Videogame Style Guide Interview

I'm Kyle Orland, video game freelancer. I've been writing about games since 1997, when I started Super Mario Bros. HQ (www.smbhq.com)
I write regularly as a blogger for Joystiq and as a columnist for GameDaily. I got degrees in journalism and computer science from the University of Maryland.


How did the Video Game Style Guide come about?

A: Well it was an idea I'd had rolling around in my head ever since early in my journalism studies. I'd gotten used to using the AP Style Guide in all my articles for class, and I realized that it was pretty useless for issues that came up when I was writing reviews for the college paper. So one day when I was bored in lecture I jotted down a list of all the videogame-specific terms I could think of that I thought could use definition and stylistic clarification. At some point I mentioned the idea to Dave Thomas, who I'd met through my online writings, and we decided to actually make this into a real thing, working through the list and expanding on it through a Wiki. At last year's E3 we mentioned the idea to Scott Steinberg at a party, and he liked it enough to help us to actually get it into a polished, publishable form after years of on-again, off-again tinkering. And that's where we are now, finally.

When will the published version be available? (14.95 for the Paperback and 24.95 for the Hardcover)

A: Right now we're just waiting for final approval of the printed proof. It should be August 1 at the latest.

I hear that industry professionals are entitled to a free copy of the eBook version. Do you think this will help get the word out more and help sell more copies of the printed version?

A: That's the hope. We've had over 1,200 requests for the free eBook so far and had an amazing response from professionals from all corners of the industry, not just journalists. We'll also be making the guide available in a public wiki so the community can add new terms and debate old ones. This industry changes so fast, any printed reference will quickly become incomplete ... we're hoping to maintain the guide with regular annual updates.

Could you tell a bit about your experiences freelancing?

A: It's been a challenge. I had a great job at NPR in downtown DC but decided it wasn't really what I wanted to do with my life, so I made the leap to working from home full time. I've been lucky to find some regular writing gigs and find some editors who seem to like my style. It's tough, though. There are a lot more people who want to write about games than paying positions writing about them.

Where did you first start at?

A: Well my first paying gig, besides SMBHQ, was the college paper. I'd recommend something similar to anyone starting out. It was a good place to get some clips and experience working under deadline. I also did some unpaid work for GameCritics.com, which got me into my first E3. About that time I started writing about game journalism at Video Game Media Watch, which started to attract some attention. And it kind of ballooned from there... Gamespot, Happy Puppy, Next Gen, The Escapist. You can track the whole thing on my workblog if you're really interested. http://kyleorland.blogsome.com

You started Super Mario Bros. HQ in 1997. It has been almost 10 years now; that is quite an accomplishment as many website come and go. What got you started with that and kept you motivated?

A: Thank you =). It was a labor of love to start ... I'm a huge fan of the Mario series and also an obsessive list-maker, so it was a natural fit. I don't do much work on the site now, though. Sean Kelly, our main webmaster, has done a great job of keeping things up to date. I'd say it sustains itself largely on momentum at this point. The key to creating a successful web site seems to be starting in the mid-90s =)

What do you recommend for aspiring webmasters that can't go back in time to the '90s?

A: Two things: One is being original. There are a lot of web sites out there on any subject, and there's an especially big glut in the gaming space. You need to fill some niche or have some sort of content to set your site apart. The second is perseverance. It's hard motivating yourself to keep at it at the start when there aren't many readers or rewards, but if the content is good and original and you keep at it, you'll eventually find larger success.

Did SMBHQ eventually help you get noticed in the industry?

A: Not especially. It was really Video Game Media Watch that got me my big break.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

A: I hope your readers all enjoy the guide and that it helps them in their careers.

For more information about the Videogame Style Guide visit the website.