A Freelance Writer’s Guide to Gaming
Every good freelance writer has their favorite distraction. Whether it be reading a book, taking a nap, going for a walk, getting lost in social media or doing a crossword puzzle (or like 5 billion other things), you just need to take a break sometimes. With it being National Video Games Day today, we felt like this would be the perfect opportunity to celebrate those freelance writers that get rid of writer’s block specifically through button smashing, multiplayer stratagem and epic virtual adventures. To all those video game content writers out there, we salute you.
Why Do Freelance Writers Play Video Games?
Aside from the obvious answers that video games are an escape from the real world and are a fantastic way to hide from any upcoming deadlines, there are actually a lot of reasons why freelance writers love video games. On top of that, there are lots of reasons that freelance writers should be playing video games. The greatest video game content writers rival that of any novelist or movie-script writer. If you believe you can learn from other great writers, then video games are an excellent case study. Here are a few examples of elements you can find in great video game writing.
Conflict Driven Stories
Any writer will tell you that the most compelling stories are the ones driven by conflict. When that conflict is front and center, it can drive all the other details of the story. It’s the “why” of good story-telling. In video games, conflict is especially focused on. Who doesn’t want to rescue the princess, hide from the zombies or save the world?
Emotional Connections with Characters
While many video games rely on improved graphics to try and show emotion, the great ones make you feel it – whether or not the graphics are realistic or not. You buy into the characters and connect with them. You feel for their plight and you die a little inside when something bad inevitably happens to them. Great characters are the same across any medium – they are the ones that compel you to invest emotionally.
With any great piece of content, you have to consider who you’re writing for. This is true for novels, movies and even blogging for businesses. If you understand your audience and what they feel, want and hope for, you can create a better written product. Video game developers spend months and years designing a video game that they believe people will enjoy. As a writer, you should understand and be able to quickly identify your target audience before starting to write.
Here are Freelance Writers’ Top 5 Video Games
Now that we’ve gotten through the “why” a freelance writer should play, now let’s get to the fun stuff – the “what” you should play. We did a survey within our freelance writing ranks to find our video game review writers’ top 5 video games of all time. We went broad on this one, allowing them to pick any game across any platform across whatever time period they’ve been alive.
We got tons of responses, so we’ll narrow it down to the top 5 video games/franchises that our freelance writers love, as well as the honorable mentions just so you have a decent list to start working through. We’ll also give some of the writers’ reasons as to why they loved each game. Let’s start with number 5:
Number 5 – Mario Kart
Reasons why our video game review writers love Mario Kart:
- Extremely fun to play with my kids. – Amanda H.
- Racing games are fun. Especially when they’re using Mario characters. – Jessica M.
- Way fun late-night slumber party game, even fun when you’re totally horrible! – Kayla G.
- It was my all-time favorite game until, well, Splatoon 2 came along. – Kelly S.
Number 4 – Super Smash Bros.
Screenshot Credit: Sideshow
Reasons why video game review writers love Super Smash Bros.:
- Childhood classic yet it’s growth and evolution is impressive. From the original to Brawl or Melee, this game has grown with generations. – Bekah
- There isn’t an argument or disagreement that can’t be settled over a game of smash. Pick from a million different characters who all feel balanced and prove your mettle. This game franchise was, is and continues to be awesome. – Matt S.
- This was my group of friends go-to on the weekend when we had nothing else to do. Lots of memories. – Caleb S.
- A game with a lot of good memories as I played with friends in my family’s game room. – Mike B.
Number 3 – The Sims
Screenshot credit: Origin
Reasons why video game article writers love The Sims:
- Because I love building and designing things. I also love figuring out how best to get my cities to function. – Shannon H.
- Because it’s like real life, only better and a lot more creative. – Shannon H.
- I’ve been playing this game for literally ten years. So, it has tons of replay value, to say the least. – Hannah J.
- I’ve recently gotten more into this one. It’s pretty good! – Hannah J.
Number 2 – The Legend of Zelda
Screenshot credit: DenofGeek
Reasons why video game review writers love The Legend of Zelda series:
- Interesting puzzles and surprises. – Tina B.
- My top 5 list would only be filled with Zelda games, but that would be boring, so I just picked the one that got me hooked on the series. – Caleb S.
- Zelda on the Wii was an amazing experience for me. Using the Wii remote to mimic a sword felt like I was actually sword fighting. And the flying is hella fun! – Bekah
- Puzzle-style challenges and gorgeous artwork. – Amanda H.
