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The Official SVGL FAQ!!!!!!1111

Written By mista sense on Friday, February 2, 2007 | 5:09 AM

Your emails -- letters, questions, comments, criticism, compliments, complaints, favorite recipes, thoughts, suggestions, recommendations and requests are always, always welcome. However, I receive a huge volume of mail and while I read everything, I don't always have the time to reply.

So here are the most common questions people ask me -- read this FAQ before sending me a mail so you don't waste your time! And If you have a neat question that isn't related to my physical qualities, sexual proclivities or anything else wildly inappropriate, ask it anonymously at my Formspring.

Why "Sexy Videogameland?"
My first "real job" out of high school, I was a junior assistant in the marketing department of an enterprise storage company. I often heard the PR bigwigs complain that their task -- getting people to understand and be excited about their industry -- was made more complicated by the fact that "storage isn't sexy." And when I later became a writer, I realized that one of the challenges in getting people to understand and feel good about video games was that they weren't perceived as "sexy" either. Naming this blog was in part a statement of a goal to play some small role in helping change that. It was also a reflection of my interest in not shying away from sexual issues in games.

"Videogameland" came from the fact that my very first idea for this blog was to write about characters and places in video games as if they were real, and report on "news" that happened in the lives of video game characters. That lasted all of two posts, but that was the early concept.

The pairing of the two words is also a fairly obscure, later-era Simpsons reference, but I'll leave it to you to try and figure that one out.

Who are you, and where do you work?
This is my official bio; it's current as of March 2011 and free for use in any materials you may develop associated with me or my work.

"Leigh Alexander covers the art and business of video games at Gamasutra, and writes a monthly column on the culture surrounding games and gamers at Kotaku, as well as a monthly column on industry issues at EDGE Magazine. She is editor of the games section at NYLON Guys magazine, maintains her Sexy Videogameland weblog and is a contributor to Thought Catalog, where she often focuses on the social media and internet culture landscape. Her work has appeared in Slate, Variety, the Los Angeles Times, Paste and a host of other publications, and she frequently speaks at events on the business and design of social media and the intersection of interactive design with the real world."

Other stuff: I used to do the Aberrant Gamer column at Gamasutra's sister weblog GameSetWatch, which is run by my crazy talented boss Simon Carless. I was also the first editor of the Worlds in Motion weblog, also part of Gamasutra's network, covering the business of online worlds and planning the inaugural Worlds in Motion Summit at GDC. My name is pronounced "Lee."

How do I become a game journalist?
Unfortunately this is a much more complicated question than the zillions of people who ask it would probably like. The path is different for everyone, and luck has as much to do with it as talent. The only advice I can offer that will help you is: First, know what your goals are. Do you want to write reviews? Do you want to report news? Do you want to write for gamers, like, say, GameSpot does, or do you want to write for a more mainstream audience?

Second, know what it is you have to contribute. Emulating what's already out there will get you nowhere, as there are about a billion game blogs where people are trying to be cool, funny, whatever. Think of what's not being done out there and what you can bring to the table that doesn't already exist. Third, be knowledgeable about games, but it's more important to be a really good writer. This is half born talent and half skills that can be learned -- if you don't spell well or have good grammar, fix it. If you don't know the rules of journalism, learn them. Analyze the writing you think is good, and ask yourself why it's good -- find people you look up to and study what it is about their work that you like (this is something I still do, constantly). Write every day, and write in your own voice, not someone else's.

Finally, put together a portfolio that shows off what you've got and show it to anyone and everyone. Broadcast loud and clear that you're a beginning writer with the chops to go far. Offer to cover an event for a site that doesn't have staff at the event location. Evaluate the publications where you think you might have a shot and see what they might need, and then offer it to them. No one's going to do it for you -- have something really good to offer and eventually someone will take you up on it. Don't give up.

Oh! And be an actual professional. Treat it like a job. In a lot of ways game journalism is the awesomest and most fun thing a game fan could be doing -- yeah, you do get to play a lot of games before they come out, meet developers and go to events. But in a lot of ways it's just like any other job -- you have to communicate promptly, be very reliable, observe your deadlines, be on time, do what you agreed to do when you agreed to do it, be where you said you'd be when you said you'd be there, remain educated and neutral (i.e, not a fanboy/girl) and do plenty of boring stuff alongside the fun stuff, too. I'd advise making a proper resume and cover letter to use when contacting anyone with your portfolio.

