Narrating for esports #2: Find your niche and get good at it
OK, it’s been too long now, to the point where I have to remind you where the first part of this ongoing blog was, namely here. This one should’ve come much sooner, too, but travelling to Berlin for Rift Rivals screwed up my writing schedule (ironic, isn’t it?).
But anyways, here I go again, as the cliche goes — one I almost feel uncomfortable using, given I’ve never banged a stripper in a tour van or have had intermediate to severe cocaine problem.
The field of esports writing is vast. Basically every narrative and article style you can find in traditional sports also exists in esports. Unless you’re an award-winning writer — in which case the fuck you’re doing in esports in the first place? — or a pool of endless talent that can accumulate and learn new information and techniques like Elon Musk on adderall, you will want to start slowly, namely: Find a niche that you like and practice towards becoming a master of it.
There are a couple of reasons I suggest this to my writers and was my go-to welcome speech when I recruited new ones for GosuGamers back in the days. The first one is the obvious, the one I hinted about in the paragraph above. Newcomers to esports writing rarely have the necessary skills to tell it all. They might have followed esports or they might have done some writing in the past, but never the two together. They always need teaching and to preserve both parties’ sanity — that of the mentor and that of the writer — priorities need to be set-up. This is especially important considering that, and you better come to terms with it now before it’s too late, every writer has his own limitations.
Therefore, when I did give the aforementioned welcome speech to new GosuGamers writers, I asked them this simple question: “What do you want to do in esports?” My goal was to identify the writer’s preferences in terms of content type before we got started so we both don’t lose time producing content that is sub par or one which might not interest the writer in the first place. I would urge these writers to self-reflect, search within themselves and define this “passion” they so often mentioned. Are you passionate about interviewing? Are you passionate about investigative journalism? About historic profile pieces? About video content? Stats and analyses? News reporting? Being opinionated?
Many would say “yes” to all at first, but as the conversation kept going, or as we got acquainted better as colleagues, it would become apparent that that’s not quite accurate. Vocal, opinionated writers are not necessarily good on camera (example: myself). Extroverted, easy-going interviewers are not always investigative-inclined (example: Tom “Matthieist” Matthiesen). That’s fine. No one can do it all on the same level, which is why finding a niche, identifying one’s strength, and investing in it is key. It makes no sense to deliberately put writers — especially novice ones — out of their comfort zone. There’s no quicker way to kill someone’s ambition for a career in esports journalist.
I kind of drifted off there and looked at the issue from editor’s point of view, but the same very much goes if you are a writer yourself (which must’ve been the angle all along, considering the point of this blog, I’ll admit). Don’t become overwhelmed with the possibilities. There will be time to diversify later, but an important step #1 is to get really, really good at something first. You need to stand out among your peers. You won’t get a good job being a jack-of-all-mediocre-trades.
This brings me to the second reason to specialize at the start of your career. It isn’t as practical of a reason as the first one, but is equally as important. Simply put, you will enjoy the work more, which in turn will help you survive longer in the industry.
I cannot stress enough how much I am not overselling the latter. Burnout in esports is real. The job requires long hours, often in the middle of the night. It’s mostly thankless, as you will soon find out, having clashed with the distorted “common sense” and world views the everyday esports fan has. Most places, esports journalism is low-payed, especially compared to traditional journalism, if it’s paid at all. To hope that money, or fame, or easy 9-to-5 schedules will be what’s worth it is to be as delusional as the average redditor.
What you will — no, have to !— find worthwhile is your love for the craft. The satisfaction that you’re doing something you enjoy while self-improving. The fact that you want to write profiles, or want to interview people and can do those better with each passing article.
If that’s not going to do it either, than you’re just not cut out for the job. Try being an accountant or something.