The video game industry is undeniably booming. Technology is pushing games toward further realism than we’ve ever seen before. Games are crafting complex movie-like plots, and fans are passionately engaged, making it a multi-billion-dollar-a-year revenue-generating industry.
And you know what? Someone has to write those stories. So, why do I not see anyone talking about how to become a scriptwriter for video games? Despite all of the screenwriting advice out there, it’s hard to find information about breaking into the game-writing industry. What is it like to write a script for a video game? Well, now I’ve got the details!
So, what does a video game writer do?
Video game writers aren’t writing one solid script but are required to develop key moments that add up to a complete storyline. Unlike how a screenwriter often writes a whole draft by themselves before getting other’s eyes on it, a video game writer needs to be very collaborative from the start. The game director and designers create the overarching story based on what they’re capable of building within the game, and the writer fleshes out and documents those ideas.
Game directors or designers often give writers parameters or a specific scenario to write. For example, they may instruct the writer to write a cut scene where the main character meets a group of thieves, and the scene needs to end with the main character being knocked out and robbed. The writer isn’t just independently coming up with plotlines because the plot needs to be something that the game designers can achieve technically.
A narrative designer is another type of writing job in the industry. A narrative designer can be brought on to shape the narrative of the game, focus on the gameplayer’s experience, and they may have a more technical gaming background than a writer. When it comes to writing for video games, the various roles and duties may overlap, and some might not exist in different projects. There’s a lot of variation.
Can I write a spec script for a video game?
Unlike in film and television, a video game writer doesn’t have the opportunity to watch their spec script get turned into a finished product. Project directors come up with a concept and work with game designers to build designs and gameplay. The game writer often comes along later in the process and performs a job that is a lot more technical and secondary than other forms of screenwriting.
How do I break in as a writer in the video game industry?
Every video game’s development can be incredibly different. Some game teams may prioritize writers and may bring them on early. Some might lump multiple roles together and have the writer be someone who’s already doing another job on the project. Others might not require writers at all because the story is just not essential for the type of game they’re building.
While it can be challenging to become a writer in the video game industry, you can better your chances by playing a lot of games and learning to analyze and critique their stories. Immerse yourself in the medium you’d like to write for.
You may find yourself submitting a writing sample to a gaming studio. Before you do, you should be sure to research and understand the studio’s games. Find a company whose work feels similar to what you’re interested in creating. Your writing sample shouldn’t be overly lengthy and should put all of your best work towards the front of it.
Just like with other modes of screenwriting, networking is essential to breaking in. Meet, talk to, and ask advice from people in the video game industry! Here’s a sample list of current video game writing jobs. Many gaming companies hire video game writers, narrative designers, and narrative writers. Some of the companies hiring now include:
Writing for video games is very different than writing for film or television. It’s more technical and requires extensive knowledge of games. It’s a field that requires you to be passionate about the medium. Despite the difficulties of breaking in, if you genuinely have a passion for video game writing, you have to be persistent and hang in there.
Happy writing to all, no matter what medium you’re writing for!