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How Long is a Video Game Script?

Video game graphics have evolved significantly over the years, and there has been an equally impressive leap in the quality of writing and narrative development. The ability to pen an interesting tale, filled with memorable characters is a valuable trait among game studios of all sizes. This makes video game writing an excellent profession. If you love video games and telling a good story, then becoming a video game writer is likely a dream job for you. The more you learn about this expansive industry, the easier it will be to break into it.

 What Does a Video Game Writer Do?

A game writer can engage in a variety of activities, depending on the scope and genre of the game title. Like any game developer, the writer works in conjunction with team members throughout a project. The teammates can be fellow writers or other developers such as level designers. As game writers expand upon the game design document, all aspects of production will touch the game writer’s room at some point.

Of course, a game writer’s main job is to author text used within the digital world. There is character dialogue, backstory, flavor text, and so much more to consider when building the world to the level of detail demanded by modern gamers.

What are Some Elements in a Game that a Writer Works On?

Video game writing comes in all shapes and sizes. Here are some of the most common assignments that video game writers and narrative designers collaborate on:

Backstory and World Building

The world that the game takes place in existed long before the player set foot in it. To sell this illusion, game writers are tasked with creating backstory for pivotal characters as well as an explanation of how the world came to be in its current state. What interesting things must the audience know about the world and its characters? Asking these questions and coming up with satisfying answers is what game writing is all about.

Dialogue

In most stories, the narrative is driven by words and actions. Each word a character says must be carefully considered by the game writer. It can be tempting to add as much spoken dialogue as possible, but a general rule of thumb is to limit character lines to things that add to the overall gaming experience. A conversation can propel the story forward or just provide some comic relief for the audience. A skilled game writer can pen conversations that serve multiple purposes at once. For example, you can give a character an endearing line that teaches the audience more about them in the middle of a serious narrative moment.

Plot Event Planning

The plot is how a game writer describes and explains the actions of each character. People do not just randomly do things. There is always some driving force or impetus for taking any given action. Your job when writing the plot is to give characters a motivation or explainable reason for all of the actions they perform throughout the story. Beyond a justifiable explanation, the events of the plot must also make sense and be placed in a logical order, making the story easy enough for an audience to follow.

Character Writing

Developing characters requires extensive brainstorming and planning. The characters must be engaging in their own story while also being relevant to the plot. Since all basic story structures have been done before, true innovation in writing comes from building characters. There will always be new and interesting character concepts as writers continue to explore new possibilities in language and behavior. The more you learn and observe about others, the more you can create your own unique characters for your gaming world.

Flavor Text

Players who explore a game world will come across many objects and items throughout the journey. Making a game immersive requires the placement of each object in a meaningful way. One of the easiest ways to add significance to an item is through flavor text. This text gives background information about an object and explains why it is in the world to begin with. Inventory item descriptions are the most common example of this. However, flavor text can be for more than just items. Audio logs, written notes, and other narrative-based collectibles can all fit the bill. A game writer must compose at least a few sentences for each of these elements.

What is a Video Game Script?

A video game script details everything that a game player will come across during their adventure. This includes all spoken and written words, plot events, and even certain action sequences. Depending on the type of game, some content will either be included or excluded from the script. For instance, a door exploding and revealing three enemies sounds like a random choice by a level designer. However, an event like this is woven into the script so the player can progress. The newly opened door also serves as a gateway to the previously inaccessible area where the player’s goal resides.

Think of a game’s script as though you were reading a novel that details everything that will appear on a player’s screen. The entire development studio then follows the written script to create each scenario featured in the final version of the game. The script is a blueprint that keeps each team member on the same page throughout the project.

How Long is a Video Game Script?

Like any story, the length of a video game script depends on the scope and genre of the project. Arcade games from the 80s and simple platformers, like the original Super Mario Bros, can be summed up in just a few short paragraphs. In games such as these, parts of the level design do not need to be included in the script as each bottomless pit and other obstacles are placed specifically as a challenge for the player. The total story elements can be summed up in just a few words, so the script reflects that.

In the middle of the spectrum is a linear game from the late 2000s such as the Uncharted series. The script for each Uncharted game is far longer than Mario. In addition to the vast amounts of character dialogue, the script must also include the action events that drive progression along. The example of an exploding door given above fits perfectly into an Uncharted game. With all the words and events written out, the script for a game in this category could easily eclipse 100 pages.

Finally, there are massive open world RPGs such as Skyrim or the Witcher 3. The countless hours of dialogue, quests, and miscellaneous notes to read in these games must all be referenced in the script. When you factor in everything that a player can do in large open worlds, the script will undoubtedly be over a thousand pages long. Now you can see why games of this size take half a decade or more to finish.

How Do You Become a Game Writer?

With the basic introductions out of the way, you may be wondering how to actually become a video game writer. Although everyone’s career follows a unique path, there are two main learning paths to choose from. You can practice the self-study route by learning from online tutorial resources, or you can attend a formal education program. Despite each option being tempting, one of them has some serious advantages over the other.

The Self-Study Path

Going the self-study route involves scavenging the Internet for every resource you can find. The challenge here is that the quality of information varies dramatically between each source. Tutorial makers are often hobbyists who just wish to share what works for them. While this way offers some interesting information, a budding professional might want to take their future more seriously.

Each lesson learned online may not correlate to the next tutorial series. The result is a mix of disorganized knowledge that may be outdated or filled with inaccuracies. Should you build a portfolio and apply for jobs, there is a high probability of your work not meeting the standards of the studio. If you do manage to get hired, you will still need to fight bad habits you picked up online along the way. At the end of the day, this method offers too many unknown variables for most people to succeed.

The Formal Education Path

To make things easier on yourself, you can attend a digital arts college and enroll in a degree program with an emphasis on game writing. A structured curriculum is exactly what most people need to succeed. These degree programs follow a logical order and are taught by instructors with experience in the industry. The material you study is carefully curated by a team of professionals that are tapped into the video game landscape.

The insider knowledge you receive at a digital arts college will make acclimating to the workforce far easier. You will know what is expected of you when building a portfolio and interviewing for positions. You will also know how to operate the software on the first day of the new job. Many of the classes involve working with teams to create small game projects. Each project can be shown off on a portfolio website to prospective employers.

Speaking of teams, you will earn valuable experience working in teams throughout the degree program. Not only will you learn how to compromise, and resolve conflicts, but you can also start building your network. Your fellow students will eventually graduate and start working in the games industry. The more connections you make while in school, the more job leads you will have throughout your career. While your talent is important, getting a job is often contingent on who you know.

Final Thoughts

Getting your first job as a game writer will be much easier if you graduate from a digital arts college. Not only do you have the reputation of a major institution behind you, but you can also enjoy career services. A career service staff member will match your profile with relevant entry-level jobs at studios in the community. Since getting your first job may be the hardest part of becoming a game writer, you will want all the help you can get. Let University of Silicon Valley help you find the dream job you are looking for.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about writing for video games interest you? Today, the creative and financial success of major game releases increasingly depend on the strength of the game’s world, characters, and story. University of Silicon Valley’s new Bachelor’s in Game Art Game Writing degree concentration—one of only a few such programs in the world—was developed to empower and support aspiring writers and narrative designers who want to be a part of this bold new storytelling frontier.

University of Silicon Valley is uniquely poised to offer a meaningful and valuable education for 21st century students. We believe in an education that directly correlates with the work you’ll be doing after you graduate. Interested in learning more? Contact Us today.

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