The Hurdles of Writing in the Video
Dude, you have the dream job!
I hear that comment every now
and again, and it's true for the most part. All the same, writing for
the video game industry isn't just play; there's a fair amount of work
involved! The path from article concept to publication is a difficult
one, including a number of taskseach of which could ruin the whole
project: planning, meeting the deadline, surviving editing in tact,
converting it to HyperText Markup Language (HTML, the language of the
Internet), placing advertising, publishing, dealing with reader
responses, and trying to earn a living. I will address each of these
challenges in my experience in writing for Dungeons & Dragons
Online: Stormreach (DDO).
Take this editorial as an example of the planning stage. My idea for an
article discussing the hurdles of writing about DDO first cropped up at
the end of May when I was planning content for the month of June here
on DDO @ Ten Ton Hammer. With the topic identified, the next step was
to select a writer. The obvious first choice was Karen Shayalyn
Hertzberg, then Community Manager of DDO @ Ten Ton Hammer. Shayalyn had
the most experience writing about video games among the staff on this
Murphy's Law kicked in immediately, and Shayalyn moved to another site
in the Ten Ton Hammer networkdropping the assignment in my lap. Since
I didn't expect to write this editorial, I postponed it to July so that
I would have time to give it proper consideration. Not every writer
gets to be involved in the planning stage like me, and even when we do
we often get notification of assignments at the last minute. This
presents another obstacle for writers: deadlines.
Meeting the Deadline
First of all, it is sometimes hard to feel motivated about writing
about a topic someone else picked. Second, a tight deadline can prevent
a writer from doing as much research or adding the level of polish he
wants. Finally, life gets in the way. Maybe a writer has a day job.
Maybe she goes to school. DDO @ Ten Ton Hammer's Lyle Vertigo serves in
the armed forces. All of these factors can make a deadline loom like a
Once the article is writtenoften finished at 2am of the morning of the
day it is due for writers with a heavy workload or poor time
managementit still has to pass through the editorial process. Editors
have deadlines, too, and they usually have several articles to edit at
once. The consequence for the writer is that he seldom gets an
opportunity to review the editor's changes prior to publication. Just
ask our own Darkgolem about how frustrating that can be.
Converting to HTML
Now if all a writer does is write, she is likely a volunteer or
freelance writer. Today's industry most often necessitates an
understanding of web design and HTML. Thus, a writer frequently needs
to convert his article into HTML and post it to a website. The
conversion process requires a dependable HTML composer (think word
processor of the Internet) or a lot of meticulous hand coding.
In order to maintain a server that can handle the hits a typical gaming
news site gets and pay the writers to keep quality content coming in,
most sites use advertising generate revenue. The types of ads used
-banners at the tops and/or sides of pages
-blocks that appear within a story
-interstitial (you click a link and are directed to an advertising page
where you must click another link to continue to the page you really
want to see)
Some sites offer subscriptions to users that allow them to view the
site without ads. Writers may have to insert the HTML for the ads into
the article during the conversion process. It's a small but important
step; companies want their ads displayed prominently and neatly.
Dealing with Reader Responses
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 321px; height: 200px;" align="left">Since
I've mentioned ads, it's no great feat to transition into how that
subject generated a lot of response from readers. I've been visiting
gaming new sites online since before any of them used advertising. As
more and more Internet users sought information, the costs of
maintaining a gaming news site soared and ads became necessary. Here at
Ten Ton Hammer, we feel strongly about the types of ads we use on our
network. We want our ads to be from respectable merchants and service
won't see any ads from third parties trying to sell you DDO gold
and ruin the DDO economy here! Also, you won't see ads for pornography
or illegal activities. You'll only see real products and services
offered by legitimate companies. Some of our ads even invite readers to
try a 7-day trial of DDO! All the same, many gamers are offended by the
presence of ads. On several occasions I or another DDO @ Ten Ton Hammer
writer has had to defend our use of ads to bring our readers content.
Shayalyn even ranted about it in href="http://shayalyn.blogs.tentonhammer.com/?p=8">her blog.
Ads aren't the only reason a writer might face criticism for his
article. If the tight deadline didn't give a writer enough time to do
extensive research or to interview enough people, he may feel the wrath
of the readers. If the writer expresses an unpopular opinion, he could
be attacked for it. And as I've mentioned, a site's use of advertising
could lead readers to view him as a money-grubbing spawn of evil. He'll
get the question, Why don't you post the article on the official
forums if you're not just greedy for hits on your site?
Trying to Earn a Living
The continual accusations of greed segue into another difficulty for
writers: the pay. Up front, let me say that I am not complaining about
my salary from Ten Ton Hammer. But also keep in mind that I work
another job. I have a wife and a daughter to support, and I couldn't do
it on my Ten Ton Hammer pay alone. So I use my master's degree for a
job at a university during the day and my passion for DDO and writing
skills when I get home to give you content here on DDO @ Ten Ton
Hammer. I hope no one will begrudge me my efforts to provide for my
While contract writers seldom receive benefits, volunteer writers get
even less. They have to make do with sincere gratitude from Community
Managers who would be hard-pressed to do it without them. Their
motivation is pure: they want to help people and enjoy the game.
I have described the hurdles of writing about DDO for you. I do this
not to complainI love my job!or scare you. I do it to inform you.
Hopefully, my inside perspective will help you understand how it all
works in the dream job. For those of you who have considered writing
in the video game industry, I feel I have been honest with you about
the trials you'll face. If you have read all of the above and know that
you're up to the challenge, href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/index.php?module=ContentExpress&func=display&ceid=18">consider
volunteering for DDO @ Ten Ton Hammer. We want to give our readers
the best and freshest DDO information in a convenient layout. You can
help make that happen!
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