The Best: Journalism Panels at PAX East

by Jill Scharr

We’re big fans of Penny Arcade’s PAX conventions–they’re known for being friendly, open and inclusive, with panels on diverse topics, everything from sexuality to tabletop games to games journalism.  This year, the games journalism panels themselves covered a range of topics, from freelancing to breaking into IGN. Here’s a rundown of the journalism talks at PAX East 2013, and the advice they had for aspiring writers.

Games Journalism in the Age of Independence

Featuring the likes of self-starters Justin Amirkhani of Gamer Unplugged  and Neal Ronaghan of Nintendo World Report, this panel focused not on breaking into games journalism, but on breaking out of it. The panelists talked about finding one’s voice, whether in writing or video; tools such as crowdfunding, selling articles via Amazon Singles, and open-source video editing software;  and the importance in thinking outside the box and standing out from the crowd. Freelancing is hard: “I would probably be more secure if I went and started working at Burger King,” Amirkhani told the audience. “That’s the truth  I think that’s true for a lot of freelance writers. But you don’t do this because you want security. You do this because you have a passion for it.” Moderated by Kyle McIntosh, curator of GoodGamesWriting.

You can listen to the entire panel via The Show Radio’s podcast.

It’s Dangerous to Go Alone: Take This Panel

The Take This Project is a support group for members of the games industry struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. The project’s founder and Polygon’s Features Editor Russ Pitts sat on the PAX East panel, as well as  The Human Relations Service’s Mark Kline PsyD., Escapist Editor-in-Chief Susan Arendt, Gamers with Jobs cofounder Sean Sands, and Escapist writer Sarah LeBoeuf.  Games journalists, fans, and other members of the industry all shared stories of their struggles, words of encouragement, and what videogames have meant in their lives. @TakeThisProject

Twistier Tales: Breaking into Gaming and Partying On!

This panel focused on the development side of the games industry, featuring Outspark’s Director of PR & Marketing Martine Paris, Curse’s Director of Marketing Will Boyer, EA Game Designer Warren Price, Senior Frag Doll and Ubisoft’s Marketing & Promotions’ Amy Brady, and 2K Games’ Senior Online Producer Omar Abdelwahed. Their advice? Go to parties! And, of course, choose a course of action and work at it. Whether it’s professional gaming, marketing, indie design, quality assurance, or any other of the many ways to break into the games industry, the panelists all emphasized the importance of networking, making friends, and having a good time at the many industry-related parties. You can follow Martine Paris on Twitter and WordPress for inside info on the gaming world’s parties.

How To Energize Business and Millennial Brand Focus: A Giant Bomb Panel Eduknowledgement Experience

More a two-hour improv comedy routine than a panel, Giantbomb’s event featured the developer of indie darling Divekick, the team from Harmonix Music Systems, and a mariachi band. People who are actually interested in energizing business and millenial brand focus probably shouldn’t watch these videos.

Do JRPGs Still Matter?

Organized by The Circle’s and Kotaku’s Jason Schreier and including Polygon’s Alexa Correia as well as Adam Rippon and Dale North, this panel was a laid-back Q-and-A style exploration of Japanese role playing games and their place in contemporary American gamer culture. All of the panelists were games journalists who write frequently about JRPGs (except for Adam Rippon, who designs them); they discussed their favorites games, how JRPG mechanics have held up over the years, and why 50+ hour games just aren’t as popular to the majority of gamers anymore.

Why Would You WANT to Be a Games Journalist?

Good question, right? Put together by freelancer Dennis Scimeca, this panel featured Justin McElroy from Polygon and Jason Schreier from Kotaku, as well as freelance and salaried writers from a variety of outlets. They talked about being “dazzled” by the industry early on, and then the series of reality checks in the form of vitriolic commenters, long hours, bad games, and hoaxes that quickly knocked off the rose-colored glasses. The panelists also stressed that when you’re a game journalist, many of the events and hobbies that you once did for fun become professional duties.  You don’t see any journalists cosplaying at game conventions for a reason.

IGN Presents: Steal My Job: How to do what we do now, but BETTER!

Though comprised entirely of IGN folks, this staffers on this panel talked about games journalism more broadly, giving advice on how to break into a major publication (protip: spellcheck your emails). Perhaps surprisingly, it takes more than just writing skills and a passion for gaming; the internet has a long memory, and people with a history of trolling, nasty comments, and unconstructive criticism will have a lot harder of a time getting a contract with a major outlet. This panel served as a nice complement to the Games Journalism in the Age of Independence panel at the beginning of the weekend.

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