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Lancet Jades

Aspiring game writer

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Lancet Jades    122
Hello, I'm Johnny. I'm an aspiring game writer, and I have a few general questions about pursuing a career in this field. I'm reposting it here so that it might get more exposure, as the writing forum seems rather slow compared to others, and this is a "beginner" topic anyways. First of all, I know almost nothing on this subject, or how to pursue a career of this sort. My expertise is in writing, and everything that would surround that in game design (including map design and related matters, but nothing actually artistic - having to draw anything of quality is my weakness), but I often have trouble getting started with things because I don't know where to begin, or even where to look for information. Random internet searches are about all I'm capable of, and since I found this site, I decided to try it and ask. Secondly, as may be inferred from my previous paragraph, I'm poor at networking and knowing when and where to do it. I haven't had a chance to go to any game exops, meetings, and related events yet, but even if I was able (or when I do go in the future), I wouldn't know how to advertise myself, so to speak. As am addendum to this, what are the chances of actually making it into the industry in this particular field? The vast majority of anything I hear about the game development industry is in regards to artists (from the design side), or coders (from a technical standpoint), almost never anything in between, no doubt contributing to my difficulty in finding this information. Third, if anyone has a resource that provides information on jobs and such common in this section of the industry, it'd be nice. As I've mentioned previously, I have trouble with finding answers to specific questions as I lack people in the know to question. Finally, I'm currently working on a small game project, a cell phone RPG very loosely based on some old gameboy RPGs' storylines. My position on the project is (as it stands) the only person working with scenario development entirely (story, dialogue, maps, everything like that). How would I assemble all of my work on this project into a portfolio to present to any potential employers? I'm probably overthinking this, but I always like being sure of things. Thanks in advance for any replies, and if this in the wrong place here, let me know. ~Johnny

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zer0wolf    1022
If you're an "aspiring" game writer then I would say your path is relatively simple. Get your degree, work on projects such as the cell phone project you're working on, and publish your writings. Whether it is publishing adventures in Dungeon magazine, or short stories, or even novels; if you want to be a writer then you need to write. After getting your degree, getting a few hobby and/or school group project games together with your writing in them them, and publishing a few things, you'll have a pretty solid portfolio for becoming a writer. Note that game writers often times are not full time positions, but are instead contractors. (This isn't always the case, but an observation of mine). Expect your first job to probably be contract work and then if the company likes what you produce, thinks you mesh well with the team, and you demonstrate an ability to work under pressure, then they'll probably hire you on full-time.

Also, note that game writers and level designers are almost always completely separate jobs, except in very small teams/projects. Good online resources I can point you to are the IGDA's Standardized Roles, Tom Sloper's website, and GameDevMap. The first link is for the IGDA (International Game Developer's Association), the second is for Tom Sloper, a GameDev.net veteran (producer and designer) who has been in the games industry since the Vectrex days, and GameDevMap.com show you where various game studios and publishers are located. My GameDev.net blog goes into my own experience with getting a job as a game designer.

Quote:
Secondly, as may be inferred from my previous paragraph, I'm poor at networking and knowing when and where to do it. I haven't had a chance to go to any game exops, meetings, and related events yet, but even if I was able (or when I do go in the future), I wouldn't know how to advertise myself, so to speak. As am addendum to this, what are the chances of actually making it into the industry in this particular field? The vast majority of anything I hear about the game development industry is in regards to artists (from the design side), or coders (from a technical standpoint), almost never anything in between, no doubt contributing to my difficulty in finding this information.

Saying you're poor at networking spells out nothing more than laziness. There are gaming expos throughout the world and there is guaranteed going to be at least one that is going to be close enough to go to sometime during the year. Also, I pointed out the GameDevMap.com website. Use that and the IGDA's list of associated companies to find some studios close to you. Try sending them an e-mail about what they looked for in potential game writers. Just explain your situation and that you're simply looking for insight on shaping your portfolio. I certainly used my class projects as an excuse to seek professional opinion.

The chance of you making it into the field has to do with your actual ability to write, your ability to work within a team, your ability to work within deadlines, your ability to write for the game (and not your own fancies), and your ability to put the actual work into putting together a decent portfolios. I see ads all the time for game writers. The possibilities are there, because like all the other jobs in the game industry, there aren't really enough qualified applicants.