And this is not a requirement, just a personal request -- please don't be snarky or negative. We have enough of that.

Beyond these points of advice, there's little else I can offer you in the way of help. If you have more specific questions, you can still email me -- I wouldn't be doing anything I do today if people I respected didn't take time to answer my questions (lots of times I still need them to!) and I always try to pay it forward.

How did you become a game journalist?
How I did it is a much easier question! I realized the kinds of articles I wanted to read regarding games didn't get published a lot, so I started a blog and worked on learning to lay my thoughts out. I emailed writers of other sites, showed them my articles and shared with them some of the story ideas I had. Eventually, Chris Dahlen offered me the opportunity to write a review for Paste, and eventually, Simon Carless liked my idea for a GameSetWatch column based on psychosexual issues. I began publishing one 200-word review in Paste every month or so and doing my column every week while working office jobs to pay my bills while I pursued my dream. I started blogging for Dtoid about that time to expose more people to my articles, and pitched ideas to the Escapist, a few of which turned into articles.

While columning, because I happened to be the only available writer based in New York that Simon knew on short notice, he assigned me to cover an event here, and I wrote a feature for Gamasutra. After that, Simon offered me the opportunity to work part-time editing Worlds in Motion, and after a few months I began contributing to Gamasutra too, and I was on my way.

So as you can see, getting mentorship from people already doing what I wanted to do was a large part of my strategy, being persistent was another part, writing wherever anyone would let me and making myself available to help them was another, and having what I like to think is a unique voice and angle on things is another. And luck. Lots and lots of luck. Probably more luck than anything.

What systems do you have, and what are your favorite games?
I've been playing video games since I was a little kiddo, and have at some point in my life owned or had extensive access to every system ever made. Currently, I have a PS3, a PS2, an Xbox 360, a Wii, a DS, a PSP, and a GameCube and a GBA that I still occasionally play.

It's hard for me to pick favorites, because I can find something to love about many, many titles. So this is just a (relatively!) short list of my all-time favorites in no particular order: Colossal Caves, Ys Book I & II, Phantasy Star II, Bonk's Adventure, Legendary Axe, Bomberman (on TG-16), Super Mario World, Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, the first four Sonic platformers, Chrono Trigger, original NiGHTS Into Dreams, Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko, King's Quest series, Gabriel Knight (the first two), Phantasmagoria (I and II), series, Leisure Suit Larry series, Kana: Little Sister, Princess Maker 2, FFVII and VIII, Castlevania (all the 2D ones), Resident Evil series (in particular, Code Veronica), ICO, Silent Hill series, Soulcalibur 2, Fatal Frame series, Rule of Rose, Metal Gear Solid series, Harvest Moon series, Elite Beat Agents, Pokemon (Emerald, Pearl) Guitar Hero, BioShock, Portal, PixelJunk Eden.

"My personal favorite" doesn't automatically equate to "the best," by the way. But if you forced me to choose what I think is the BEST VIDEO GAME EVER, I'd say Metal Gear Solid 3, which also happens to be my personal favorite, mainly -- that, or Symphony of the Night.

Dear Leigh, I've just read one of your articles and I'd like to know what you think about [other game, idea, issue, different perspective].
I love when people respond to my articles and it raises questions and a desire to discuss. I always try to answer these when I can -- just a heads up that I do need to write full-time during the day, and so I generally can't continue a protracted essay discussion with everyone. Do send me your thoughts, just understand if I don't write really long letters back or get involved in an extensive one-on-one.

I get absurd amounts of email sometimes and it's just not possible for me to reply to everything, but I do read it. I also accept short questions (anonymous or otherwise) on my Formspring so long as they're not exceptionally elaborate, overly personal or mean.

Generally, though, I never represent my opinions on games as anything more than my opinion. Whether or not I'd recommend something to someone depends on their individual tastes! Please read info from a variety of sources and come to your own decision.

However, do send me questions about games! I almost always tend to address the questions I get in later blog posts, even if I don't respond to individual question emails.

