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How to Break into Video Game Writing


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Hi, I'm Olivia Frias -- video game writer and general nerd / F&SF enthusiast. I thought I'd use this first post as an opportunity to both introduce myself and to give a little background on what I do (and how you can do it too!).

I got into writing for games as a sort of happy accident after moving to LA in 2011 while trying to become a screenwriter. Back then, there weren't many dedicated game writers (also known as "narrative designers"). Most of the people who wrote games were contracted screenwriters and novelists hired through agencies. I was only able to get my first position as a production assistant working at Sony, which eventually lead to my first writing job, because I was willing to work for $10 an hour.

Today the landscape has changed. It is a growing field with a lot of open positions for part time contract work or a full time stable "day job" for novelists. There's a lot of material out there about learning how to write for games, and why game writing is different from writing for novels or tv / film. A good starting primer is this quick read from the Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines writer, https://www.gamedeveloper.com/design/a-practical-guide-to-game-writing

While there's lots of information on game writing craft, there is far less information on how to actually get a job writing games.The first thing I wish I had known going in was that, unlike TV, you don't need an agent or an industry connection to find out about positions. You can literally just apply online like a regular job. Search for "game writer" or "narrative designer" on sites like Indeed or LinkedIn, and you'll find a lot of options.

Now that you know how to find jobs, how do you stand out from the crowd?

  1. Write the Right Resume - The first thing you'll want to do is highlight your published works first. For a lot of studios, published, or even self-published, novels are a huge plus. Focus less on day jobs that are not writing or games related.

  2. Learn the Tools of the Trade - If you haven't worked as a game writer before, it's very important to have interactive samples. Twine is a good learning tool and a great way to make your first interactive short story. Make sure to include a link to the game in your resume or cover letter.

  3. Be a Gamer - In your interview, you will be asked what sort of games you play. You'll need an answer. If you're not up on current trends, some games that narrative designers tend to love are Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War (2018), Life is Strange, Disco Elysium, and old-school point and clicks like the Monkey Island games. I'd suggest checking them out. Of course, if you're already a gamer, talk about your own preferences here.

  4. Target the Right Studios - While it doesn't hurt to cast a wide net, you're unlikely to get a job at a major AAA studio on your first try. Never fear though, there are a lot of smaller studios. For novelists, a great place to start would be a studio that makes visual novels. These companies care less about games experience and more about solid writing. Some of these studios are Pocket Gems (Episode app), Pixelberry (Choices app), and Crazy Maple (Chapters app). Some of these contracts are not especially well paid, but getting a few under your belt really helps you get noticed by larger studios.

Anyway, that's my spiel for now. Let me know if you have questions in the comments down below. Stay tuned for my review of Doctor Strange 2, coming this weekend.

About the Author

Olivia Frias is a former Disney Imagineer and videogame game/interactive fiction writer. She is currently working on the upcoming social MMO Palia. Her previous credits include Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, Pirates of the Caribbean: Tides of War, Disney Heroes, Katy Perry POP, and the award-winning History Adventures series.

 

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