- I’m a Zelda fanboy, I’ll admit it. This game was a masterpiece. I didn’t know it was possible to reinvent open world games all over again, but they did it. So much exploring to do and endless hours of trying to find stupid Koroks. – Matt S.
- Zelda BotW was on another level when it came out. The world was huge, the story was compelling and it was Zelda! This was another game where it seems like they thought of everything and made anything possible in the game. – Jon B.
Number 1 – Pokemon
Screenshot Credit: Nintendo
Reasons why video game content writers love Pokemon:
- IT IS EVERYONE’S #1!!! LOL it’s just a childhood favorite. – Kayla G.
- I spent too many hours of my childhood playing this game not to list it! – Sabrina M.
- I was obsessed with Pokemon as a kid. I literally went everywhere with my Gameboy Pocket and Pokemon Blue. – Caleb S.
- The first video game I ever bought, and I played it on-and-off for years. – Mike B.
- I could hold my own against my kids for a long, long time.
- I have loved Pokemon since the days of Red and Blue. X and Y just happen to be my favorite (as well as my favorite Pokemon anime series). I may have had a minor crush on the electric gym leader… – Jessica M.
These games/franchises had multiple mentions but just fell short of the top 5. But if multiple video game review writers/editors vouch for them, then you know they’re gonna be good. Here are the honorable mentions in no particular order.
- Beautiful story, and everyone loves Disney interaction!! – Kayla G.
- Childhood favorites never die. – Sabrina M.
- Destiny was the most fun I’ve ever had online playing with friends. The fact that you could 3 person co-op the entire game made it so much fun. There were new challenges every week, insane raids that I have no idea how the developers thought up of and tons of grinding. Ok I didn’t love the grinding, but it made the rewards feel so much more special. – Jon B.
- I have a love/hate relationship with this game. I’ve had some of the best multiplayer gaming experiences of my life playing with friends, but also the grind of the game drove me up the wall. Ultimately the good outweighs the bad, though. For now. I think. – Matt S.
- Final Fantasy VI – The story. – Tina B.
- Final Fantasy XIV – My best friend just recently introduced me to it and I can’t get enough. I’m a Lalafellin archer. I love that you can customize your character and the story is just so engaging! – Jessica M.
- Classic video game play plus crazy, whimsical, funny characters. It’s just a really fun way to spend a little spare time when I’ve got it and never fails to make me smile. – Shannon H.
- I love the idea of plants fighting back. – Niesha R.
- For Mass Effect 2 – Amazing story with tons of character customization. I love to create characters in my mind, so being able to play as a rogue mercenary on one playthrough, a save-the-galaxy defender of justice on another and even a “bad” guy was tons of fun. – Brian E.
- I love narrative-driven games. – Veronica E.
- Interesting story. Sci Fi themes. – Tina B.
- Amazing open world game with enormous replay value- every game you play can be completely different from the last. The character customization is fantastic. It’s a timeless game with something for everybody. You can slay a dragon, fist fight thieves, make armor or build a house, pick flowers and make potions, climb a mountain, cast spells, or steal and sneak your way through towns. The medieval setting is always cool for me- very Lord of the Rings-esque. – Bekah
- Dragons, wizards, massive battle axes. Need I say more? – Sabrina M.
- Super Mario Bros. (NES) – The first game I played. It introduced me to video games and provided me and my sisters with many hours of entertainment. – Kelly S.
- Super Mario Odyssey – A true work of art. – Mike B.
- Because of the colors and the satisfaction that comes with clearing the levels, getting everything to fit together, and so forth. – Shannon H.
- Mmmmmm, squares of spinach. – John B.
- Tons of lore and a continuing story, plus beautiful scenery. – Amanda H.
- I don’t know, it stole years of my life and yet plagues my dreams. – John B.