Why haven't you covered [issue that I was expecting you to cover]? Are you going to do any writing about [thing going on right now]?
What I do and don't blog about has more to do with the kind of time and energy I have available and what I'm most interested in, more than anything else. SVGL is a side project and an adjunct to my actual writing job -- I don't make any money from it and I only do it for fun and to engage with readers and talk to you guys. Part of the fun for me in having my own blog is that I only have to write about whatever I'm feeling like writing about that day.

That being said, aside from whether I have time and energy, my primary motivator for the stuff I write about is whether I think people care or want to know. While sending me a topic request isn't a guarantee that I'll write about it, I do most definitely pay attention to the topics people here are interested in and that often does determine what I blog about. So do send me requests! Just understand that if I address your issue, it'll be here on the blog and not via individual emails.

Is it hard being a girl in the game world?
No. I'd actually say it's easier. I still feel that there are many topics I have approached (hentai games, body types, things like that) on which nobody would have listened to me if I was a guy. They might have actually even called me a perv or a jerk. Also, while I've had whatever success I've had thanks to what I was willing to contribute and my writing skills solely, I do think that the fact that I'm female has put me in an advantageous position as the industry begins to understand it needs more gender-balancing and seeks out women specifically.

I think it's because the audience I write for here at SVGL is generally awesome, but by and large I have never been the recipient of significant chauvinism, gender bias or anything like that. There have been just a handful of nasty comments related to my gender that I've seen over the entire course of my career, and that's usually someone finding a reason to lash out because they disagree with me, not being a genuine woman-hater. Maybe I'm naive, but I really believe that by and large the audience is more civil, grown up and fair toward women than it's sometimes given credit for.

The above was what the answer to this question used to be. Now I have a higher profile when the days when I was just a community-facing blogger, and receive a great degree of attention to my work on a regular basis. Now the answer is yes-yes-yes-yes, and I feel a bit embarrassed to've been so naive about how people would treat me outside of a carefully-curated group. I don't care to elaborate, but suffice to say it's hard, so I'd rather just deflect attention from my gender and focus on my writing, thanks!

You're big into music, huh? What bands do you like?
I'm really just a dilettante; I like what I like and don't claim to like, have any special musical knowledge. I can't even play instruments. I'm just pretty enthusiastic about it is all! What I listen to is constantly changing and I'm always looking for new stuff, but in general:

Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, Animal Collective, Panda Bear, Frog Eyes, Destroyer, Panda Bear, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Gerbils, The Bitters, White Fence, Pants Yell, Woods, Real Estate, Herbcraft, Art Museums, Thee Oh Sees, Kurt Vile, Julian Lynch, Ducktails, The Beatles, Wolf Parade, Cloud Nothings, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Ava Luna, Twin Sister, Perfume Genius, Amen Dunes, Joanna Newsom, Papercuts, Dum Dum Girls, The Ganglians, The Beets, White Denim, Grizzly Bear, Vivian Girls, Beach House, The Strange Boys, Neon Indian, Sic Alps, Memory Tapes, Wounded Lion, Bowerbirds, Bibio, So Cow, Dinosaur Feathers, Grooms, The Mynabirds, Anamanaguchi, Airwaves, pow wow!, exlovers, Pikelet, Yukon Blonde, Thao, Danger Mouse, Interpol, Nirvana, Pixies, Monogold, Natureboy, The Stethoscopes, GunFight!, Scary Living, Winston Like That, We Are Country Mice, The Roadside Graves, The Governors, Soft Black, Quiet Loudly, The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt!, Eskalators, Memoryhouse, Glasser, Washed Out, Memory Cassette and tons and tons and tons more.

I like your work. Can we get to know each other better, chat and be friends?

I like to be friendly to everyone, and being part of a big community here online is one of the things I love most about my job. In a way, I feel like we're all friends already. Some of the commenters on this site have been here since the very beginning, and I've had regular email correspondences with a few of you that go back to the days when I was still a bored junior assistant in an office who had all the time in the world to just chat.

I'll often answer @s on Twitter, but I don't take Facebook friend requests from people I don't know and I am unlikely to answer personally-oriented email. At the end of the day, being a writer is my career, and I like to keep those lines drawn. Nothing personal.

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