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Want to write interesting articles about video games?

Thumbsticks is a home for articles that explore all aspects of video game culture and industry. We are looking for careful analysis of game art, sound, story and design and anything else that will bring a fresh and unexpected view on these subjects.

Example topics might include:

  • Re-appraising past releases and reconsidering them, with an emphasis on both the historical and the personal.
  • Explore how a game changed an aspect of your life. How did a virtual world impact the real world?
  • Examine something specific within a game and using it to explore wider issues and ideas.
  • Shining a spotlight on unique stories or communities within the video game world.
  • Or cover any aspect related to the various themes including favourite characters, defining moments, major themes, and legacy.

We do also accept pitches for some of our regular, recurring segments, but only if a regular segment isn’t tied to one author specifically. (Josh Wise’s Cut Scenes, for instance, couldn’t ever be written by anyone else.)

We do also publish reviews, and we get far more codes than we’re able to cover, but we’d often prefer a feature or piece of detailed analysis over a general review. (Sorry, PR folk, but it’s rarely worth a writer’s time to sink dozens, hundreds of hours into a game for such a small return.)

How to apply

Please write a short pitch for a proposed article, along with a brief description of your background (with links to any published samples).

We don’t accept unsolicited article submissions. Any unsolicited pieces received in part or in full without prior request from the editorial team will be discarded.

Why do we require pitches?

The editorial team at Thumbsticks endeavour to plan the site’s content weeks (or months) in advance, to ensure the maximum impact for articles and fill the site with great content year-round.

What’s wrong with unsolicited articles?

If we don’t get pitches, we can’t plan accordingly – it’s that simple.

The 3,000-word opus that you’ve spent weeks perfecting may well be fantastic, but if it clashes with another piece that has already been commissioned on the same topic, then it won’t fit in the schedule. We could have prevented such a clash at the pitch stage, and all your effort wouldn’t have been wasted.

Why are pitches better for the writers?

Pitching is one of the most important skills in freelance writing and is standard across the industry. Very few publications (if any) will accept speculative requests for work or unsolicited submissions, particularly from writers with no preceding reputation.

What makes a good pitch?

Impact is key when pitching, particularly to a new publication or when your idea is unconventional. It is your foot in the door with an editor, who often receive hundreds of pitches and may only be able to devote a few minutes to each one. If you can’t grab their attention in a couple of minutes, why will your feature grab the attention of their readers?

What do we want to see in a pitch?

Keep it short

100-200 words should be plenty! If you can’t get your point across in 200 words, then there’s no reason to believe the long-form article will be any more of an attention grabber.

Keep it professional

Pitches should be tidy, accurate and in keeping with the style of the publication.

Make it unique

You would be amazed at the number of pitches and speculative emails we receive on the same subjects, over and over again!

Sell yourself

You may be competing with other writers for similar ideas, so let us know why you are uniquely qualified to tell this particular story.

Include your clips

This is very important, especially if you haven’t written for us before – but make sure you send us links and do not send dozens of unsolicited attachments!

The important admin bit

Please ensure you read and understand the following pieces of information before submitting to Thumbsticks.

The rates

Currently, Thumbsticks has no freelance budget. This means we cannot pay for any contributions.

Why? Because the ad-supported online publishing model is fundamentally broken, and has been getting progressively worse and less sustainable over the past decade. Once upon a time, you could generate decent revenue with two or three high quality, unobtrusive ad units on each page. Year on year, display advertising revenues dropped, if they were ever there at all. (We’re looking at you, Facebook, and the pivot to video that was the beginning of the end for so many publications.)

To remedy this, advertising became more annoying. It got bigger, flashier, and louder, to try and hold people’s attention, and it started refreshing to new adverts every 30 seconds. It also became more and more abundant. It became standard practise to add a mix of in-content units (between paragraphs) and sticky units (ones that follow the reader down the page) and matched content units (that look like links to other articles) and interstitial units (ads that cover the whole screen between pages) to entire website takeovers that plaster everything in a brand.

Where articles might once have had 2-3 adverts on a page, you might run into literally dozens on an article. To make matters worse, publishers were earning less and less from advertising that was getting more and more obnoxious. The only way to try and preserve earnings was to bow to ad partner pressure and slap even more ads onto your already creaking website.

People didn’t like it, so ad blockers became the norm, which is fair enough. And given that we were earning very little from display advertising, we decided to follow the reader trend for ad blocking and just take all the adverts off Thumbsticks – to kill the problem at source, at least where we could control it. It felt good!

We have got other ways to earn money (you can support or tip Team Thumbsticks) but with no ad revenues coming in, the freelance budget all but disappeared.

What this means is that you can still write for Thumbsticks, but please be aware that, at the current time, we cannot pay for contributions.

The benefits

We offer feedback and advice to aspiring writers, both in terms of quality editing for your work on Thumbsticks, and general career and life advice when we can. You’ll often find us helping writers with job applications or freelance pitches to other sites because, above all else, we genuinely want our writers to flourish – everyone benefits from that.

We don’t set quotas for our writers, or expunge credit if a writer no longer works with us. We don’t make any unreasonable demands of anyone, and writers should beware any sites who do. Our writers do as much or as little as their life allows, and if it ever becomes too much or stops being enjoyable – for Thumbsticks, or anybody else – then they are encouraged to take a step back and, if it helps, come and have a chat to us about it.

So if you want to hone your craft and be part of an encouraging and smart team – many of whom have gone on to do some really cool things – then please get in touch.

Usage rights

Upon submission of a piece of writing to Thumbsticks, you are signalling your agreement with the following statements:

  1. The work submitted is wholly original and your own work and has not previously been published elsewhere. (Unless previously agreed with the Thumbsticks editorial team.)
  2. Thumbsticks is entitled to edit the piece as required, for accuracy or to better suit the style and tone of the site. This is done at the discretion of the editorial team, but we will involve writers in the process if substantial changes are required.
  3. Thumbsticks will publish and syndicate your work as required to maximise readability. Writers will not submit or publish their work on Thumbsticks elsewhere – including personal blogs – but linking to the published article, sharing on social media etc. is positively encouraged.

Ready to apply?

Send your query to [email protected] and put something sensible in the subject line (like “Freelance query: Proposed title of piece”) to help us spot them amongst the hundreds, thousands of emails we receive every day.