Indie Advice: contact a games journalist

This follows on from my last post, but is also something I’ve been meaning to write for a while.

Hi, I’m Phil. I’m the news editor for PC Gamer. If you’re an indie developer – hell, if you’re any type of (PC) game developer – there’s a chance you would like me to write about your game. I’m writing this because I occasionally see developers complain about how difficult it is to get coverage for their game. I’m writing this because I rarely get emails asking for that coverage.

This is frustrating, because one of the best parts of the job is alerting people to the existence – or soon to be existence – of cool new games. It’s also understandable, because my contact details aren’t obviously available on the website I work for. Hence this, an open invitation for (PC) game developers to get in touch and tell me about a thing I could be covering.

Here’s my email address. Let’s do this!

Unfortunately, an email isn’t a guarantee of coverage. I’m rarely short of things to write about, and, to be frank, I’m going to have to decide whether it’s worth covering. That isn’t just about being good – although, yes, I work for an outlet based around games criticism, and so I take a broadly curatorial approach to the games I cover. But there are other factors too. First and foremost, my job is to service my readers, and that means being sure that I’m confident in the thing that I’m covering.

The obvious example is Kickstarter. More than for released or soon-to-be-released games, I do get regular emails from Kickstarter projects. Kickstarter can be a great tool, but it’s also an uncertain one. If a project is from an unknown developer with no previous games, no playable prototype and no game footage, I’m probably not going to write about it. Nothing personal, but it’s a gamble that, from my perspective, is too big to ask a reader to participate in.

In order, these are the things that are most helpful when deciding whether to write about a game:

1. A playable prototype, or, if it’s already out, a press key. This isn’t essential, but it’s really helpful. If I can play a game, I can easily discern why it’s cool. If I can discern why it’s cool, I will happily tell readers. This happened recently with KeeperRL. It’s in alpha, and costs $15, but because I was able to play it, I was able to see why it was worth putting in front of people.

2. A trailer. It not only lets me see what’s interesting about the game, it lets my readers, too. Again, it’s not essential, but video is often a better reflection of the game than screenshots. For instance, after seeing this trailer for Crawl, there was no way I was not going to write about it.

Alternatively, gifs.

3. Read this. Do this.

Final note, persistence. There’s a chance it’ll take me a couple of days to write about your game. It needs to fit around breaking news, or other games I was already planning to write about. If you don’t hear anything, don’t feel bad about following up. Again, KeeperRL. The developer’s email was already in my folder of things to cover, but it was the second one that prompted me to take the time to take a look.

Important: this doesn’t just apply to commercial games. If it’s free, or if it’s a mod, I also want to hear about it.

It really does have to be on PC, though. Sorry, iOS devs, but you can stop emailing. Seriously. Please stop.

Just send a fucking email

I’m not going to bother recapping the entirety of “GamerGate”. This is only tangentially related, and besides, the whole thing is at best idiotic and at worst actively harmful. But, in response to the shocking allegation that games journalists talk to each other sometimes, I saw a comment that triggered one of my long-standing bugbears. It was about how to get the press to cover your game.

I’ll get to the comment in a minute, but first I’m going to have to explain what it was in reply to. I’ll have to do this because it makes no fucking sense.

image

This was in an r/KotakuInAction thread about the “exposure” of a private Google Group for working games journalists. If you don’t know what r/KotakuInAction is, congratulations, you are doing the internet right.

The suggestion being made in that screenshot is that Viscera Cleanup Detail being posted to 12 separate places on the same day – the day after the game was listed on IndieDB – is somehow evidence of the accused collusion of the Google Group. This, I shouldn’t have to point out, is as dumb as a sack of badgers. Nevertheless, the comment has +148 points.

This isn’t what I want to talk about, but I’ll address it anyway: websites posting news after a thing has happened isn’t evidence of collusion, it is just how news works. Your correlation is barking up the wrong causation.

Here is the timeline:

Thing happens > people notice thing > people write about thing.

I am not in the private Google Group, but I can tell you now that nobody is posting, “hey, we should all write about this thing” in it, because they work for competing publications.

PC Gamer wrote about the game, too. We sourced PCGamesN’s article, which, in turn, credited Steve Gaynor’s Twitter account. Steve Gaynor has thousands of followers, some of which are games journalists. If he tweeted about the game, a lot of the people who are in a position to write about it would have seen it.

(Also, yes, a lot of games journalists follow games developers on Twitter. Given the flimsy nature of many of the recent allegations, this is probably reason enough for another shittily compressed jpeg. But it turns out following developers is an efficient way to learn about their games.)

The biggest reason why so many sites wrote about Viscera Cleanup Detail is because it features a clever, elegant, and easily conveyable premise. It’s a funny concept, and had a video to back it up. It is, in the day-to-day news churn, fucking golden.

The top reply to that comment was this, with +62 points:

image

I’m going to take this at face value, and answer the question earnestly.

The answer to the question is: you email every fucking writer on that list of publications.

Removed from the GamerGate mess, this is a thing I occasionally see, and it annoys me every time. I’m the news editor of a large games publication. We happily cover indie games, free games and mods, in addition to ‘AAA’ stuff. Every month, I also do a round-up of free games and mods for a magazine that’s sold internationally.

My Twitter account is linked on that website. My work email is in my Twitter profile. And yet, I get frustratingly few emails from indie developers wanting us to write about their game.

To be clear: this isn’t me asking you to do my job for me. I am perfectly capable of harassing indie devs so I can write about their games. But there are a lot of PC games out there. If you want me to write about your one, you probably shouldn’t leave it to chance.

At this point, I was planning to list some advice for what to put in your email so as to maximise your chance of getting noticed. But it occurs to me that might be useful, and so I’ll do it in a separate post that’s not bogged down by so much of this tiresome bullshit.

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The new Infinity Words

The last time I posted on the old blog was September 2013, and that was about some Spelunky videos, so didn’t really count. That means the last time I posted on the old blog was really January 2013. (And that was a Games of 2012 post, so didn’t really count.)

Between my full time work for PC Gamer, and my extra-curricular freelance work, usually for PC Gamer, I don’t really have the time to write lengthy prose for fun. And on those rare occasions when I do, there’s another barrier: Wordpress.

Wordpress is basically my office now. My job involves posting things into its insatiable back-end multiple times per day. People think that if your job is to write about games, you’ll eventually get bored of games. Mostly, I’m just bored of looking at Wordpress.

Also, the site needed a redesign. I balked at the thought of trying to wrestle my Frankenstein’s Atahualpa theme into something presentable. At least, I think I did. I’ve no idea what facial expression corresponds to “balking”. I’m not sure anyone’s done it since the 18th century.

Anyway, this is a Tumblr now, which feels like cheating but has the benefit of doing pretty much everything I needed the old blog to do.