From short stories and novels to sitcoms and major motion pictures, writers are an essential part of a process. Sometimes writers are solely responsible for the genesis and execution of a creative work. At other times, they are brought in to finish a project, spruce up the dialogue, or supplement an ongoing project with new characters in need of motivation or subplots and side adventures. Every medium, genre, and format that requires writing works a little differently; we’re all probably the most familiar with writing advice aimed at the big and small screens. In this piece, however, we’ll look at some ways you can pursue a writing career in my world: Gaming and the metaverse.
Video game creative writing has quickly become one of the most innovative arenas for writers in the 21st century. Imagine Todd Meier’s “Civilization” without leader motivations, steampunk scenarios and wistful narrator musings to distract and amuse while the game loads. No comic book-based action-adventure game would have any elan were it not successfully adapted from its source material of lengthy scripts to bring the characters and story to life. Role-playing games with their various outcomes just doesn’t feel organic without realistic consequences to smooth the action back into the cutscenes. And lest we forget, cutscenes themselves can be longer than entire trilogies worthy of their own edited presentations on YouTube.
As with any other profession, skills must be developed, nurtured and honed. An education in creative fiction writing might not be necessary for everyone, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the skills and experience that go along with that particular degree when job hunting. Even spending time in a university drama department can yield valuable skills when it comes to directing voice actors to give life to your characters.
On the flip side, having a grasp on the nuances of back end game creation and development can be just as useful when building a realistic and cohesive narrative for a digital universe. Understanding the creative bounds and potential of coding will give you, the writer, context for how the overall product is developed with developers on the technical side.
Here are some recommended steps you can take now:
- Really, truly, obsessively study video games. Play them to be sure, but take notes on the successes and failures of each. Is there a thread or theme that runs from the opening credits until your sign off? Do characters interact hyper-specifically to each other, their environment, and the prompts and buttons of the player?
- Be the writer you want to become. Writers write – don’t just dream it, be it. Write short stories and novellas because you love telling stories. Write poetry to make your prose shine. Keep a journal of ideas, notes, brief excerpts of conversations real and imagined.
- Seek assignments from local publications for the professional experience, whether or not it yields a paycheck. The criticism and feedback provided by the editors and fellow writers will be essential in your personal writing process. Writing for a timed publication will also teach you the importance of meeting a deadline
- Make friends with other writers! Even well-known writers you’d think would never give you the time of day. Join creative collaborations with amateur artists and game designers, many of whom frequent game shops where good old fashioned dice rolling RPGs are sold. Established writers don’t have all the time in the world for folks that aren’t serious; but if you’re tenacious and respectful of the craft and show some actual promise in your work, you’ll find that 99% of professional writers are somewhat approachable and there are many ways for this to manifest.
- Explore digital art! As digital artwork and artists have become part of the vernacular and are bridging the gap between fine art and gaming, taking the time to catch a show or deep dive into digital art archives will provide you with a base level understanding of the imaging and universe creation that you’ll be writing for – context is everything!
- Make your own hypothetical video game or find someone who can build your ideas into a real interactive prototype. Be prepared to hire someone and don’t be afraid to fight for the integrity of your vision while also yielding to the limits of the technology. Remember you’re still learning about the creative process here and see this is a stepping stone towards future success.
- Build your writing portfolio. The more work you can show prospective partners and employers the better. Consider the range and type of work in your portfolio as well. Don’t be afraid to include a variety of writing projects and experiments – nothing is too short or off-base as long as it is of quality.
- Apply for jobs in the industry and go on interviews. Learn to take criticism and “No” for an answer and how to persist without being a pest. Do it for the practice and don’t be afraid to come back for more. Many employers eventually hire the person who appears to want the job the most.
Be patient. No one gets anything they want quickly especially in a competitive field like video game design, but be persistent and eventually this practice will bear fruit.