Behind the Keyboard – Jason Hawkins
Behind the Keyboard
Working in the video games industry. It’s a dream that many of us aspire to, but one that is difficult to achieve. What do you need to know? What kind of courses or experience should you be getting? Which position would be right for you? And where do you even begin to start?
In Behind the Keyboard, these are the kind of questions we aim to answer. By talking to professionals already in the industry, we’ll ask the hard questions to get you the inside knowledge on getting started in the industry, as well as letting you know what is involved in each role. We hope to bring you interviews with a wide variety of industry figures, the first of whom is the eloquent editor and writer at thefrag.com.au, an Australian video game review site, Jason Hawkins.
First off, thank you for boldly going where no one has gone before and agreeing to the interview.
It’s a pleasure! It’s always nice to speak with people that share the same passions as I do.
Can you give us a quick overview of The FRAG and your role there?
Sure. The FRAG is one of the growing army of community gaming sites. We mostly focus on reviews and unique content; because there are people that get paid full-time to do the news and they’re much, much better at it than I am. I’m Editor, which (at least in our model) means I read over all content on the site, fixing mistakes and generally organizing events, chatting with PR and generally making busy-work to better the site.
Was working in the video games industry something you had planned on?
There’s nothing in life I’ve done that I’ve truly planned on! I went to TAFE to study networking in IT, landed a decent job in IT doing some huge technical development work, and somehow fell into the industry at the same time. I don’t think there are too many people that actively plan this lifestyle ahead of time, because it’s not all the glitz and glamour that people think it is. It’s hard work at the best of times, but it’s hugely rewarding at the same time. I fell into the industry completely by accident, for a UK site called XboxInsider (which are now long dead), they were looking for a reviewer, my wife told me to go for it and I got it. I end up as their lead reviewer for about a year before I wanted to start something locally in Australia, and that’s when I started the FRAG.
Are you ever worried that in making video games a career you might start to view playing them as work?
It’s already happened. It’s hard to disconnect from playing for fun and playing for work. Often when I don’t have any reviews to write and I just pick up a game I can’t turn off the critical part of my brain, and I’ll analyse what I’m playing until it’s barely a game for fun anymore. It’s just one of the things that happen in the industry, I guess. It happens pretty quick though, I first had the problem after around three months of reviewing and now I’ll likely never stop it. Never ask a reviewer a passing comment about a game, because they’ll tell you all about it.
How important would you say a passion for video games is to success?
Passion is probably the most important thing to have in the industry. If I didn’t have passion I wouldn’t still be doing it. The pay is lousy at best, the work is crazy long hours and you’ll play a lot of bad games before you get to some good ones. Without passion I probably would’ve given the whole lot up a long time ago.
What skill or attribute do you think had helped you the most in your career?
Hard work. It sounds really cliché, but hard work will make you push through those barriers when a game is just plain painful to play, or when you’ve got a load of write-ups to do but can’t find the energy. Hell, sometimes just being social (which is also a large part of the industry) can be draining, so everything helps.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It sounds stupid, really, but I love the people in the industry; they’re the highlight. It’s not many industries where people are actively competing with each other, but will happily meet up at the pub for a beer, even discuss ideas openly. Most of us are all friends, and it’s fantastic.
Do you have any advice for someone trying to get a start in games journalism?
Know what you’re getting into. It’s not all free games and playing stuff early. Everything you do, everything you receive, know that there is work associated with it. Nothing is free. When you start out you’ll be begging everyone who will listen that you’re a publication to be taken seriously, but with hard work you’ll eventually break through. When you do, keep that hard work up or you’ll burn those bridges. After a while, everything will go a lot smoother and people will start paying real attention to your work, but you’ve got to stick with it.
Make sure to check out Jason’s handywork at thefrag.com.au, and stay posted for more from kindawesome!