Ali Jones
Image: Kotaku UK, University of Warwick

How they levelled up: Ali Jones – Kotaku UK news editor

Warwick. Warwick never changes. The buses always run to their delayed beat, the Humanities building stands tall, a perpetual blot on the skyline, and The Dirty Duck remains as the only crude pub to feature faeces on its signage. In 2019 the University of Warwick might not have developed much since he wandered campus as a fresher, but Ali Jones, the recently hired news editor at Kotaku UK, definitely has.

Ali has only just taken up shop as Kotaku UK’s news editor, having spent a few years writing for PC Games N. In his daily routine he endeavours to find information that resonates with audiences. He does not just recycle the same dreary press releases we can all read ourselves but will delve into not only gaming news and updates but the communities that surround them, both players, personalities and developers alike.

His experience of Warwick is not that dissimilar to the one we have all experienced here. His time as a fresher may have been before the pre-term ‘Week 0’ existed but he still found himself forging early, lasting bonds with his flatmates and through societies which made his university experience as good as it could be. Though unlike the usual image of students, they quickly realised that big nights out were not for them.

“I remember in my fresher’s week one of my flatmates saying, ‘I feel like we are not the massive party group that people always expect of freshers’, though we did go out sometimes and we were still a very close knit group.”

We didn’t play a lot of big stuff together because we just couldn’t afford it

And this more insular crowd did have its benefits. They were always able to find friends to hang out with in the kitchen, enjoying even in the more cramped and less glamorous halls of residence Cryfield had to offer. Many of them were humanities students, Ali himself studied English and they found the lack of contact hours provided them with some downtime between reading to relax and bond. This included going online in multiplayer titles like League of Legends (LoL) and Speed Runners. The games also allowed him to keep in touch with his school friends and not experience the FOMO that single-player narratives can induce when you know your flatmates are free. Even six years later, LoL is still a huge part of Ali’s life and helps him keep in contact with his old friends, a fact he believes his university self would be pleasantly surprised with.

“We didn’t play a lot of big stuff together because we just couldn’t afford it and I also wouldn’t have been able to run it with my laptop. Over time I needed a seperate keyboard, screen and a cooling pad underneath it all. The only games I could run were free or indie but they were enough”.

Towards the latter part of his first year Ali also decided to reach outside of this group and take part in more of what Warwick had to offer. The freetime he was afforded by his degree would still be spent with friends but would also be devoted to this paper’s Games section that he would come to write and edit for.

“One of the reasons I started doing The Boar at all was that I realised that if anybody asked what I did with my time at university I would have to say ‘I hang out with my friends, we go to the pub’ and that was about it. It wasn’t a decision to push a career thing but a sense of ‘Oh God, you haven’t done anything other than academia’. It was time to find something to do.”

The inclusion of a section dedicated to Ali’s hobby drew him in

In the summer following the first year of his course, Ali took up the opportunity The Boar provided on his doorstep and started to write about video games. When video gaming at university does not necessarily “fill the social headlines” that other sections like Lifestyle and News can, the inclusion of a section dedicated to Ali’s hobby drew him in.

“I appreciate and have always thought The Boar does some great journalistic work, in a traditional news sense, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to do this specific type of entertainment journalism and if that hadn’t been there it would never have crossed my mind in joining”.

However Ali did not initially see his involvement progressing past being a writer. It was not until he realised that the then editor would be stepping down going into her final year that he thought to throw his hat into the ring. He did not have high hopes, with strong competition facing him at elections, but after they all wound up in other roles Ali found himself standing unopposed and victorious. Though that is not to suggest he did not deserve his position. Ali worked to ensure the issues of the paper under his reign provided readers a reason to check out what The Boar Games had to say. When game news can be so volatile, with releases pushed back at the last minute on occasion, he wanted to give people a brief overview of the weeks ahead, to find something to be excited by in upcoming developments.

“My approach was very newsy. I had a column dedicated to what was going to happen in the two weeks before the next issue would be published, what games would be coming out, what events would be going on. I wanted people, who maybe weren’t paying attention to the games industry all the time, to find something that appealed to them and to know what was happening. It might not have always worked but I was and am proud of how it came together”.

I made an effort to write everyday

This drive, to keep people up to date and write regularly continued when Ali found himself unsure of what to do next. “I left Warwick in the middle of 2016 and really had no plan whatsoever. I went home for the summer, just kinda treated it as a normal holiday and then moved back up to Coventry and got a job at The Duck for a bit. It was fine because it was enough for me to pay rent and then I managed to work for a bit doing data entry for the company that runs Unitemps”.

“This started to give me time and income to be able to play new stuff and to write too. I made an effort to write everyday. I had a blog which I had shared with a handful of people but it was basically for me to practice. I would write about what games I had played, the films and TV I had watched, really just anything. Sometimes it would be 1500 words, others it would get to 11:55 pm and I would quickly write a short paragraph about what had happened to me that day. I think in all of 2017 I missed about eight days, four of which were because I was on holiday which I think is fair”.

Ali used these articles not only as a demonstration of his drive and writing ability but as an opportunity to develop his voice. This exercise would help him secure a job at PC Games N, showing that success and opportunities in the career of your dreams can come even a year after your university experience has ended. Given this strategy’s success within his own life, it is no surprise that Ali’s first piece of advice to aspiring artists is: “Make”.

Everyone is interested in games, you have to show you really want to be a writer

“It doesn’t have to be writing it can be video, it can be audio, just have something to show for it. If you want a full-time job the best thing you can do is show that you aren’t just applying because you think it is a cool thing. Everyone is interested in games, you have to show you really want to be a writer or video editor, you have to be able to show that you care about this thing you want to do”.

With his second piece of advice being to follow this passion for what you want to do by finding your niche based on what you enjoy playing.

“There are so many games out there that have huge audiences but no one covers them because they don’t know how to. People will always be available to write about Death Stranding and Destiny 2 but maybe for games like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV, there are not necessarily the same people that are in those communities deep enough to understand and write about them. But if you do then your coverage will be better and appreciated more by readers”.

If you want to see more of Ali Jones, you can find him on Twitter, @ali_jones94 or at Kotaku.co.uk. Also if you liked this interview, check out our ones with Emma Kent and Andrea Rene!

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