From newspapers to niche

By Matt Gerardi

I’m probably not surprising anyone by saying that my time spent with The Gameological Society wasn’t your typical journalism internship. A significant portion of my first day was spent playing games in my web browser, searching for gems among the near-infinite mounds of derivative drivel. As wonderful as it might sound to some teenagers and twenty-somethings, playing video games for work is not always fun.

Gameological hired me because of my science journalism background. John Teti, the one-man army running the recently launched operation, envisioned the site as a place where thoughtful and accessible writing about games of all sorts can thrive. My training in taking complicated concepts and writing about them in a way that’s easy for laypeople to understand gelled perfectly with the site’s mission, but to my surprise that wasn’t the only part of my journalism training that came in handy.

Although we occasionally run reported features, Gameological’s bread and butter is criticism—reviews and critical essays. I was afraid I wouldn’t fit into this environment as my interests very much lie more on the journalistic side of things, but I found that all the lessons I’ve had in editorial judgment are still applicable.

I quickly started racking up responsibilities, culminating with what is essentially a reviews editor position. While my boss had final say on what gets covered, I developed the reviews calendar—picking which games the site should be reviewing and later assigning them to our writers. I have to ask myself some of the same questions I would when choosing to run a news story, especially, would our audience be interested in this?

That experience of working with a living, breathing audience was a very eye-opening facet of my internship. Prior to my time at Gameological, I had never written for or worked with a community like this. I would argue that most writers have never had the privilege of sharing their work with a readership this intelligent, witty and civil. And no, I’m not just talking about niche publications. Even The New York Times has lackluster comments. I had always held that I wouldn’t pay much attention to comments, but having an audience really changes the way you think about your writing. It gives you purpose and often instant insight into a new perspective. It’s priceless and a true shame that most publications will never enjoy such feedback.

Working as an editor has reinforced just how important communication is. I may or may not have had some trouble with this in the past, but being on the receiving side of wishy-washy emails (yes, professional writers can be just as bad as students sometimes) really stinks. I’m sorry, journalism professors.

I enjoyed my internship and learned a lot. It was my first time working within the style constraints of an outlet that doesn’t use exact AP style. It gave me the opportunity to expanding my basic understanding of HTML. I was exposed to industry public relations for the first time (yeesh).

One last pro-tip: Never underestimate what can be learned from even the most menial of tasks. Managing our social networking feeds, for example, provided valuable practice in headline and excerpt writing.

I think most importantly, this internship made me realize that I do love reporting. One day in July I was reading one of my pieces from last year. I started to smile and chuckle. There was a little voice down inside me yelling, “This. This is what you should be doing. This was fun. This was challenging.” All of the things I learned in my few months at the site pale in comparison to what I learned about myself.