NowGamer announced a competition the other day with a fabulous prize: your very own column, just like a real games journalist! No more crapping out endless game reviews for this is your ticket to the big leagues.

I’m tempted to enter. After all, I already write a gaming blog every week for free: you’re reading it. Yet there’s a difference between writing Reality Check every week for Split Screen, a site that makes a net loss after web hosting costs; and NowGamer, a site owned by one of the biggest publishing houses in the UK.

Professional games journalists around the country were furious, and rightly so: most have worked very hard to get where they are today, and if you’re good enough to get published, you’re good enough to get paid. The difference between a review I’ve written for Strategy Informer or Split Screen is only in terms of remuneration, not quality of writing. On the other hand, if you’ve never been paid or received critical acclaim from someone outside your circle of friends, your writing should be assumed crap until proven otherwise.

I remember when ‘working for free’ was called ‘volunteering’. You’d go along to a charitable organisation (or a relative’s failing small business, which amounts to the same thing really) and help them out, because they were a good cause. If you want a career in journalism, writing for a major newspaper or website for free is not a good cause: it’s exploitation of your talent.