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Writing in Computer Games.

Posted by Chris Avellone , 25 February 2007 · 1107 views

Someone wrote me a letter this weekend, asking if I had any suggestions for breaking into computer game writing, and it occured to me I didn't. I had suggestions for breaking into computer game design, but...

Anyway, here's the gist of the response in case anyone else has a similar question about how it all works.

Writing for video games is something of a different beast compared to game design. My experience is that someone will contract a writer (and usually late in the process) once an idea and game direction has already been determined and then it becomes the game writer's job to flesh out the idea for the game. Sometimes you're employed basically as a script doctor for a title, brushing up the dialogue before it's taken into the studio.

If you wanted to propose your own world and characters for a game, though, one could do it through the mod community on the internet and then showcase those that way, if someone ever expresses an interest in your work (or if you're trying to pitch it) you have a demo of game material to show someone.

Also, writing for games also is a little different than writing for novels or comics (usually in terms of brevity and branching options, at least in CRPGs), and working on an actual game, even if on your own time, will cause you to make edits or even expand on your work and get it game-ready before you even pitch it.

I will say that it pays to find a concept artist or an artist friend that can showcase the visual qualities of your world and characters as well - pictures and concept art often give a reviewer or someone you're pitching to a much stronger view of the world, and people rarely have time to read more than 1 or 2 pages of a written pitch (sad, but true - although that forces people to get to the "hook" of your world and your idea much faster).

Last thing - and not to be discouraging, just for perspective - in 10 years, I have never had an opportunity to work on my own computer game world, I usually end up fleshing out other game systems or franchise (Star Wars, Star Trek, Dungeons and Dragons, Fallout, Planescape, Aliens), so it's pretty hard to break into if you want to show your own stuff. I usually find that there's enough room in any franchise for you to find your own voice and plot, though, so it's not as confining as it may seem.

In other random news, I joined Live Journal to try and break through my occasional bouts of Writer's Block but fortunately, not Catoonist's Block. This week features Kung Fu, writing in general, and probably something else I've forgotten.

Hope everyone had a good weekend. Me, I saw Ghost Rider, and my eyes are still bleeding from his Penance Stare.




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