[Edited by - zer0wolf on December 14, 2008 5:29:53 PM]

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Elhrrah    148
Do we get samples? Examples? Free handouts? Free food?

Something that is as important as going out to look for work, is to give employers the ability to come to you. Which means you need a portfolio. Start a blog, write short-fiction, find an artist and create a web comic, become a fishmonger! In short, try and do anything and everything within your ability to give your skill substance. Think of it like applying for a scholarship - forms to fill, essays to write, professors to schmooz - and go at it with the same fervor; you need the money.

Also remember that writing is a skill, a skill which you need to practice. Set yourself a goal, five hundred, six hundred, seven hundred words a day, either writing whatever comes to mind, or if you are aiming for discipline, within a set topic area. Upload your results somewhere, and you might just get noticed. And if you get noticed, you are ready for the next step: working with a team.

You can be the best writer in the world, but if you are unable to share that skill with others, you might as well go back to working as a fishmonger. That is where the indie world comes in. Teams are made and frayed every day, how many have you had your hands into? None of us are going to pay you, but we are that layer of wax that will make your portfolio shine. A man once said that a photographer's best tool is a well-used wastebasket, and that concept applies to writing as well. So what if the first three teams fail in less days that there are letters in their names? Trying once never works, but trying enough always does. For as you climb the ladder, you are going to miss a rung or two, and having something to fall back on always helps. So join that indie crew, say yes to that cheesy magazine, type until your fingers are bloody, and see what you can do. The results might surprise you.

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Lancet Jades    122
Quote:
Original post by zer0wolf
If you're an "aspiring" game writer then I would say your path is relatively simple. Get your degree, work on projects such as the cell phone project you're working on, and publish your writings. Whether it is publishing adventures in Dungeon magazine, or short stories, or even novels; if you want to be a writer then you need to write. After getting your degree, getting a few hobby and/or school group project games together with your writing in them them, and publishing a few things, you'll have a pretty solid portfolio for becoming a writer. Note that game writers often times are not full time positions, but are instead contractors. (This isn't always the case, but an observation of mine). Expect your first job to probably be contract work and then if the company likes what you produce, thinks you mesh well with the team, and you demonstrate an ability to work under pressure, then they'll probably hire you on full-time.


Now, this brings up my biggest question, and one I've extensively asked and sought answers for. What degree(s) would be optimal for a position like this? I've asked professors, friends (those going for positions in the industry, and others seeking writing in other forms), and whatever connections I could scrounge up, and I've gotten pretty much nothing. Tempering my lack of knowledge on this subject is that pretty much any college I could find anywhere in the world (nevermind if I'd actually be able to attend) ONLY have degrees in game development for either A: Art, or B: Coding.

This was a big question that somehow completely slipped my mind when I wrote up this post, so if anyone could definitively answer this (even if there are multiple possible degress of varying levels), it'd be a huge help. Currently all I have is an AA in Liberal Arts (from before I had any idea what I wanted to do), and just finished an AS in Game Design (a general game design course, covered both theory and practical, including level design and 3D modeling).

Quote:
Also, note that game writers and level designers are almost always completely separate jobs, except in very small teams/projects. Good online resources I can point you to are the IGDA's Standardized Roles, Tom Sloper's website, and GameDevMap. The first link is for the IGDA (International Game Developer's Association), the second is for Tom Sloper, a GameDev.net veteran (producer and designer) who has been in the games industry since the Vectrex days, and GameDevMap.com show you where various game studios and publishers are located. My GameDev.net blog goes into my own experience with getting a job as a game designer.


Now this is the kind of answer I really appreciate. Thank you very much for these links.

Quote:
Saying you're poor at networking spells out nothing more than laziness. There are gaming expos throughout the world and there is guaranteed going to be at least one that is going to be close enough to go to sometime during the year. Also, I pointed out the GameDevMap.com website. Use that and the IGDA's list of associated companies to find some studios close to you. Try sending them an e-mail about what they looked for in potential game writers. Just explain your situation and that you're simply looking for insight on shaping your portfolio. I certainly used my class projects as an excuse to seek professional opinion.


Thanks for the advice. I really appreciate having comprehensive answers to my questions. Now that the cellphone project is starting to pick up, I'm trying to make up for any time I've lost thus far.



Quote:
Do we get samples? Examples? Free handouts? Free food?

