I've been working on a piece about questioning the existence of gamer culture, mostly because no one seems able to define it, and when I think of "culture" I think of an all-encompassing something that binds a people together. I don't feel bound to other people who play video games just because they play video games any more than I feel bound to other people who also like cats or enjoy writing.
My frame of reference for defining the term comes from things like complaints about the Spike TV Video Game Awards "misrepresenting gamer culture." That's what I read on the twitter feeds and blogs of some of my colleagues the night of the VGAs and the day following, and when I wrote a First Person column on The Escapist about why I am patient with the VGAs many responses from the readers were along the same lines. They were angry about the way the award show "misrepresented gamer culture."
Prior to PAX East 2010 I had never thought about the idea of gamer culture much less considered that I might have been a part of it, so Penny Arcade will, for me, stand as a bastion of this amorphous thing we call gamer culture until such time as I have a cogent definition. Watching the drama over Paul Christoforo over the last few days has taught me a lot about gamer culture, as said drama is emerging largely in response to the actions of Mike Krahulik from PA and it seems like "gamers" are right on board.
First I'm going to plug this thing I wrote for G4, because I received a lot of positive feedback on it from working, freelance video game journalists, which tells me I nailed it: How To Become A Video Game Journalist. That piece is a completely accurate and honest retelling of how I broke into the game journalism industry. I also took at look at Meagan Marie's FAQ that a friend mentioned on Twitter today, which talks about how to break in to video game journalism and I see many of the same points I made repeated.
My G4 post was about how to land paying freelance work in video game journalism because I wanted to focus on how one gets their foot in the door. I feel like that should be the beginning and end of all advice columns on the subject of "how to become a video game journo" because advice columns should focus on actionable advice, in my opinion. "Move to San Francisco" and "Learn how to deal with human beings better," which was some of the info contained in this response/addendum to my column from Joystiq writer Arthur Giles, ARE things that would help someone become a full-time video game journalist, but I don't know how realistic they are, and therefore whether that's actionable advice.
I often focus on the importance of getting paid when speaking to people who want to write about video games, but what I've never made clear is that it isn't actually about the money for its own sake, especially if we're talking about writing online because the pay sucks. I have an outlet that will pay me $50 for a "Top 10" list. Freelance writers should be prepared to pay 40% taxes right off the top of any money they make, so I'd only actually be receiving $30 from that article. I'm also going to have to wait up to 90 days for that $30. Writing that article is hardly worth my time financially. It's valuable to me as a clip, and as experience working with a editor, and as part of learning how to run my books, but it's not really about the money because the money is terrible and slow in getting into my pocket.
The reason why writing for money is important is related to something that Mr. Giles said in his response to my G4 piece: