‘Suddenly skills like spaceship navigation and zombie slaying were transferable’ IGN’s video host Alysia Judge on breaking into games media

Alysia Judge began her career in games media whilst at university, hanging up the cocktail mixers for a gig on Official PlayStation Magazine – and is now video host at IGN. In an ongoing series of Games Media Brit List Interviews, she tells us about 24 hour Mario Kart races, not paying internet comments too much attention, and shooting her editor in the face (with a nerf gun)…

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How did you first get into the games media?

I was juggling my degree and responsibilities as editor of York University’s student paper with bartending a cocktail joint. One day, a colleague came into the bar, called for a round of celebratory shots, and announced he’d landed a job at Official PlayStation Magazine.

It hit me like a lightning bolt that I could combine my love of writing and journalism with my lifelong love of video games. Suddenly skills like spaceship navigation and zombie slaying were “transferable.” Two months later, I asked him if I could visit and do a week of work experience at the mag. A year later I was freelancing for OPM and was nominated for a Games Media Award while studying for my finals. In short, I owe that little bar in York a lot.

What advice would you give to someone currently looking at a career in games media?

Have your own voice. Too many people copy other content creators’ styles; the hyperactive energy of Pewdiepie, for example, or Zero Punctuation’s cynicism.

To be a truly effective force of analysis, we need to fill the games media with people who represent different opinions, backgrounds and ideas. What do you want to investigate? What do you want to champion? The games that we play are so diverse, our games media should reflect that - from entertaining let’s plays, to heavy-hitting examinations of the gaming’s cultural impact.

So my advice is to start experimenting now, and pitch to editors with your own ideas. If you bring something fresh to the industry, you’ll be commissioned in a heartbeat.

What’s been the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t pay comments too much heed - even the good ones. Think about it: how often do you comment on videos and articles? Most people show their appreciation by just silently coming back, day after day, and giving you their views. Pay more attention to that.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

I shot my editor in the face with a nerf gun when I was doing work experience and wasn’t fired on the spot. The only reason was because I got him dead between the eyes and he was too impressed by the accuracy.

And what has been your biggest challenge?

One of my jobs at IGN is handling sponsored content. When I joined, it was a tiny part of my role alongside hosting, but has grown as the games media continues to work out how we can financially support ourselves online.

The audience is always my priority - ensuring that we make them content that is entertaining and above all informative. The challenge is you also have to balance the needs of a client. I think we strike that balance really well at IGN, and I spend a lot of time coming up with feature ideas that hit a brief, but also provide value to our audience.

For example, we made a ‘24 Hour Mario Kart Race’ sponsored by Nintendo Switch. It demonstrated the console’s flexibility because IGN Editors had to take the hardware from docked into portable mode when they wanted to eat or use the loo, but the video also stayed true to IGN UK’s ethos of light-hearted let’s plays that aim to make our audience laugh.

Which of your competitors do you most admire and why?

I really admire the work that Mark Brown does on GameMaker’s toolkit. He was my editor when I worked at Pocket Gamer, and left to start his own channel that is now nearing 400,000 subscribers. His videos dive into the design choices behind some of our most beloved games, and are well-researched, meticulously produced, and always challenge me to think of game development in different ways.

Who’s your favourite non-games writer/presenter?

Caitlin Moran is my favourite columnist. She’s able to take on huge, complicated issues and relay them in engaging and intelligent ways. Moran’s a great example of how the millenia-old concepts of the Tragedy / Comedy theatrical masks can be harnessed in writing; Sometimes to really drive a serious point home, you need to contrast it with some comic relief. People are more receptive to change when you make them laugh - and her article for Esquire titled ‘12 Things About Being A Woman That Women Don’t Tell You’ is a great example of that.

If you weren’t working in games media, what would you be doing?

I’d probably be writing games. I’m fascinated by how video games are another way to tell stories; stories where your decisions actively drive the narrative, rather than sitting in a cinema where the action unfolds as you sit there passively.  

Best thing and worst thing about the games media?

The best thing is that you get to play so many incredible games. The worst thing is you don’t have time to play all the incredible games through to the end before the next one comes waltzing through the door.

Nominate yourself for a Games Media Brit List award here – it’s quick and easy and finalists attend the event, held on May 17th at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, completely free!