Writing for Games

‘The Horror genre has long been a cornerstone in computer and console games, from Phantasmagoria to Doom, Alone in the Dark to Plants versus Zombies–and many in-between. In the early days, game developers themselves wrote all the text for a game, but in more recent times, many game companies have come to value the polish only trained and experienced writers can provide. This is presenting a wealth of opportunities for writers. The games industry is a demanding mistress, however, and in order to succeed, you must be devoted to her.’ –  Angel Leigh McCoy, writer/game designer at ArenaNet  

Do you play games? I don’t mean mind games. We all play those in some form or another. I’m talking about role playing and video games. If you don’t play them, you probably won’t have a feel   for the intricacies involved in game writing. You also won’t have a clue what makes a game work, what makes it fun from your own experience. If you want to write games, you have to play them.

So … you’ve played some games and now you think you’re ready to write them. Well … slow down. Breaking into the industry can be a little on the hard side. Get ready to network. Go to trade shows, conventions, and any other industry get togethers that you can find out about. Collect as many business cards as possible. Make friends with as many industry players as you can. This also holds true for anything in the writing industry.

Write a few reviews on games for gaming magazines. Some game magazines hire freelancers, but they expect in-depth, well thought out reviews. It’s not like writing a review for your blog. An added bonus with being a reviewer is that, like with book reviewing, you get a lot of freebies to play with. Another avenue to pursue is writing game guides and role playing game books. Here’s an interesting post on getting into game writing: http://blog.ubi.com/the-write-stuff-on-becoming-a-game-writer/

Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door with game writing etc you would normally end up writing the setting and character sketches, and the general plot based on what the game developer comes up with on the ideas front. You’ll have to get comfortable creating new and complex worlds. It is your job to give the necessary tools to a gamer or game master to play the game and create their own story along with the other players. You can’t just carry them along on the story the way you think it should go. You aren’t writing it for yourself; you are writing it for other players.

You also have to give them choices. If you don’t want a player to go through a certain door because you haven’t actually put anything behind it, you have to give them a reason why they can’t. You can’t just leave them standing in front of it, trying to open it. You also have to give them another option of where to go. There are also certain rules that you have to stick to in the game. Learn the settings and the rules for the game and stick to them. There is no leeway. No breaking of rules allowed.

Get used to collaborating with other writers. Novel writing is a very solitary occupation, but game writing is the exact opposite. You work in a team, which is made up of other writers, designers, engineers, actors or voice over artists, directors, and sound engineers. Working in a team comes with its own set of problems as well as bonuses. You don’t get to decide everything, but you do have a lot of back up, people to bounce ideas off of, and you don’t have to do it all alone.

In horror games, you get to play more with the mood and the ambience. Just think how much fun you can have with the sound effects that are designed to scare the living daylights out of the most seasoned of players.

So … if you like playing games, you can write, and you can handle working in a team, then game writing may just be an avenue that is worth exploring. Good luck!

There are sadly not a lot of books available about game writing, but something to keep in mind is that game writing is similar in its requirements and style to writing a screenplay, so any book on screen writing that you can get your hands on will be helpful as well. 

Recommended reading

 

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