Saturday, August 26, 2006


Welcome to the first (and last) Mailbag Contest! The big winner this month is reader John Burden. He won in a landslide because he was the only participant. Lets get to his two questions.

How does one break into the gaming and game review industry? Also, how does one not only get a job with a respectable newspaper, but also manage to convince the editors of said newspaper that they should have a guy working for them to review the video game world?

In my interviews with PSM's Chris Slate and OXM's Francesca Reyes I essentially asked them the same thing. They both mentioned that starting gaming blogs and trying to get in your local paper as a way to get things started. They also suggested doing some freelance work for gaming websites (1up, gamespot, etc.) as well. Let me tell you, I've tried or done all of those things before I interviewed the two of them and its tough. As you would expect, the gaming market is hard to get into because so many people want to do it.

To be truly successful, I think anyone interested in working in the video game industry (or any other industry for that matter) should follow the adage "its not what you know, its who you know". I'm not saying the gaming world is rife with nepotism (Wow! I think that's the biggest word I've ever used when writing about gaming) but making connections is so incredibly important. Its one of the ways you can make sure you stand out among a sea of qualified candidates. Of course knowing the right people and making connections takes time, especially if you don't live on the West Coast and in particular the San Francisco area. That's why events like E3 and Comic-Con are so important. Of course, now that E3 is going to be severely scaled down and limited to pretty much press-only types, its that much harder to get your foot in the door.

As for how I got my gaming gig, all I had to do was bug a couple of editors. I was originally working in the Sports department at the Gazette when I noticed that the video game reviews in the GO! section were being written by a writer from the Detroit Free Press (they were being taken of the wire). I liked his work but figured I could do just as well, so I contacted GO! editor Warren Epstein. I told him how much I loved gaming and that I would like to write the gaming column so I could give it a more local angle. He asked for some writing samples, liked what he saw, and that as they say is that.

My biggest hurdle so far has been getting gaming companies to send me games to review. Its a constant battle to contact them and bug them to send games. And this is with the companies who already have me on their mailing list. Some companies just tell me no (Rockstar) or ignore me (THQ) because the Gazette doesn't have a large enough circulation. But with most other companies (EA in particular) I have numerous contacts and they bend over backwards to get me titles.

How old should a child be before you introduce them to video games without risking issues with normal childhood development?

Now this is a tough question. I'm not a child psychologist so I'm not exactly sure what the textbook answer is (and if you ask Tipper Gore, I'm sure she'd say "Never!) so I'm going to give an answer based on my experience as a parent of a 12-year old who loves games. Because I played games so much as my son was growing up, he was naturally attracted to the sights and sounds of video games. So unless you plan on ditching your system, this is just something that is just going to happen. But how you handle it is important.

I think there are two important things parents need to be aware of. A great man once said "Everything in moderation". I think it was Pauley Shore. Anyway, its important to set time limits early on so kids know they can't play as long as they want. To me, this is even more important than what age they start playing games because it teaches kids to organize their time and stresses that gaming isn't everything. Which, of course, it is but we don't tell them that.

The other important thing is to be aware of what your kids are playing. It always ticks me off when parents complain about a games content. Usually its after they just bought their kid a game. Check out the box, find out what its about. Some games just aren't made for kids, just like some movies aren't. How a child can buy a $50-$60 game without their parent knowing about it is beyond me. How do they get to the store? Where does the money come from? The parent, that's who.

Obviously, kids shouldn't be exposed to certain things before a certain age. I wouldn't let my 6-year old daughter (who could care less about gaming) play Dead Rising. Its just not right. Even as kids get older, you still have to be aware of the content. I still don't let my 12-year old son play any GTA game, despite his protests that all of his friends have played it. I also monitor what he purchases on his own and I let him know if he can actually get a game that has yet to be released. Sometimes I shoot him down. He may not like it, but because I've been consistent, he gets over it quickly. I also feel that kids shouldn't have TV's in their own room but that is my personal opinion. How am I to know if my kid is watching or playing something that he shouldn't if he isn't where I can see him? In my house, we have one TV. This can be a real pain (especially during football season or when I need to play a game to review) but I think its best for my family. What's best for yours may be different.

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