I woke up this morning to the news that Brash Games, a website that deals in reviews and gaming news, had been engaging in some less than stellar practices. It’s funny because interacting with them ultimately led to me setting up this website. Yet it surprises me how long it took for the wider body of journalists to become vocal about this issue – when it’s more pronounced than anyone really wants to admit.
While Brash Games may be getting called out over this now, many other websites engages in practices just as cruel and just as twisted. Websites that hold back payment until you hit a quota. Websites that demand free writers contribute a certain threshold of content or be ejected. The reality is that the path to becoming a videogames journalist is one fraught with negativity and people seeking to take advantage of your good intentions.
It’s funny I should see Brash Games mentioned in all this, they served as a key junction point for me in entering the industry. Way back when I started my first blog (ThreeCount) in Fall of 2015 – I remember applying for a position at Brash Games. At the time, I was super eager to get my feet under the table and would have done anything to make that happen. They were offering the kind of exposure that, to someone without videogames journalism experience, was an absolute dream.
Yet the conversation turned to PR relations – they knew I was building my own website. I was told explicitly in emails that I wasn’t to communicate with PR company’s or game company’s – basically anyone I could network with to get out of that situation. Those kind of threats were enough to put me off writing for the website, and arguably pushed me to making my own website (Which you’re reading now). This doesn’t compare to the story’s others are sharing on social media right now, but they do serve to underline just how crappy becoming a videogame journalist is in modern times and how websites demand you conform to them for little/nothing in return.
What really irks me though is the practice of removing writer credits, which is wholly unforgivable in my opinion. Brash Games decision to do this robbed it’s ex-writers of legitimate credits and could have setback their attempts to get further along in the industry – the very thing they were promised. Yet they aren’t the only website to do this. It’s an issue that only grows as the industry grows – and the number of viable journalist websites decreases.
For a newcomer in the industry, getting your foot in the door is one of the hardest steps to make. It’s a thankless trek that’s made harder by the way some prominent journalists and websites operate. One of the sad realities about becoming a videogame journalist, as it stands, is that getting your feet into a decent gig isn’t about how good you are or what you know – it’s who. Failing to hear back from endless applications, being told that you “lack the published experience” is enough to push journalists into these spots. It’s why websites like Brash Games can operate so long unquestioned.
Newcomers signing up to websites like Brash Games even though they know heading in it’s a terrible deal for them. The kind of website that doesn’t pay you unless you contribute “x” number of articles inside a “y” day window. Websites that stop you from networking or contributing to others because “it’s a conflict of interest”. There’s a huge reservoir of talent that’s desperate for its big break – and there’s very few places for those people to get that break.
Why else do websites like Brash Games exist? Websites that force their contributors into a corner with no recourse. I could name a good several dozen websites that operate under the same tight rules, but that’s not the point of this article. The point is that screaming “fire” now seems hilariously out of touch with the fact that this is how it’s always been. The fact we’re having this conversation in 2017 only highlights the extreme lengths we’ve reached – and it’s only going to get worse as the number of outlets decreases.
So really what can change? Without a platform to cater fairly to new comers, there’s no way that this situation can be avoided. Sadly it’s easy for websites to manipulate their staff – something that in Brash Game’s situation became a sad reality. Yet with the rise of Youtube and so many opportunities being presented away from traditional media outlets – my genuine advise would be to go for it alone.
Never has there been a better time for people to start their own outlets or create their own shows on Youtube. There are more options open to you now than ever before. Don’t give websites that demand so much a the time of day. Their promises of review codes and payment if you hit quotas mean nothing in the end, they just want you to do as their bidding. Be strong. Be confident. Don’t forget that you’re the asset. Without you, websites can’t operate. If it’s not done in good faith, your time is better spent building your own reputation up elsewhere.
There’s always a Plan B.