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20/07/2009 Family Family Gamer Article
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Learning to Write Right Article

Learning to Write Right

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The road to creating Family Gamer has been a personal revelation to me. I'd always wanted to do something with games that would become more than a hobby but there never seemed to be a route in.

Then, a few years ago I happened to get to know a guy who ran a Nintendo fan site. He had a copy of Madden 07 on the Wii that nobody wanted to review. I grabbed the opportunity and had soon written my first review. This sparked an idea in me - why not do this again. The year that followed I spent playing and reviewing more and more games for various websites.

I had found my way into a world I loved. Having played games through my early years, avidly read hte magazine into the small hours, waited on the next big games for week, I now felt like I was on the inside. This foot in the door was certainly novel, but to keep going at this for the long term I needed to make sense of it in financial as well as enjoyment terms. And this is where I stumbled into the genius of the internet - it's a meritocracy: good content rises to the top and eventually gets paid.

Our gateway games need to achieve the same sense of awe and inspiration. Simplified games will only make a mockery of what it is we love about gaming.

Although it can seem crazy to publish your best content for free, keep doing it for long enough, build an audience, and the money will come as a by product. It's the different between Freinds Reunited's subscription model and Facebooks free approach. Friends Reunited failed to see that it wasn't access to their content that was most valuable, it was the people that access it.

I resolved to find a gaming angle that would be enjoyable, easy and natural to write about. I had to learn how to write well, how to write often and how to write quickly. There was only one way to do this with a young family, busy home and social life - combine the two and talk about what was all me at the time.

So I wrote my little heart out on being a gamer with a young family. When I reviewed games, I did so as myself in my context. When I chose which news to run on sites, I chose it on the basis of what interested me and my family. And when I wrote editorial, I espoused what little wisdom and confusion had come my way as I lived my life with my three kids and wife.

This not only made the writing fun and easy, but it also led me into donig something quite different from the other fan and hardcore sites. I overlooked graphics, sound and the technical ins and outs of a game. Instead, I told stories about how the game made me feel when I played it, what the other people in the room thought of it, or the funny things my kids had done.

The surprising part though was how quickly and how much response the site got from a range of people. Sure, some gamers weighed in to decry how our coverage wasn't a proper review, or how it missed the important points. But the builk of comments were from other Mums, Dads , Husbands and Wives who wanted to respond and share their experiences. So much so in fact, that many of them are now writing for the site (a tip to those who want to join the gaming ranks is to leave interesting well written comments on the sites you enjoy ).

What's more, whilst we are obviously not a big business by any stretch of the imagination, the money side worked as well. We started to get paid here and there for what we did. Advertisers, Public Relation companies and the odd donation all showed that they valued the things we were creating and writing about.

For three or four years now we've been following the do-what-you-love rubric and enjoyed the success. The meritocrasy has in the main worked well for us. Now though the challenge is to keep it enjoyable. It's instinctive to write pretty well, often and quickly, but the danger is that the pressure to succeed and grow distracts us from what made this interesting in the first place - it was fun.

Written by Andy Robertson

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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