On the last day of PAX, Toiya Finley, Qais Fulton, Anne Toole, Bobby Stein, Tom Abernathy, and Leah Miller laid out a lot of what they've experienced, both personally and professionally, to a packed room of aspiring, struggling, or plainly curious (me) writers. Here's some of that content:
What do we need to know about writing in the Game Industry?
- Know how to write a good, fleshed-out story. Then write it shorter. And shorter. And shorter.
- Level-up: Write someone else's story idea. Then have them point out what parts to cut.
- This is part of how a writer will never get their way (exceptions do exist).
- Throw all rules for sequence, timing, and most of how to write for a page-flipping book out the window.
- Games are non-linear, being for a player (not some fictional character) that can (and will) do anything at any time.
- Have recent, presentable material about at all times.
OK - how do we define 'presentable' or 'portfolio' material?
- Make a collection of stories show diversity in both genre and form (keep in mind length, too).
- Genre: Horror, romance, sci-fi, western, etc.
- Form: Novel, screenplay, dialogue, technical documentation, etc.
- Hide any raw notes.
- Think of dirty laundry - it shouldn't be left out if company is paying a visit.
- Include art, audio, and any other medium to help communicate the feel of a story.
- Don't steal! Get permissions, in writing, of any copyrighted work.
- Take no concept, phrase, history, or saying for granted.
- Assume any- and everyone knows nothing.
- If it's worthy of the portfolio, protect it.
- PDFs, watermarks, and excerpts of material makes it harder for others to claim that content.
- Consider applying these preventative steps on all work, even if it's merely an email to a friend.
Where do we go to make our game stories?
- Twine. Twine!
- (With resounding enthusiasm, this is the number-one tool recommended by the panelists.)
- Twine allows for branching narratives, easy use, and complex additions to any tale (not to mention being able to be published nearly everywhere).
- Use a robust level editor.
- This shows how scenes are laid out and some technical prowess.
- Write a pen-and-paper RPG campaign.
- Show-off tool versatility while keeping the barrier of entry incredibly low.
Now that we've covered all the basics of the craft itself, is there anything else?
- Yes! The type of employ is important:
- Full-time staff jobs on a resume are good to be seen.
- Versus having temporary contract work.
- Freelancers cannot be writers first; they must be a sales-person and collections-agent foremost.
- When lacking the support structure of an established company doing a lot of the labor, a freelance writer must set higher priorities on how to sustain themselves before dedicating work to the craft.
- Again to freelancers, never give up rights to work until compensation has been paid in full.
- Become familiar with "work for hire" agreements.
Do you agree with the panelists on these points? Would you add to it or offer a counter opinion? In any case, both the panelists and I hope you could gleam something from this in how you go about your art into the future.