What I’ve Learned Working On A Games Website Without Any Prior Experience For Three Years

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The last time I posted here, I vow to make a writing about games a living. Chasing dreams. The potential’s there, it’s early days for this new wave of Malaysian gaming websites. The crowd and market is there.

A perfect storm, right? Not quite.

I’ve been doing this gig for three years, help running Gamer Malaya English, now Gamer Matters. The story might sound depressing, but let me assure you I’m still willing to go this path. I just need to get some things off my chest an maybe you learn a thing or two.

Pulling Off a Ricciardo

In F1 this season, there is this interesting driver market move where top driver Daniel Ricciardo decided to leave Red Bull, the definite third best team to the game, to Renault, an up-and-coming team with a lot to prove. I’ll leave out all the details, but essentially, it’s seen as a long-term move, something that won’t bring success overnight. He’s going to struggle.

And that’s what I guess ended up doing. I was looking for places where I can do English writing. But of course, I made stupid mistakes. Don’t go request for review jobs as your first gig dumbass. Everyone grits their teeth with news first. Just writing is not enough in this day of social media and video content, be willing to embrace that.

So I was noticed by two folks three years ago, one from Gamer Malaya the other from JomGaming. I heard of Gamer Malaya from another friend (hello Rizal) and they’ve been around for some time in 2015. JomGaming just launched I believed when I got spotted from them. Both approached me for some opportunity to work with them, but at the end I went with GM. I wanted to freelance for both sites to be honest, but after the site kept quiet once I published stuff on GM the door was, I assumed, closed.

GM was not a paid gig, but it led to some new opportunities. We got invited to an event, a big one too. It was the launch of Acer’s new Predator line. Then we got some contacts with publishers and start getting review copies. So this what’s it like writing about games for a living. Minus the living part. We still don’t make much money, there are some ad campaigns and stuff but not enough to sustain a full company. GM remains a group of guys “fueled by passion” doing content about video games.

In 2016 things are in the up and up. We got many people wanting to join and write. Morale was high. There was some money. At that time too, I was suddenly offered another shot, to write at a more prominent games website. That’s some crazy offer, but at the end, I decided to stick with GM.

“I’ll be here until we can start paying people.”

The Struggle

And then reality sinks in. Me and GM founder Hafiz don’t exactly have the experience of doing this. We were winging it as we go. I tried delegating tasks. That didn’t work of course, these guys are not paid workers. Quality of writing was hit and miss and I don’t know how to keep these guys in check.I failed to give them the right feedback.

And then the many new recruits starting to disappear. Welp.

It does not help that three years on, we still working on getting ourselves incorporated. The numbers of our reach are not as high as it used to. Plus, by three years more new websites have cropped up with more resources and experience backing them. From what I like to believe us as trailblazers, we are now backmarkers.

It kind of hurts, seeing other sites getting more opportunities and are growing bigger. They deserve it of course, good on them for getting there. They did a better job.

The Podcast

Thankfully, we now have a core team that stuck around. Unfortunately most of them are on the Gamer Matters site rather than Gamer Malaya which had the bigger audience. Gamer Matters is miniscule. Who would read an English blog for video games when there’s many more established sites out there?

But that does not matter anymore. We have a core team revolving around a podcast. Me, Wam, Danial, and Anan met for the first time at PSX SEA 2017 and we all hated Detroit Become Human. Our hatred for the works of David Cage made me say that we should talk about it sometime as a recording. Then the idea of a podcast was thrown.

I dabbled with podcasts before, again a good friend, Rizal, used to run one and I got to be a guest a few times, and fumbled as a host once. And I have been regularly listening to some other podcasts so I sort of know how we can do this format-wise. Setting it up was hell though.

And so, dia.log – The Gamer Matters Podcast was born. By the time of writing it’s 17 episodes strong. The number of people listening to it is low but screw it. I want these guys to keep on being in this team. We can’t pay. We can’t force them to do stuff. So the least we can do is make them feel belong in this group. And what better way to give that sense of belonging than being able to shit talk with each other.

There is potential though. We did a live panel at VAX this year and we got some crowd. More than 5 people! And they enjoyed it too! It does not translate as anything bigger but it gave me confidence to keep doing it fortnightly.

Plus, it gave me a safe way to dabble with more Photoshop and video editing. I had a very strong fear of doing video editing before this (I was afraid I can’t do it good enough) but now I’m more comfortable doing them.

What We Can Improve On

Still, GM is a work in progress. And here’s some useful takeaways should you, too, want to start a games website.

  • Get a core team, have them involve but not just give them orders, give them opportunities to contribute, bond with them.
  • Make connections. You need to get to know people from the PR side. Game companies. Hardware companies. Esports teams.
  • Build a loyal fanbase. Slow, but surely it will grow.
  • Branding. Get your name around! Get your logo around! At least have people aware that you exist so that the website becomes more credible.
  • Don’t just write. The audience on social media and video sites are bigger than ever. Normal writeups are ok but don’t just only do that unless your content is SSS material.

If you’ve been following the site and are reading this, thanks for all your support. If we’re doing something wrong or have any feedback, the comments section are always open.

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