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EliteSupremacy

I Need Help From Someone With Good Knowledge Of The Subject...(Game Development)...

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I am taking a year off from college because I want to figure out exactly what it is I want to do. I was supposed to go to Bloomfield College of NJ, to major in Game Development and Design. I wanted to become involved with the art aspect of gaming ( I can draw exceptionally well, or atleast that is what I'm told ), but after thinking it through, it is the storytelling aspect of gaming that interests me the most. I love to read and write and my imagination is "out there". I could get into detail about my past and the rewards I've received for simply writing in my journal for English class. Games like Metal Gear Solid, Halo, Final Fantasy, Beyond Good and Evil, Max Payne, God of War, Silent Hill, and Jade Empire, have influenced and inspired me a lot. The only problem is that I don't know what I should major in. 1. Should I major in Game Development and Design and hope I could branch off to "Writing"? 2. Should I major in Journalism and then apply for a job position as a "Writer" for a game company? Your help would be greatly appreciated. P.S. Is it worth attending an Online college? I was thinking about The Art Institute Online program. Is it worth it? Thank you.

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Unfortunately, I can't advise you on the specifics of the industry because it's changed much since I was in it, but I can say that I strongly recommend that you pursue something that has a wide variety of applications. You may find that the quality of life issues and working conditions, or instability of employment are far more than you're willing to bear. While it's possible to hit the jackpot and get in with some company where you can do much of what you want, my understanding is that this is not likely.

So before you make any move, you need to know the job opportunities and working conditions available. I'd browse the IGDA website and Gamasutra, as well as this site, for more detail on what these particular jobs are like.

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Quote:
Original post by EliteSupremacy
I am taking a year off from college because I want to figure out exactly what it is I want to do. I was supposed to go to Bloomfield College of NJ, to major in Game Development and Design. I wanted to become involved with the art aspect of gaming ( I can draw exceptionally well, or atleast that is what I'm told ), but after thinking it through, it is the storytelling aspect of gaming that interests me the most. I love to read and write and my imagination is "out there". I could get into detail about my past and the rewards I've received for simply writing in my journal for English class. Games like Metal Gear Solid, Halo, Final Fantasy, Beyond Good and Evil, Max Payne, God of War, Silent Hill, and Jade Empire, have influenced and inspired me a lot. The only problem is that I don't know what I should major in.

1. Should I major in Game Development and Design and hope I could branch off to "Writing"?

2. Should I major in Journalism and then apply for a job position as a "Writer" for a game company?

Your help would be greatly appreciated.

P.S. Is it worth attending an Online college? I was thinking about The Art Institute Online program. Is it worth it? Thank you.


Seems to me that the gaming aspect is secondary to the storytelling and artistic side. Given your professed strengths and preferences, I'd seriously consider researching careers like Storyboard Artist, Production Designer and maybe even directing movies. Games aren't "better" than other media. Just different.

Admittedly I'm biased: I don't think story_telling_ is what game design is really about. Story _is_ important, but it's not the designer's job to _tell_ a story: that's the _player's_ job. Our role is to give the player the means and incentive to tell great stories using our games. Consider what computers have enabled users to do: Desktop Publishing, Desktop Video, Desktop Music Production... and "Desktop Storytelling". That last one is the real name for computer games. (Yes, even puzzlers; listen to a player describing a particularly challenging game of "Tetris" sometime. Successfully completing a challenge is a key element of many stories.)


You will learn far more about what makes a good story by starting with the linear media first and then, if you're still interested, moving across to interactive media. Jumping straight into the games industry, which is young, immature, dumb and full of idiots who think they know what they're doing, but don't actually have a f*cking clue, is not a good idea. The hours are long, but hey! -- at least the pay sucks!

*

Now, I fully appreciate that there are *degrees* of linearity in game-based storytelling. Some people really do enjoy playing thinly disguised logic puzzles in order to unlock the next 'chunk' of story, but that just means the story is secondary to the puzzles: make the puzzles too difficult and the incentive to find out what happens next is overwhelmed by the player's frustration.

"Aha!" I hear you cry. (Well, some of you.) "This is Myst!"