Something that is as important as going out to look for work, is to give employers the ability to come to you. Which means you need a portfolio. Start a blog, write short-fiction, find an artist and create a web comic, become a fishmonger! In short, try and do anything and everything within your ability to give your skill substance. Think of it like applying for a scholarship - forms to fill, essays to write, professors to schmooz - and go at it with the same fervor; you need the money.

Also remember that writing is a skill, a skill which you need to practice. Set yourself a goal, five hundred, six hundred, seven hundred words a day, either writing whatever comes to mind, or if you are aiming for discipline, within a set topic area. Upload your results somewhere, and you might just get noticed. And if you get noticed, you are ready for the next step: working with a team.

You can be the best writer in the world, but if you are unable to share that skill with others, you might as well go back to working as a fishmonger. That is where the indie world comes in. Teams are made and frayed every day, how many have you had your hands into? None of us are going to pay you, but we are that layer of wax that will make your portfolio shine. A man once said that a photographer's best tool is a well-used wastebasket, and that concept applies to writing as well. So what if the first three teams fail in less days that there are letters in their names? Trying once never works, but trying enough always does. For as you climb the ladder, you are going to miss a rung or two, and having something to fall back on always helps. So join that indie crew, say yes to that cheesy magazine, type until your fingers are bloody, and see what you can do. The results might surprise you.


Thanks for the advice. I do have other writing projects in mind besides just game stuff (that cellphone game), such as an idea for a children's book based on a dog my mother owns. Not exactly game-related...but it's better than nothing, I guess. Maybe better than most things? No idea how I'll manage the illustrations, or how I'd get it published, but that's something to worry about once I get it written.

Again, thanks for all help and advice so far.

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Winegums    286
Quote:
Original post by Lancet JadesHow would I assemble all of my work on this project into a portfolio to present to any potential employers? I'm probably overthinking this, but I always like being sure of things.



In whatever way feels most appropriate for the project. This may be a wiki, or a game design document (the latter is the most common way of presenting a game idea. I know your role is not a game designer, but some of the structure of th GDD may be useful). Whatever format you feel makes your information the most accessible and readable.

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Lancet Jades    122
Quote:
Original post by WinegumsIn whatever way feels most appropriate for the project. This may be a wiki, or a game design document (the latter is the most common way of presenting a game idea. I know your role is not a game designer, but some of the structure of th GDD may be useful). Whatever format you feel makes your information the most accessible and readable.


I'll check up on the GDD idea. The main reason I asked is because my writings are very discontinuous things. Write-ups on backgrounds of different area of the game, dialogue from each area for each part of the game, various concepts or ideas for characters, enemies, plots, etc, and so on.


Quote:
You should have a writing degree.


Like, just a "writing degree" or some specific degree? If you just mean in general, then I've been looking at the right degree(s) all along (for my continuation in college), which would be nice since it'd be easy, but I'm just making sure here. Either way, thanks, because that takes a load off my mind.

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Tom Sloper    16062
Quote:
Original post by Lancet Jades
Like, just a "writing degree" or some specific degree?

If you want to be a writer, the recommended degree would be in writing. But if you want to be a writer, I'd think you'd want to get a writing degree anyway. Why, what kind of degree were you planning to go for?

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Lancet Jades    122
Quote:
Original post by Tom Sloper
If you want to be a writer, the recommended degree would be in writing. But if you want to be a writer, I'd think you'd want to get a writing degree anyway. Why, what kind of degree were you planning to go for?


By writing degree, do you mean creative writing? Because I was cautioned away from that degree when talking to others (not game industry people, but english major-types), towards other degrees (one suggested communications), hence my confusion on the matter.

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Tom Sloper    16062
Quote:
Original post by Lancet Jades
By writing degree, do you mean creative writing? Because I was cautioned away from that degree when talking to others (not game industry people, but english major-types), towards other degrees (one suggested communications), hence my confusion on the matter.

OK, then. Ask an architecture major-type what you should study, and you'll be even more confused!
Why not just pick your major based on what you want to study, and stop asking strangers what you should study?
If you wanted to be a scientist, you'd major in science, would you not? (As for which science, that'd depend on which branch of science you were interested in, wouldn't it?)
If you want to be a writer, then anybody who advises you not to study writing is leading you astray.

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