Other Video Game Suggestions
These games all had single votes, but we figured it couldn’t hurt to include them as well. The more great games to sort through, the better! See what these video game review writers had to say:
|Alice: Madness Returns||It’s beautiful, feminist and I love all things horror and Alice in Wonderland.||Veronica E.|
|Amnesia: The Dark Descent||This classic gem ignited my love of indie horror games.||Veronica E.|
|Bioshock Infinite||Amazing storyline and great game play!||Sabrina M.|
|Chrono Trigger||Everything: The music, story, mechanics and character design are all great.||John B.|
|Civilization||Similar reasons to SimCity. I enjoy building the civilizations and helping them to function properly. I also love how history, military strategy, science, and culture factor into the game play on this one.||Shannon H.|
|Dance Dance Revolution||You can’t beat the feeling of winning against your older brother at fast-paced J-Pop on a super hard level.||Kayla G.|
|Diablo or Gauntlet||(They are basically the same game.) Probably because I can play this with my kids and not look like I’m game illiterate.||Niesha R.|
|Divinity||This is THE dungeon crawler, in my opinion. The crafting system, amazing. The dense story line yet ability to do pretty much whatever you want is a unique feature for a game to have.||Bekah|
|Duck Hunt||Bundled with Super Mario Bros so one of my first games too, and I’ll always love to hate that dog.||Kelly S.|
|Dynasty Warriors (regular and Gundam)||Repetitive but addictive! Requires a lot of concentration at the same time. Also, there are many characters to choose from and even more move combinations to learn and use.||Bekah|
|Fallout 3||Graphics. Lots of missions.||Tina B.|
|Goat Simulator||My apartment does not allow real goats.||John B.|
|Gran Turismo Series||As a kid, I was obsessed with cars and racing games. Gran Turismo was the ultimate racing game, with accurate car designs, sounds and driving physics. I absolutely loved every minute of racing and still do.||Jon B.|
|GTA V||The open world nature of this game is second to none. You can step inside Los Santos and be anyone and do anything. Want to play tennis, poker, sky dive, race fast cars, steal military jets or explore the ocean in a submarine? You can do all of that and pretty much anything else you can think of.||Jon B.|
|Halo 3||I love the original Halo trilogy, but this is the one I played the most online with friends.||Caleb S.|
|Hearthstone||It’s a lot easier to travel with than my, like, 200-pound collection of M:TG cards.||John B.|
|Just Dance||It’s exercise that you get points for. Plus, I’m really great at it, so I kick butt when I play against friends.||Hannah J.|
|LA Noir||I just finished this game last week, and I still can’t get over the amazing writing.||Sabrina M.|
|Left 4 Dead 1 and 2||I have great memories of playing these games with high school and college friends.||Veronica E.|
|Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime||Hahaha. You should really try this game out. It’s awesome.||Niesha R.|
|Mario Party||It’s part board game and part no holds bar battling against your friends. What’s not to love?||Jessica M.|
|Metal Warriors||This is a SNES classic. It brings back so many fun memories growing up with friends. This was one of the first games that let you go head to head against friends with different kinds of giant robots. We had such a blast together. This eventually lead to great games such as Super Smash Bros., Worms and Mario Party, but for me, this one started it all.||Brian E.|
|Minecraft||I like building little farms/cabins, collecting animals, living that farm life…||Hannah J.|
|Night in the Woods||The characters are as colorful as the artwork.||Veronica E.|
|No Man’s Sky||The math behind the procedural generation and stunning graphics.||Amanda H.|
|Overwatch||It’s fun.||Caleb S.|
|Portal||Snarky humor and challenging puzzles.||Amanda H.|
|PS4’s Spider-Man||Really the one that got me back into gaming after a long absence.||Mike B.|
|Rock Band||Totally the best way to hang out with friends, even if you don’t actually know how to play the drums or guitar.||Kayla G.|
|South Park: The Fractured But Whole||Just a lot of fun.||Mike B.|
|Splatoon 2||Just can’t put it down… argh! 😉 Relaxing, fun and competitive.||Kelly S.|
|SSX Tricky||This one one of the first games where I ever unlocked everything and I felt like such a champ when I did. Eddie and Mac were my go-to characters.||Jessica M.|
|Star Wars Battle Front 2 (PS2)||It’s another game with tons of replay value. It’s a shooter game, but you fight clones and robots, so you’re not “hurting” “people”.||Hannah J.|
|StarCraft 1 and 2||I’ve played this game since I was in middle school and it’s still a go-to for a quick chess match. Strategy, adrenaline and LAN parties galore. I know it’s nerdy, but it’s kept my child friendships alive and we have all sorts of memories preemptively typing “GG” before the match was over to try and up the stakes.||Matt S.|
|Starfox||In real life, I’m afraid of flying, but I love pretend flying.||Niesha R.|
|Super Metroid||I love exploration, and this game was 100% about going anywhere your imagination takes you. Getting upgrades, exploring new levels and taking down tough bosses was extremely rewarding.||Brian E.|
|The Day of the Tentacle||I love classic point-and-click games, and pretty much anything from LucasArts was hilarious as well as interesting. The Dig was another favorite, but I’d lean towards Day of the Tentacle just because it made me laugh so hard.||Brian E.|
|The Witness||I like tough puzzle games like Myst, but I’m not a fan of the way Myst locks you into static screens. The Witness gives you freedom to explore and there are great puzzles that require lots of outside-of-the-box thinking and deductive reasoning. That’s right up my alley.||Brian E.|
|Uncharted 2||All of the Uncharted series is amazing but Uncharted 2 was the one that got me hooked and changed the game. Being a treasure hunter and solving puzzles while fighting off bad guys is so much fun.||Jon B.|
|Wario’s Woods||I didn’t discover this game until I was an adult, but I have it on multiple systems. Challenging puzzler fun that differs enough from the Tetris formula.||Kelly S.|
Freelance Writers’ Greatest Video Game Achievements
Last of all, let’s get to the payoff of playing video games. Believe it or not, playing video games as a freelance writer isn’t just a waste of time. Not only can you work on your writing skills as a storyteller and get lost in an adventure, you can also walk away feeling quite proud of yourself.
