but it’s time to dispel another myth.
Just because the industry is growing doesn’t mean the number of paying jobs for writers and content creators are growing.
If you are hoping that esports journalism is a sustainable career at the moment I hate to be the bearer of bad news. Yes, we live in a time where ESPN and Yahoo have esports divisions, but we also live in a time where sites like theScore and Slingshot are shrinking their freelancer budgets. And if you’re thinking to yourself “that’s fine, I’m going to go write for Team Dignitas then” I want to remind you of the “paid in mousepads,” meme. The truth of the matter is, as I said earlier, that there aren’t a ton of paying esports jobs out there.
In being honest, just because a site has content doesn’t mean they are looking for hires or even have openings. I say this because I’ve seen more than my fair share of tweets directed at sites asking them to hire the person. Certain sites just flat out don’t hire freelancers at the moment. For example, PVP Live doesn’t do freelancing.
I’m not trying to tell you to quit before you begin. But while everyone is talking about how esports is a growing industry and giving these steps on how to break in; I thought it was only right someone stepped in and made it clear that there are basically 10 jobs out there for 10000 people. Be ready for the long haul.
Build a Brand and Be Active
If everything looks bleak, how does someone have a chance to succeed? Find your niche and stick to it. “Find your niche” is a piece of advice a lot of journalists give out to new writers for good reason. Having a niche helps you stand out in the vast sea of journalists and content creators. But some people take this to mean that they should shoehorn themselves in a specific game. This isn’t a wise decision.
Something that was drilled into me while getting my degree in journalism was that today you need to be able to be flexible if you want to get anywhere. The best way to take the advice is to find your voice and your personality and stick to it. For example, my niche is interviews. While I specialize in League of Legends and the FGC (Street Fighter 5 and Marvel), I am more than capable of doing an interview with anyone in any esport. And even though I specialize in interviews, I am still capable of putting a feature together or write a news brief.
Find your identity and stick with it. Try to not let there be gaps between content. Remember when I said earlier that you need to write often in order to improve your skills? If you have a pitch that was turned down, write it anyway. Throw it on Reddit. See what happens. If there was one thing Duncan “Thorin” Shields had right in his “Where are the Journalists At” series it is that in the current day and age you don’t need to always rely on an outlet. With the assistance of Reddit and Twitter, there are many writers who were able to launch their careers as purely free agents.
You hear all the time, and rightfully so, that you should never work for free. But producing content on your own personal site is different that giving an outlet your content for free. I’ll get some slack for saying this, but exposure is important. And in this instant, the exposure is better than waiting for another successful pitch. Just never let someone pay you in exposure.
It isn’t all Sunshine & Lollipops but the Sky isn’t Falling Either
It’s not going to be easy finding a sustainable job in esports. To be frank, unless you’re in a situation where your bills and life expenses are nonexistent, you should not attempt to do esports full time. Speaking from personal experience, it’s pretty stressful and bad for the creative process when your livelihood is based on how many different outlets you can write for in a month to make ends meet. You can do esports and have a part-time job.
Writing is hard work and while trying to get to where you want to be, you will fail. A lot. Trust. I just failed getting a full-time gig with PVP Live. I’m not going to tell you to not get discouraged; that’s just disingenuous. But each L is a learning experience. If you keep at it and you are putting out good work consistently, success may eventually come.