I’m a pretty ordinary gamer, not dissimilar from most anyone who might read this site. I’m in graduate school, I have a job in IT, and like many twenty-something Gen X-ers out there, find my precious time to actually enjoy games fast dwindling in the midst of real world obligations. So I was delighted when I was offered a job at a major gaming blog (or, to be honest, a satellite of a major gaming blog). It sounded great – the chance to write about videogames, as I frequently do in my own blog, but now to get paid for it! Sure, it would be a lot of work, but I’m so immersed in their content already, making the jump from blog reader to blog writer couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Actually, it felt a little like a bait and switch… when I was hired, they did tell me that they wanted 50-60 posts per month, so I could say I had been warned. But they failed to mention how little help they would give me in learning where to get news, or how little they would be willing to work with other, real world priorities. I cautioned them I was only accustomed to getting my gaming news from big sites like Joystiq and Kotaku – I didn’t have any resources to bring in news by myself. They assured me it would be no problem. Yet when I finally came on, finding news consisted just of crawling message boards and RSS feeds for anything related to the console we covered, and trying to decide if anyone actually cared about it enough to post.

The pay was a set amount per post, which at first sounded nice. I’m sure I’d have gotten better at the process, but the final post I did took over two hours, from finding the news to writing it up, gleaning game details from Japanese magazine scans, editing the images, and getting a slew of technical corrections from the lead blogger. Ultimately, by my math, it means I worked for less than minimum wage today.

Another problem I had was understanding their method of “You must have x many posts or else!” They were paying a set amount per post, so if I post their “minimum” I get that amount; if I post ten posts in a month, I’d get the post amount times ten. Any deficiency doesn’t actually cost them money. But the corporate blogging world doesn’t work like that, it seems. The whole enterprise suckles off a massive corporation’s largesse – and for the full time people for whom that’s their only job, good for them. However, forcing people to post artificially large quantities, even when there’s no real news, just serves to dilute the quality of what they’re covering.

Why not bring on as many bloggers as you need to get the number of posts you want in a day, and let them post as they see fit? You’ll get perspective out the wazoo, and all the stories will be things someone cares about, and you don’t pay any more for the trouble since you pay by the post. Of course, increasing the number of bloggers will by necessity increase the turnover rate, and unless you’re very careful you risk diluting the writing quality, but it can be done, unless your goal is creating quantity of content, not quality.

In the blog’s chat room prior to resigning, I approached the topic by asking what they do on slow news days, since your post requirements remain the same. Almost predictably, the lead blogger went off on how she hates this “myth” of the slow news day – there’s always news. Alright, I’ll bite… there’s always news items out there that fall within the scope of the site that can be put written about, but how many people care about them? Is it really worth the dough to the corporate overlord to post about obscure Japanese games when maybe only a tiny handful of people give a flip?? The same goes for site-created features, which pay more per feature. By focusing on post quantity rather than asking whether what they are making means anything to anyone, you get a lot of well-written, filler sludge.

I like to write about videogames, but this was something different. It was writing about the topic of games, but with complete disregard to what made any of us play them in the first place: love of the games themselves. In the world of corporate blogging, it doesn’t matter whether you care for what you’re writing about – it’s whether someone who’ll read it and generate ad revenue might care for it.

My life’s not getting any less filled with obligations, and soiling the pasttime I cherish by keeping my nose to an artificial, quantity-driven grindstone is not what I want to spend my only bits of free time doing. At the end of the day, that was the final straw. A really telling warning that I should have picked up on was that a friend and fellow blogger mentioned at one point how infrequently he got the opportunity to actually play games anymore… he just writes about them now.

By the end, the lead blogger had lost all pretense of friendliness, and it felt like she was just being critical of me for its own sake. The seeming powertrip applied to every question and minor mistake was on top of the hard time given for not posting often enough, despite my real world moving from one city to another, preparing for a graduate level law exam, and applying for a job post-graduation. It made me wonder if this was the reality of paid blogging shining through – quotas and deadlines and a façade of professionalism.

For my part, I’m content to be back on the other side of the fence, able to focus on more career-oriented (and hopefully higher paying) priorities, and grinding my nose on videogames because I actually enjoy them.

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