Well, yes. But it's also "Tomb Raider" and "GTA: Vice City".

While the presentation is vastly different, the key gameplay mechanisms in both "GTA: Vice City" and the "Monkey Island" series are much the same: you get a bit of story, then a bit of gameplay, after which a bit more story is revealed, depending on how you did in the bit of gameplay. In the older LucasArts titles, most of which predated CD-ROMs, the "You suck!" bits of story were short, sweet, due to the limitations of the distribution medium. (Floppy disks, for the most part. CD-ROM appeared quite late for these games, relatively speaking.)

In the GTA series, the logic puzzles are replaced primarily by 'twitch' sequences designed to test your hand-eye coordination, but this just means it appeals to a different type of player. Ultimately, the key playform is: Story hook, mission, story hook, mission, etc. If you fail, the story branches. Sometimes, there's more than one branch. This is a freedom offered by the delivery medium of the game -- CDs and DVDs can hold far more data than a reasonable bunch of floppy disks. In contrast, "Tomb Raider" was far more puzzle-oriented originally, with action sequences becoming more common in the sequels.

The most blatant illustration of this kind of game is the "Myst" series (from Cyan). These are a literal interpretation of the story-as-reward style of game design. They were very successful, but then again, the original "Choose Your Own Adventure" books didn't sell too badly either.

My point here is to illustrate that the _story_ isn't actually part of the game. It's a _reward_ for _playing_ the bits of the game that _don't_ tell a story -- for playing the bits of the game where _you_, the _player_ are doing the storytelling.

I consider this cheating. It isn't harming sales now, but it will if it continues indefinitely. Gamers will eventually see this style of game design for the flimsy cop-out it really is.

*

Others will doubtless disagree quite violently with my views. I don't care. I'm right. Every bugger else is wrong.

IMHO.


--
Sean Timarco Baggaley

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I second Wavinator's advice. It looks like you're doing some homework, judging by this thread's existence, but don't put too much faith in what you read here. There are a lot of respectable and experienced game desingers here, and there are dopes like me who just tag along, and there are some dangerous folks with a lot more ego than talent. So you'll get advice ranging from "Investigate the jobs you want to groom yourself to do them," to "Put on a tie and go get a real job, hippie," to "Master HTML. It is teh futur of teh gaeming!"

As a philosophy major, I think you should learn about storytelling, maybe major in English or something, and then learn about game writing in a more direct way. Formal education should be a groundwork. My B.A. is in a field nobody really gets employed in, but it has made me much better at everything I do. If you major in what you want your job to be, it isn't education; it's training. It's better to be trained by the industry than by some ivory tower professor who's been out of the loop for ten years.

Obviously, that's a big stack of generalizations, but I expect a college kid to be able to distull the useful bits and disregard the rest. Good luck in your future.

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All 3 of you have helped me more than over 60 people have in multiple forums. Thank you so much.

Reply #1:

-I'll definetly continue doing more research on those websites. Thank you.

Reply #2:

-Realistically, the writing and artistic sides are secondary to the gaming aspect. I've been playing games since I was 6 years old and I've only grown with them. If I had to choose to become a story teller for gaming or involve myself with the development aspect of it, I'd choose the development aspect ( if it allowed me to put my foot in the door easier ). You brought up a lot excellent ideas, points, and facts about the subject. I will definetly take into consideration all that you've said and the career choices I should look into. Thank you.

Reply #3:

-I really like the fact that you majored in Philosophy. I've been studying Philosophy, as well as Greek Mythology for the past couple years and it is part of the reason why I'd love to write stories based on my knowledge and imagination. I always said that if I couldn't get into the gaming industry, I'd become a Philosophy teacher. I really appreciate your honesty and help. I'm going to take all that I've gathered and work from there. Thank you.

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Journalism is irrelevant to writing fiction, you would want to major in creative writing, literature, or communications/drama instead. And even then, a college program is not so much about teaching people how to write as it is about showing people lots of examples of different kinds of writing and theorizing about them. But I earned my B.A. in English and, although I learned a lot about genre and plot structure and etc., and guess what? As a degree it's useless. Depressingly, no one hires people to write stories, no matter how much of an expert on writing theory you are. A B.A. in art isn't terribly useful either, but at least you'll accumulate a portfolio of pieces you can use to sell yourself.