Video game writers have presented people with incredibly tough challenges over the years that take a certain amount of focus/dedication and hard work to overcome. Our freelance writers are no different. Here are a few of our video game review writers’ proudest gaming moments:
- I always enjoy it when I beat a Nintendo expert’s time in Mario Kart time trials. – Kelly S.
- Probably the time I successfully recreated my hometown and entire social circle on The Sims. I love finding ways to bring aspects of my real life and the people I love into the little worlds I create in the games I play. – Shannon H
- Finally Capturing Mew in Pokemon Blue. – Mike Bedard
- Finding the glitch in the original Pokemon Blue that gave you Mew. It was the coolest thing ever. And being a kid, I felt like I had uncovered the greatest gift of all time. (Man, I wish my Gameboy still worked…) – Jessica M.
- I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’m absolutely unbeatable at Mario Party 4 and 5. – Sabrina M.
- 100%-ing Alice: Madness Returns. It’s the only game I’ve loved enough to dedicate that amount of time to. – Veronica E.
- My defining moment in gaming was discovering how to reach the underwater level (called Meridia) in Super Metroid. A bunch of friends and I were playing together, and we knew where we needed to go, but there didn’t seem to be any way to get there. We ran back and forth for probably an hour, when suddenly I had the idea to set off one of our bombs in a glass tunnel. The moment that glass shattered (interacting with the environment like that was rare in games back then), I had this sensation of euphoria, joy, satisfaction, pride and amazement, all at the same time. – Brian E.
- Beating Night Gundam in Dynasty Warriors Gundam. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. – Bekah
- Finally finishing Pokémon:Ruby at age 20. 🤣- Kayla G.
- Completing a long and challenging series of quests to earn the “Timelord” title in World of Warcraft. – Amanda H.
- Not a boast, but several years ago, my 13 year old had beaten nearly all the monsters on Paper Mario. He was doing really well, and it was evening, so we all ended up sitting around watching and cheering him on. (We had a pretty young crowd with nine kids under 13.) He’d made it to the final boss, and we were literally holding our breath, seconds away from winning the game. At this point, we really hadn’t ever been involved enough in a game to beat it, so we were pretty excited. Just before the final hit, one of my younger sons jumped up! He was so into the game. And he stepped on the N64, hitting the reset button … and just like that we never beat the game. – Niesha R.
- Maxing out Kimahri’s luck stat on Final Fantasy X. That’s a lot of Attack Reels. – John B.
- Whenever I play a certain level on Star Wars Battlefront 2, I always destroy over 10 tanks, which is pretty good. 🙂 – Hannah J.
- Pretty much anytime I can Platinum a game. – Jon B.
- Defeating the water temple in Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time without using any walkthroughs. Take that, internet! – Matt S.
- I remember getting 35+ kills in an online Halo match to carry my team to victory and feeling like I was the NBA MVP. – Caleb S.
- Beat Bioshock on the highest difficulty setting. Because it was hard. – Tina B.
Every day can be National Video Games day if you let it. We know we may not have covered all of the best video game writing, and that’s why we want to hear from a video game content writer such as yourself. Tell us about your favorite video game reviews, as well as your favorite gaming achievements. Let us know in the comments below!
Or if you’re a gamer interested in becoming a freelance writer, we have a spot for you, too. Come see how to become a writer with us and join our community!