The Metaculture's Guide To VR Journalism
We're no experts on the field, but it might be time for this guide to exist.
The Metaculture began as a place to put longer articles that weren't a fit for magazines with a limited word count. We had a desire to dive deeper on specific tech-related subjects, and wanted to do so in a space that allowed for that to happen.
From this, grew a small publication that's been helpful in directing various readers, journalists and users alike, to niche spaces within VR for further exploration. So far, we've made some pretty big connections (as big as CNN!) that we're very proud of.
But from these accomplishments grow more questions, and more voices wanting to join the fray. How does one begin writing about VR culture? What constitutes a good subject for criticism and review?
Here's a guide on what we publish for anyone interested, plus some tips on finding your own way through this developing field.
This set of recommendations assumes you know the basics of article writing, and are just looking for extra pointers to help you get started.
What Does The Metaculture Write About, Exactly?
There's some discrepancy with what the publication looks for in writing articles. This might be a helpful list for others looking to get into writing about VR, too.
- Major developments in multiplayer XR and MMOs
- Historical throwbacks in MMOs, dying worlds and related tech
- Benchmarks and major events in VR
- Essays and reviews relating to the like.
We do not cover:
- The personal, private lives of artists (unless they specifically request it, fits our publication, or is historically significant to know the details in how it affects a VR world)
- Salacious rumors
- Limited POVs of an event
If you write about a general event in VR, try to get multiple sources and interviews. Try to also get one person's opinion who has an opposing view of what's happening in order to round out your article. Everyone inevitably writes with a bias, but you should try to make your view as neutral as possible when presenting information.
Where Should I Host My Articles?
It's recommended to host any articles you write on your own website if they aren't being published by anyone else. Online writing platforms shift a lot in scope and revenue generation plans, and often writers can get the short end of the stick when this happens. But if you're looking to get started and don't have any money to spend, we recommend Medium and Substack as suitable places to house your writing. Be sure to keep backups of any articles you upload--you might move to another service one day, and will want an easy way to take your work with you.
What Makes For A Good Interview Subject?
Not everyone is what we call "media-ready". A media-ready person is someone who is comfortable with answering questions with a journalist, is perfectly at ease in front of the camera, and realizes their name/username/likeness will be seen by a public audience. Usually article subjects who are media-ready are people who are already selling something, such as a Twitch streamer or public personality. They want the spotlight because they can use it in turn to receive more followers. Writing about such a person involves a mutual exchange, and makes for a great interaction.
Some caution should be applied if you believe your work will lead you to interview a private user. A "private user" is someone who, although they might have social media accounts, doesn't actively seek the spotlight in any way. Some private users are still performers, but they don't engage in performance art for monetary gain. Ask this person if they are okay with being interviewed for what you're writing about, and then ask again if they're comfortable with that article being read by a public audience they might not know.
How Serious Should My Article Be?
Imagine picking up a newspaper to thumb through it. Everything is positive--good vibes, bro and peace love unity respect. It all ends great. There's no hard questions, there's no interviews with anyone who might be worried about anything going wrong. It's fake, plastic, boring. That's not how the real world works.
The real world isn't all doom and gloom, either. You don't turn the corner and see dour updates everywhere you look. Too much of either positive or negative, and you end up mentally checking out. Keep that in mind as you write.
Life is a random assortment of ups and downs, and you are a reflection of the world as someone covering a facet of it. Write about news that makes you joyful and believe in VR as a medium, but also ask questions and point out when a group of users or devs are hurt or upset over something.
What Makes A Performer Ready For Art Criticism?
As the number of performers in VR grow and diversify, eventually reviews of their work will arrive. Here's a brief outline of what we look for before we assign critical feedback of a VR-based performer. The reviewee doesn't need to fit all of these, but they should fit most of this criteria:
- They are doing what they do for money (Patreon, ticket sales, etc).
- Their presence in their field is a major one: if they say or do something, it has a considerable affect on others or may change the scope of the entire field.
- They have been nominated for or have received a prestigious award.
- They have similar industry associations who regularly interact with them, VR-related or not.
- They have enough experience and work behind them to indicate maturity in their methods.
In other words, don't review new artists unless they specifically request it. You will harm them and potentially stifle their growth. Let that artist grow first, and then you can look back at their respective work to give honest enough feedback on where they can improve.
Does This Mean Someone Can Criticize Me Too?
You didn't think the sword just pointed one way, did you?
Your readers will criticize you, first and foremost. They're your customers! They will rightfully complain if you aren't doing your job, and they will send in requests if they want you to cover something specific. Take it as a compliment and keep reaching for new heights in your writing.
Investigative reports always inevitably get a complaint. This is why it's imperative to be neutral, and interview subjects from all sides of the issue.
Do You Have Any More Tips?
- Never write angrily. Wait a day and write then.
- Snark is for op-eds, not general coverage.
- Even if you don't like someone on a personal level, if you are aiming to write about a field historically then you have an obligation to mention its major figures. However, if that figure is abusive or otherwise toxic in some way, it's fine to neutrally present their abuses as a sidenote. Check out Wikipedia articles for how this is handled.
- Other reporters are not your rivals, they're your friends. You will learn in time that trading tips is important. Offer to be there for them if they need it. All of you are searching for the truth in this world; that's what binds you.
- Think about the scope of who want to be as a writer before you answer that sensational article call with a larger publication.
Last but not least: there's always someone reading, so keep digging.