Michael Martin interviews Street Fighter V player Joe ‘L.I. Joe’ Ciaramelli (Photo: Michael Martin)
Have you ever played a game and said to yourself, “I like this, I want to write about it?”, There are multiple websites that offer content in esports but it is more than just playing a game and writing about it according to Yahoo! esports writer Michael Martin, 40. He began writing as a freelancer for IGN, PC Gamer, and Playboy about e-sports and fighting games. In a phone interview with WePlayGamingOnline, he says though he writes about games it is still journalism and opportunities are the same as covering anything else in the field.
Jeramie_Lee: How did you go from writing for Playboy to gaming?
MM: I was actually writing about game stuff before that with IGN and other places. Playboy’s editorial about a year ago made a change, and it was legit. They had some great writers that I still keep up with. I pitched them a story about Ricki Ortiz, a transgender player, and it took a long time to put together and it came through. Most stories I did there were related to the competitive scene. Some of the stuff I did there was some of the best work I’ve done. That story has got me more work, it was probably the most influential with getting me the job at Yahoo.
Jeramie_Lee: Can you take me through your day-to-day activities with finding stories and things. How do you go about that?
MM: I don’t know if I do anything necessarily different at Yahoo then what I did freelancing. Yahoo is based in L.A. and I am in Seattle. I pitch stories in weekly meetings, I look for interesting things that are happening, and I cover events. I don’t do as much news like I used to as a freelancer. The difference in covering the stories, as a freelancer, I would do interviews and write a feature from those, whereas now when I cover an event I am doing on-camera stuff. If you’re going to be doing journalism in general, especially game journalism, you need to have an on-camera presence. They are going to put you on camera at some point.
Jeramie_Lee: Do you think this topic will open doors for future journalists who may want to cover stories or events like these?
MM: It’s difficult to say since everything has changed so much that it’s hard for platforms to adapt. It still is, we still see websites and newspapers go out of business every year. It was hard for me to find a full-time job in games media, especially since I don’t live in San Francisco. I feel like there are plenty of opportunities with the way technology has changed. It has opened up more opportunities in different areas where you can get by being a writer. You can be a writer or do on-camera, or both, but you still have to be a good writer. Now that I have a full-time job, the question is now how do I keep it? With the industry, it always changes but there are jobs and you just have to put a lot of work into getting them.
Jeramie_Lee: What about graduates who are looking to break into game reporting?
MM: Since esports media is relatively new, we see a lot of people who didn’t necessarily come from a journalism background. Most were like, ‘Hey I like this game I want to write about it’ and they made careers out of that. I came from the freelance background in general games. I can look at something as niche like a fighting game and pull a story out of it, but you have to ask yourself , ‘What am I doing to get the job?’ Are you writing? Are you putting things on YouTube? What are you doing to get that job?
Jeramie_Lee: What advice would you give them?
The two things that I feel that stuck to me the most is first you have to do it. Whatever it is, whether it’s writing or recording, you can pitch a story and get paid to do it. My $20 story eventually got me some work elsewhere. You have to do the work, you have to be able to show a body of work.
The second is to keep grinding, and that’s the one thing that stuck out to me the most. Getting into media or games media, or whatever your desire, it’s going to be hard. Not everyone’s going to be able to do it. I spent years trying to find a job, Yahoo! is my first time interviewing full-time in three years. I’ve created such a niche for myself that I was the only one that was doing fighting games. Not that there weren’t other sites covering it, but as an esport, I was doing it full-time and you just have to do it and keep grinding.
In esports, there is always something to cover and if you become expert at something in that field then your chances of getting a job have increased because you’ve made yourself valuable rather than covering it in general.
Jeramie_Lee: YouTube or Twitch streaming?
I would say YouTube is more important than streaming because that means you’re editing video. Editing video and all those skills are important when it comes to being someone who is only writing, or only doing a video. If IGN wants to hire someone who can write and edit video that’s the person who is going to be looked at opposed to someone who can’t. They’re not necessary but can help put you above a lot of people.
You can follow Michael Martin on Twitter and Twitch @Bizarro_Mike.