Job: Content Author
In December 2004, as a belated Christmas present to myself, I picked up a copy of World of Warcraft, and changed my life dramatically. (Sounds epic, doesn’t it? It is, kinda.) I still play the game to this day, and have undoubtedly logged the most number of hours with WoW than any other game. This is largely because there is just so much to do: it’s a truly massive game. Couple that with periodic content releases, and Blizzard has one of the most successful games ever.
And where Blizzard makes money, so do other people. One of the classic avenues of this sort of revenue is the strategy guide, as published by any number of companies and individuals. In classic gaming marketing, this is an effective tactic as the game, once it is on the store shelves, is known to its full extent (i.e. you know everything there is to be done) and is unchanging. WoW violates both of these terms.
The first point, the strategy guide knowing everything to be done, is generally garnered by playing through some pre-release version given to the guide publisher for this purpose. In a single player game, where all you need is yourself, this measure works — although not flawlessly. There have been examples of discrepancies between the pre-release and release version of the game, which are reflected in erroneous strategy guides. However, in World of Warcraft, the end-game content requires groups of between five and forty people working in concert to complete. This is where most of the long-term playability of the game comes from. But because the strategy guide writers have only the few trial copies of the game to base their guide on, they can’t possibly grasp all of this content in time to be on store shelves the same day that the game is. The other flaw is the simple fact that WoW is periodically updated with more content, and the strategy guides just aren’t.
What this all reveals is an inherent deficiency in the book publishing model for this sort of strategy guide. Finding a relative market void, an entire business has sprung up of self-published guides that can be updated often and kept complete. The majority of these are of the format to tell the reader how to quickly gain experience points and level up as quickly as possible. The common thing lacking from almost all of these guides is the key element that has made WoW so successful: fun.
So within this industry, as it were, a new type of guide was begun: a guide designed to offer tips and advice and let the player play the game for himself, while taking a bit of the guesswork out of the experience and making it overall more fun. This project is known as the Azeroth Advisor, and requires a special sort of author. As opposed to the levelling guides which are largely written by one or two people and very narrow in scope, the Advisor requires a plethora of authors and editors to cover every aspect of the game. So what is needed are gamers that intimately familiar with WoW from personal experience and who also possess the writing skills suitable to write something that people will not only find informative, but will enjoy.
This is where I came in, in August 2006. After playing the game for literally years, I had precisely the knowledge needed, as well as the requisite writing ability. I discovered the Advisor through one of their banner ads on one of the various WoW resource websites I frequent. That ad linked me to this page which says, in short, “If you write a 500-800 word article and it’s what we’re looking for, we’ll pay you $25 and give you more articles to write for more money.” It seemed then, and still does, an incredible deal. To get paid for something I already have — knowledge and diction — from the comfort of my own home, on my own hours.
For the next week, I labored over my sample essay, over various elements such as whether to include minor, but relevant topics, and if there was any way to get the final draft under 800 words. In the end, I didn’t find any way to pare it down, but not before proofreading it countless times and drafting my father as editor to make sure it was as perfect as I could make it. It must have been perfect enough (Yeah, I can use relative absolutes. Want to fight about it?) because a few days later I found a job offer in my email inbox.
The rest is, as they say, history. I immediately began writing and sending off articles and getting to know the whole system. Before too long, they began moving me up to more complex articles on broader topics that paid more. For example, at first I was getting $25 for most every article I wrote, and nowadays I rarely get assigned one for less than $50 with the occasional $75 piece in there.
Heck, they even like me so much that one of the sample newsletters they let the public see has an article written by your humble narrator. It’s the one entitled “The Cost of Greatness” at the top. It’s fairly nerdy jargon, but it’s exactly the ability to spout such parlance that ended up earning me about $800 from August to December 2006. For a high school kid working a part-time job at the local that pays about $100 per month, that’s quite a chunk of change.
And if this job seems too good to be true, I completely agree with you. I’m still amazed that I’ve found the best job in the world for me right now.