Alumna Rebekah Valentine has found a way to make a living by combining two of her loves — video gaming and writing.
In May, Valentine landed a job with GamesIndustry.biz, the lead video gaming trade publication. After four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites, she is filling the role of North American staff writer.
“On a day-to-day basis, I am responsible for looking for news that needs to be written up on our website,” Valentine said. “I get to interview developers, publishers and people who are involved in the industry, and ask some of the tougher questions. Sometimes they give me a canned PR response, but other times, when they are super upfront and honest, they give you some insightful points and you end up getting a really good story from it.”
Valentine said the most rewarding aspect of her job is the ability to talk about topics that might make even a very small difference.
“I hope to help make the gaming industry better for everybody,” she said.
Valentine recently attended the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2018, also known as E3. According to its website, the conference features hardware manufacturers, software developers and publishers from the video game industry as they present new and upcoming products to attendees — primarily, retailers and members of the video game press.
“Going to events like that, whether its E3, GDC, PAX or anything else, is a really good way to network and talk to publishers, developers and make connections that are more likely to send you news and new games ahead of time,” Valentine said.
E3 is one of the biggest video game conferences in the United States, and Valentine said it was simply incredible.
“It was a defining moment for me because I realized that that was what I wanted to do,” she said. “I had such a great time talking to developers and trying out games, and in the midst of all of this, and I thought to myself, ‘I want to do this. This is great.’”
A delicious hobby
While Valentine was freelancing for different sites and magazines, she was also cooking her way through the World of Warcraft cookbook.
“I didn’t have any particular skill at it, but I like to cook,” Valentine said. “The thing I loved about the World of Warcraft cookbook was that it was so diverse. It had Asian-inspired recipes, cool baked goods, alcohol, some pub food, chicken fingers and even a recipe for a Christmas turkey.
“I got the cookbook on Christmas Eve and had planned to do a turkey the next day by using a recipe online, but I woke up in the morning and suddenly had this flurry of panic. I thought, ‘I don’t know how to cook a turkey. How am I supposed to do this?’”
She flipped open her Christmas gift cookbook, found the recipe and gave it a whirl — and it worked.
“Chelsea Monroe-Cassel saved my Christmas morning,” Valentine said with a laugh.
After her first cookbook success, Valentine had the confidence she needed to continue trying recipes. It took a little more than a year for her to cook, bake and taste all 100 recipes in the cookbook.
Valentine had been pitching stories to bigger outlets throughout this time and was trying to publish a story where her name would be seen, she said.
“That was the first story that I had accepted — ‘Cooking through the World of Warcraft Cookbook,’” Valentine said. “It was a really great story that was fun to write, so while I was waffling around, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself, I thought, ‘I could do more video game food.’ So I will probably continue pursuing that in my free time since I enjoy cooking.”
A purpose for her work
Valentine enjoys playing “laid back, cute, sweet and relaxing” video games including Monument Valley, Pokémon Go and World of Warcraft, and she credits former Newman English professor Suzanne Berg and her husband, Bill Berg, for encouraging her to write about games.
“I was over at their house, just having dinner and hanging out, and I was working as a technical writer right out of college,” Valentine said. “It was a good job, it paid good money and paid the bills, but it wasn’t super fulfilling. I was missing creative writing, but I didn’t know what to do about that, and I just thought, ‘I wish I had some fun writing to do, or some way to publish.’
“Bill, at the time, was writing for a sports site on the Fansided Network and he said, ‘Well, they have a gaming site that is looking for writers. You should go write for video games.’ And I said, ‘Bill, I play some video games, like Assassin’s Creed, but I’m not really into video games. I don’t have any experience. Why would they hire someone like me?’
“Suzanne chimed in and said, ‘No, you need to go do it. You would have so much fun.’ She was just so encouraging of the idea and kept saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, just try.’”
Valentine added, “The company picked me up and I got bumped up to editor in a year, and then I was an editor there for two years. That was the whole reason that I discovered I even liked video games.
“I’m totally not where I expected to be — not even in the slightest.”
Words of advice
Reflecting on her time at Newman, Valentine said there are a few lessons learned that stick out the most.
“I remember professors saying that whether you’re an English major or not, the humanities teach you how to think. They teach you how to problem-solve and be creative, and to look at situations in new ways.
“Dr. (Marguerite) Regan told us that you sometimes have to write 20 pages of garbage, and then when you look through the 20 pages of garbage, on page 14 you see your opening paragraph. That is one of the best writing lessons I’ve learned — is to stop, turn off the personal editor and just write a bunch of personal garbage until you find it in there somewhere.”
When Valentine was an English major, she thought the only potential paths for her included earning her master’s, Ph.D., or being an English teacher — but she quickly learned that is not true.
“There are so many jobs for English and humanities majors, you just have to be smart about how you look. You have to be willing to try a bunch of things to figure out where you fit. Demand to get paid for your work, and if you make the choice not to be paid for your work, don’t be ashamed about it, but get paid for your work as quickly as you possibly can. Your work is valuable.”
Valentine said her main goal right now is simply to breathe.
“I went through a time when I was pitching ideas like crazy, picking up contract work, working a full-time day job at the same time, writing for App Trigger, reviewing games, writing for two other outlets and picking up freelance pieces,” she said. “I didn’t sleep a lot, my husband didn’t see me very much and I worked really hard. So I think for now, I just want to focus on breathing.”
Below are examples of what Rebekah Valentine is up to and opportunities to view some of her work.