2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
Fun and Games in the Year 2002: Writing for the Gaming
Several months ago, I worked on an interesting project for a client looking to break into writing music for the video game industry. As the project progressed, I found myself fascinated with the art of interactive entertainment, and began to take "side notes" on what it takes to write for the gaming industry. I made a host of wonderful contacts and learned a great deal about how tough—and rewarding—it can be to become a part of the development of some of the most mainstream and high-tech forms of entertainment today. (One out of every three American households has a video game system and the fastest growing market for video games is in Europe.) There are also many opportunities for freelancers to "break in" to the gaming industry through other publishing venues.
Honing Your Skills: What It Takes to Make It
One skill that is crucial (besides writing ability) to success in the game industry is passion and familiarity.
If you don't enjoy games or are unfamiliar with the latest technology, then you'll find the gaming world confusing and unfriendly. If you want to learn more about video games, buy or rent a console and a few game magazines. Don't try to break into this industry if you're simply looking for work; most video game writers take the jobs, first and foremost, because they enjoy the work. A beginner's pay is, at best, enough to pay some bills. The "real money" comes with success and hard work, i.e. LATER!
Fantasy writers, science fiction writers, and scriptwriters all have an advantage in the gaming industry. Writers play many different roles in video game development, including:
Plot, Setting and Character Development:
Storyboards and Scripts:
If this all sounds like Greek to you, you can find out more about the video game-making process at: http://www.howstuffworks.com/3do2.htm
For how-to's on writing storyboards and scripts for games, an absolutely essential resource is Paul Garrand's Writing For Multimedia and the Web.
Getting Started, Getting Connected
Many writers start "small" in their quest for work, usually by writing articles and reviews for gaming-related publications. Most game magazines hire freelancers for reviews of games and expect thoughtful, knowledgeable reviews. Normally reviewers are asked to send in a sample game review. You should treat video game magazines as you would any other magazine; get a copy and study what they publish! (Did I mention that video game reviewers normally get scores of FREE games--they make great presents!)
Video game reviews normally take up at least one page. (If the game is good, if not, then reviewers don't bother!) and include: Game Name, System, Developer and Publisher, Release Date, Age Rating (ESRB, RASC, SEGA) Overview, Plusses, Minuses, Graphics, Play Control, Game Design, Satisfaction, Challenge quotient, Sound, Originality, Replay Value, Overall review score.
You can find writers' guidelines through Writer's Digest or by performing Web searches for "Video Game Magazines". (Web searches are more up-to-date and will yield better results!)
Many writers also break into video game writing through writing game guides and RPG books. (Remember Dungeons and Dragons?) Burning Void has an excellent page about writing for role playing game markets and many resources to help writers find a niche in the RPG Industry. (What it's Like to Freelance Write for the RPG Industry)
Getting the Job
Competition is stiff, but with experience often comes success, and you can have a lot of fun along the way if you decide to give it a try!
Here's a site that posts video game writing jobs regularly:
Good luck and good game-writing! Many thanks to Sarah Stocker of Stormfront Studios and the PR Department at Sony of North America for their help with this article.
About the Writer: Melissa Brewer is a freelance writer-specializing in online content. She writes articles, tutorials, and online training materials for corporate and small business clients. She has taught classes on Web writing in the past and recently published an e-book for writers: The Writer's Online Survival Guide, containing over 230 writing-specific job sources for writers online. She hosts a Web site for writers, the Web Writing Buzz and publishes a corresponding newsletter with tips, resources, and jobs for writers at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/webwritingbuzz/.