What about a degree in game design? Well, that might be good, but it's unlikely to allow you to focus on writing stories. Also I would look very suspiciously at the job placement rate of graduates from whatever program you are looking at.

Another thing to consider is a masters' degree. Here in Pittsburgh Carnegie Mellon offers a 2 years masters' degree in Game Design which allows you to take a programming or artistic focus, and this is taken on top of any relevant B.A. or B.S. such as English, Art, or Computer Science. That would add up to a very expensive education though, especially since students in this program are strongly discouraged from working while they attend.

So I would second the suggestion of looking into storyboarding - do you like manga? The English manga market is rapidly expanding, there will be opportunities there in the next few years. Or doing concept art is a good way to get experience with the principles of design - the same principles of design that are involved in writing.

Basically, as long as you are regularly writing fiction you will get better at it, especially if you join a writers' group where you can get constructive criticism on your pieces. The same goes for art - as long as you practice continually and get feedback you will continue to improve. 'Design' is something else - design skills are not writing or art skills, but technical writing, management, and psychology (i.e. theory of entertainment) skills which one uses to direct and coordinate the writing, art, and programming abilities of oneself and a design team. Design skills are more the kind of thing to learn from your local library than from a college course; at least I've never heard of a college program that taught interdisciplinary design.

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I'd advise leaving yourself with the most options possible. I'm not a writer and my artistic abilities are limited so I'm not the one to talk to for that type of career. However, it's always best to have a more well-rounded education. Let's look at two extremes:

1) Quit college and focus all your time on creating games. If you know you CAN and WILL be able to create a game (you have the means), this is the most likely route to getting into the industry, I'm sure. I'm also sure this is the most likely route to being unemployed because you have nothing to fall back on.

2) Stay in college and focus on a degree. You're less likely to finish a game and therefore have an empty portfolio, hence, nothing to show a game company. However, you're more likely to have a job.

It's a balance. Personally, I'd go middle-of-the-road if I were you. Get a decent education and, in the meantime, do a little active work in the industry so that you have something to show later on to prove your interest/ability. I've always wondered if it would be hard to find an internship at a game studio. Hmmm.

I'm getting the impression that you're more interested in game design. It's good to have SOME technical knowledge so that you know what's possible/impossible. However, getting into game writing/design seems to me to be one of the hardest things to break into. Everyone's got ideas.

Look into design documents, storyboarding, etc. If you can complete an entire game design with documentation and concept art from start to finish, I don't think you'd be too hard pressed to find people interested in joining your team.

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I can only advise that if you want to write, there is only one method for doing that, and that is the old seat of pants to seat of chair routine.

The thing about writing that is similar to programming, is that you don't really notice, but it does take a good amount of time, (usually years) to get really, really, I mean selling quality, good at it. If you are going to write in the game field, my experience in it has only be helping people with their story and scripting approaches to content already developed, story conferencing to generate new ideas, but almost always find out that few want to really go the distance full content development takes. I guess that is the separation between the amateur and the pro, like in the writing and screenwriting business.

I can also say you should take a crack at writing your own game stories, your own design documents, etc. If you are going to be in this business as a writer, become familiar with and flexible within the formats that they use, and realize that each design is different, and you may have to use your information architecture skills to design a new format to fit the project you are involved in. I can't tell you how many times I have had to pitch a story speaking in cinematographic terms or gameplay mechanical terms.

I think this aspect of the industry will become one of the most important aspects of the industry over time, given we in the end are a consumer entertainment business, and our audience is much more mainstream with different entertainment preferences than traditionally.

Writers always have to pull it out of thin air and make it work on paper before it goes anywhere out of pre-production, so, my last piece of advise is that in my experience writing for and with game developers is that they have great minds for creating, but tend to rely on the scope of their experience and knowledge, where good mass media content development, especially in entertainment, requires you to go beyond yourself, and programmers and software engineers, though flexible, tend to think in what is achievable technically, where the money in the mind of the consumer is what you achieve in the believable imaginarium.

HTH,
Adventuredesign

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