A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAMES MAGAZINE EDITOR
Name: James Artaius
Job Title: Games Magazine Editor
Company: Uncooked Media
Web address: http://www.one-gamer.com , https://www.facebook.com/xboxonegamer
What do you love most about your job?
Well, the fact that I get to work from home is the single best thing about it, although that really has nothing to do with the role itself.
In terms of what my position actually entails, clearly I have a job that I’m passionate about – I get to do something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a child, and I get to spend my working days immersed in something that is also my primary hobby and interest.
An average day for a Magazine Editor
For better or worse, I really don’t spend my working days playing videogames at all. Being the editor, or in practical terms the manager, of a games magazine is the same as being the manager in any other business: the further you go up the career ladder, the further you get from the “shop floor”.
My staff writers and freelancers are the ones who get to play games in office hours. Me? Nowadays I do what many other managers do. I wrestle with budgets, tinker with spreadsheets, I make monthly and weekly workflow plans, handle invoices, commission work, chase work, correct work, attend meetings, deal with my opposite numbers in other companies… as you can see, there’s precious little contact with the actual videogames that the magazine is about!
I create “flatplans” that lay out each issue of the magazine, then liaise with PRs from the various publishing companies to find out what titles we’re able to see (and in what states we’re able to see them, from early preview builds to pre-release review versions) and gradually fill the flatplan with the games that are at my disposal that month. And of course, there’s the small matter of what game goes on the cover.
Once I know what’s going in the issue, I need to assign the best writers for each title. There’s no point getting someone who only plays World War II strategy games to review a football simulator, after all. So then it’s talking to my in-house team and getting in touch with freelance contributors, hammering out timescales and agreeing on deadlines.
Once the copy has come back to me, it needs to be subedited (both for typos and house style, as well as to check for inaccuracies, libel, etc) and then handed over to the design team. They transform Word documents into InDesign pages, themselves requiring further proof reading, which in turn are transformed in to PDFs, necessitating one final check before being uploaded to the printer to be transformed into a physical magazine.
That, of course, is a very romanticised picture of what happens on deadline week; look close enough between those lines and you’ll taste the caffeine and smell the general air of late nights that occur whenever an issue of the magazine has to be put to bed!
A not so average day for a Magazine Editor
So, you go up the management ladder and you get less time on the shop floor. But every manager has to do a shift occasionally, and it’s these shifts that make everything worthwhile. Getting to actually review a game, for example, which you can generally cherry pick to make sure it’s something that you’ll actually enjoy, is one of those rare moments when you really can say, “I got paid to sit and play videogames today!”
Going to press events, showcases and other such field trips are also a pleasure – though they also equate to a whole lot of work when you finally get back in the office to write everything up. Sometimes this involves a press trip to somewhere exotic, like the USA or one of the former Soviet states, and sometimes it’s somewhere closer to home like Windsor or Guildford.
Such trips are fewer and farther between these days, but I’ve had my share of great memories over the years. I’ve been to Las Vegas to see the latest cage fighting game and then watch a big fight live at cage side. I’ve interviewed Andy McNab about a military shooting game in Sweden, and I’ve sat between an Alien, a Predator and a Colonial Marine in Covent Garden.
Spending an afternoon hobnobbing with games company PR teams, or better yet the developers at the studios that actually make the games, is something else that is very much part of the job, though not in an everyday sense. Particularly talking to the designers, coders and programmers, whether interviewing them officially about their latest project or talking to them off the record about what they’re working on, is the kind of peek behind the curtain that I always dreamed of as a seven-year-old.
At the end of the day it’s what you make of it!
Once upon a time, while I didn’t spend all day playing games, it was probably a 40-60 split between playing them and writing about them – and not just writing about them but analysing them, critiquing them, finding fault with them.
Best case scenario: you play a game that’s absolutely amazing, that’s right up your alley and represents everything you’ve ever loved about the medium. But because you have to assign it an arbitrary rating, you’re looking for faults and flaws and reasons why it is or isn’t good enough for this or that score.
Worst case scenario? You’re not even playing a good game. You’re playing a terrible game, in a genre that you’re not even a fan of. And it’s not even a short game – it’s a long, arduous, 40-hour slog through something that’s the absolutely pits. And you’ve got to play the whole thing in order to deliver your verdict.
It’s not all doom and gloom, not by a long shot. Certainly there’s a lot to love and a lot not to, just like any job – and I suppose that’s the most important thing to communicate; at the end of the day, a dream job is still just a job. It has a lot of perks, but it has all the same problems and pitfalls as any other profession. And like any other profession, the job is what you make of it.
All those years I thought about being a games journalist, I never once imagined that I’d spend most of my days rearranging flatplans, chasing invoices, italicising game names… basically anything other than writing about games. At the same time, though, I never imagined that it would develop into a career where I’m responsible for budgeting, leading a team, scheduling workflow… again, anything other than writing about games, but developing real-world skills that are valuable both personally and professionally.