Video games are an exciting medium filled with adventure and the potential for immersive storytelling. To tell such stories, video games employ writers to create narratives and fill in all the details that make each digital world interesting to explore. Often, it takes a full team of writers to create the massive scenarios and realms a player finds themselves in. So, you may be asking yourself, “is game writing a job?”
Is Game Writing a Job?
If you enjoy interactive entertainment, storytelling, adventure, art, and literature, then writing for video games may be the right job for you. Video game writing is an actual profession. Should you have any of the proclivities listed above, then the position can be quite fun as well.
Another fortunate thing about video game writing is the number of open positions. Not only because of the heightened demand from studios across the globe, but also due to the vast potential to work on your own indie projects with a smaller crew. The abundance of opportunities to craft the narrative elements of digital worlds makes game writing a perfectly viable career path.
What Does a Game Writer Do?
The nature of your role depends upon your experience, skillset, and the scope of the title you are working on. For instance, a 2D side scroller may only need an author or two to write the few lines of text required. Contrast this scenario with a massive open world RPG. Games of that size require a formidable staff of game writers to handle each aspect of the world. Big budget, AAA games are expected to have intricate plots, lovable characters, and plenty of lore to expand the realm itself.
Game Design Documents
While many game designers contribute to this document, it is worth noting that game writers can dictate most of the pre-production script. This is especially true in narrative focused games without a lot of action. It also depends on the method of game design used by the studio. Some games are created by building levels first and catering the story later. Others tell a story and hope to add engaging interactive segments. If the production chooses to write the story first, game writers will start by creating the game design document.
Since each player enters a digital world when they start the game, they expect to interact with a place that seems alive and plausible. Worldbuilding adds background elements and details that describe the lands that gamers encounter. Fans of a particular series will do their utmost to learn everything they can about their favorite franchises. That includes the culture of the characters, towns, and media that players engage with during game play.
Plot and Scenario Writing
The meat and potatoes of any story is the events that take place. Game writers must produce and properly pace each story for optimal satisfaction. The order of story events must make sense and gradually make the audience more invested in the drama. When it comes to game development, this can be trickier than other artistic mediums. Players are often free to travel anywhere they want and can trigger certain story chapters in any order they choose. While you may not always have full control over the order in which a player sees your story, you can work with level designers to curate the critical path each person must walk to mitigate this phenomenon.
The spoken words between characters are used to convey information, advance the plot, or make your characters more endearing to the audience. Conversations between fictional characters should still sound believable. This means matching the dialect of the speech to the tone and atmosphere established by the rest of the game.
The interactive nature of video games makes dialogue writing complex. Many titles offering branching dialogue paths for game writers to accommodate. This can be as innocuous as choosing between a witty or serious reply. However, some conversation paths can lead to radically different story outcomes. Dialogue writers must work closely with game designers to ensure they do not inflate the scope of the game past the point of being feasible. If you ever wondered why games with dialogue choices only have a few endings and nullify many choices, it is to keep this delicate balance.
Most story structures have already been done. However, audiences still clamber for more stories from their favorite franchises. There are infinite possibilities when an author designing characters. There is always something clever and original that can be done with a fictional consciousness. The characters must be grounded and relatable to a certain degree, though this depends on the overall style of the project.
Flavor Text and Item Descriptions
Players will find dozens of items and see a wide range of mysterious phenomena during each digital quest they embark on. Each item or game element must have some description that explains why it is there or how it helps the player. Considering the vast number of items that require these descriptions, a game writer can easily be employed to just craft flavor text.
Marketing is generally a separate department in large studios, but it is worth noting that game writers have more say in how a game is presented at an indie studio. Should you go that route, you may work on what story events you will use in promotional materials. If you cannot hire an external marketing team as an indie, you will be tasked with promoting your game yourself.
Where Does a Game Writer Work?
Video game studios are spread throughout the globe. You have the potential to work from anywhere, even at home in some unique cases. Keep in mind that there are several robust congregations of game studios in major cities. Places like Silicon Valley are brimming with game development opportunities.
How Do You Become a Game Writer?
A great way to become a video game writer is by attending a creative arts college and enrolling in a formal education program. There are game design degree paths that place emphasis on narrative and storytelling. Technically, you only need to prove yourself as a great writer to have someone hire you. If you previously authored works in other mediums, you are all set. Since you are likely starting out in your career, it helps to build your credentials with a reputable school degree.
Throughout the curriculum at University of Silicon Valley, you will learn the skills necessary to write in an engaging story. You will also have the chance to develop your talent with the various class projects that must be completed to graduate. Not only do these projects hone your ability, but they can also serve as portfolio pieces to show future employers. Your portfolio is a collection of written works that demonstrate your merit. It is a measure of the credentials you need to earn respect and a place within the video game industry.
Game writing classes are also a great way to build a network of digital entertainment contacts. Your fellow classmates will one day be working on games as well. Connecting with as many classmates as possible exponentially expands your career options. The school itself can be a great networking resource, too. The career services department will help match you with relevant game writing jobs after graduation. You may even connect with an instructor or administrator that works on their own projects. You never know when someone will call with a great job opportunity.
What Will You Learn During a Game Writing Program?
Before diving into the media of video games in this program, you will first explore what drew humanity to storytelling in the first place. You will learn what makes fiction exciting. Key concepts such as character design, story structure, tone, and atmosphere are covered in depth. Once you know how stories work, you are ready to apply that knowledge to digital spaces.
As you begin with your own class projects, you will practice with the various game writing roles required to finish a project. You will create your own characters, write dialogue, craft cutscenes, and develop mission parameters. With some experience, you will take the role of narrative lead on a simulated game project. Being a narrative lead teaches you how to maintain a schedule, allocate resources, and mediate problems. The goal is to show you that game writers must be flexible and closely collaborate with other game designers.
You will then explore even more advanced concepts near the end of the program. Narrative leads are often tasked with mentoring junior members of the team. The later classes simulate this exchange allowing you to share what you have learned with others. Not only does this prove your mastery within your discipline, but also builds your confidence. By the end of the program, you will be ready to make a name for yourself as a video game writer.
Anyone looking to become a game writer has an exciting journey ahead of them. Video game studios are amongst the most satisfying and enjoyable places to work. There is constant challenge and immense fun. As popular entertainment becomes more ubiquitous across the globe, a constant stream of new game writing jobs will continue to become available.
Now you know, game writing is a job. Ready to learn more about becoming a game writer? 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 Design – Game Writing focus—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.