“It’s not all ‘fun and games’!” says Kate Unrau, a professional violinist and editor freelancing in Toronto, ON. “Seriously, though, I think editing games is more specialized work than people realize.”
“It’s difficult, technical work!” says Joshua Yearsley, another game editor who specializes in games and technical materials. “I actually find it more challenging than much of the scientific editing I’ve done.”
“I do find it really enjoyable, but it’s as intensive as editing anything else,” Unrau says. “You can’t let the content distract you from the basic editorial things, and you also have to understand the moving pieces involved and ensure that everything works together.”
What Needs Editing
“All the text elements need editing. Instruction books are the bulk of the editing, but often game components, such as cards, tokens, a board or a play mat, have text on them too, and that text needs to be correct and consistent. Some game books, particularly for role playing games (RPGs), are really long. Euro-style games have grown in popularity, and their rulebooks can also be quite involved,” according to Unrau.
“The rulebook is the most important part,” Yearsley says. “With a poor rulebook in their hands, players literally won’t play the right game, and that’s if they don’t give up in frustration first. Plus, if it’s a roleplaying game, then the rulebook is basically the entire product. If it’s a board game, then you’ll also need to edit the components: cards, reference sheets, and so on. Even if the components just use symbols, as the rulebook editor you might need to check that any appendices in the rulebook match the components themselves.”
How to Know If Game Editing Is for You
Unrau calls herself “a nerdy, nerdy gamer. I spend almost as much time on Board Game Geek (https://boardgamegeek.com) as most people do on Facebook,” she says. “And I have more Euro-style games on my shelf than I care to admit. I’m constantly watching reviews of new games, discussing them, and trying them out. When a game editor posted a contract proofreading opportunity (on Facebook!), I jumped on it, and it’s expanded a little from there. For me, it’s an obsessive hobby turned into a freelance opportunity, and I really enjoy it!”
Yearsley, on the other hand, saw an opening and made a move: “Kickstarter was just revving up during this time, and tabletop games were really starting to succeed, so I figured, why not see whether these independent designers need help with their rulebooks? I made some cold calls (well, emails, really) and told people about my science editing experience and my obsession with games, and some bit. My first rulebook edit was for a hard sci-fi roleplaying game, and I actually won the designer over partially on the back of my scientific background!”
“An editor who has played Settlers of Catan a couple of times and really loves Scrabble may not yet be prepared to edit games. But if gaming is something you’re really into,” Unrau says, “it’s a worthwhile niche to explore. But then, that’s my advice for any freelance editor: edit your strengths. Whatever it is you’re excited about, there’s usually a way to leverage that and bring it into your freelance portfolio successfully.”
In the next instalment, Unrau and Yearsley tell us what special knowledge and resources you need, and how big the market is. Log in to leave a comment, or join the discussion over on Facebook or Twitter.