A Course for Concern?

September 23, 2011, Author: James Joell-Ireland

Independent traffic and revenue aggregator, The Games Tribe, recently announced it is to offer a training course which will teach you to become a ‘professional games journalist’. The day-long course will offer you insights into best practice, interview skills, dealing with PR firms as well as training on how to build reviews, news and features. It all sounds wonderfully alluring but is the course really about bringing forward a new breed of gaming hacks?

The Games Tribe was founded by Steve Grigg, Nick Ellis and Rich Keith. Three ex-industry veterans who have a unequivocal combined experience, and a quick ramble through the archives and you will see that the credentials do not lie. These are experienced players within the games journalism field, so from the outlay you can be assured that the course will offer you a degree of insight. The course did have an early bird special, whereby you could attend at £49.00, which, for a day course on training course rates, is an absolute bargain. Unfortunately this period has now ended but the course is still available for £99.00. Electronic Arts will be sponsoring the event and hosting it within their Guildford offices; something that will most certainly attract those looking for added value within the below-tonne asking price.

When looking at what the course is offering, there is most certainly subject areas that make the course worthwhile. Dealing with PR firms is something of which you won’t find in any journalist degree and the keynote by Keith Stuart should offer an insight into not only the veil behind the perceived glamour of games journalism, but also what the big publishing houses are looking for within their publications today.

Does the ‘learn to be a professional games journalist’ course actually teach you exactly what you need to know to be successful in the industry? Of course not. This course is the equivalent of a wine tasting evening, merely a smorgasboard to whet the appetite, with tiny morsels of what is contained within the job role of a games journalist. The course doesn’t cover pitching for freelance work, syntax, literacy and other staple points that are required in the industry. In view of this course containing no government or journalism accredited qualification, I have another theory about why this course is being offered, and that is to play into the hands of The Games Tribe themselves.

As I stated earlier, TGT is a traffic and revenue portal, which takes on percentage-based advertising campaigns on websites that it is partnered with. Currently TGT is partnered with around 15-16 different websites. By running this course, it will raise the credentials of this traffic program and could certainly lead to exponential growth in partners each year this course runs. If this training course was generated solely to give insight on how to become a professional games journalist, then it would simply be a complete juxtaposition of where TGT are putting themself in the marketplace.

The reality is that unless you have a big self-sustaining audience, the route into working for a mainstream powerhouse is a long and arduous one, especially for those without university degrees. What do you do in the interim period? Set up a website, or write for an independent website, and the creators behind TGT know that. Increasing the access to an insight into games journalism will breed more independent sites and later TGT’s site network will take advantage of that.

Perhaps the biggest supporting factor of my theory is behind one of the businesses founders Steve Grigg. He should know better than anyone that Future Publishing are making decent advertising revenue by letting their own community and independent websites bring the content to them.

N4G.com, a website which is ranked on Alexa 2,428 worldwide, generates thousands in advertising revenue for minimal effort. TGT runs in the same scope by aggregating the news of independent sites, whilst actually running advertising campaigns within each partnered website. Imagine TGT’s network in 18 months time going from 15-16 sites to potentially over one hundred; suddenly you are making a very profitable business with a minimal outlay.

Let’s also not forget that mainstream media are digging themselves a grave. Mega corporations are being less and less trusted by the day as people wake up to manipulation, bias and propaganda. A big exponent of these type of media tactics are News Corp, owners of IGN.com. TGT are aware of this sway in public opinion and are looking to capitalize and wrap up the independent marketplace by becoming the Google Ads of alternative game media. In order for it to be successful standards of practice to be put in place for readers to stay put.

With the business mind added to the equation, this course makes absolute sense for a network such as TGT to host. It makes revenue from the course itself and will make future revenue in the long game.

Hopefully this article gives you an insight into the potential course, at the end of the day there is money to be made and TGT are a business. We cannot deny the course is interesting and the venue being at EA’s offices in Guildford is even tempting for the likes of myself, but don’t think that this course is going to rapidly accelerate your way into the mega powerhouses or print magazines. You will have to get your hands dirty and fight your way through what is an already over-saturated marketplace, that or think one step ahead and develop your own brand of delivery and niche within the industry and make money from your upstart.