If you're a fan of video games and you're also an aspiring writer
or composer, a whole new career field may be opening up for you.
Maybe you'd like to write scripts for today's complex video games.
Or perhaps you're more interested in creating music for them. Either way,
with the popularity of video games continuing to grow, it's a promising market.
Analyze Video Games
As in any field, you need to have the skills as well as a love for what
you do. Matt Toner is the lead designer for an entertainment company. He writes
video game scripts. He says it's important to study how video games work before
you start planning a video game writing career.
"Play games," says Toner. "But do more than that. Analyze how game play
elements are used. If you play a game once through for sheer enjoyment, play
it a second time and concentrate on the details.
"Try different options and take note of how the game now flows in a different
direction. Develop a spreadsheet to record your observations across a number
of games, in a way that makes sense for you. After a few weeks, you'll start
to understand the underlying mechanics."
It is also important to simply write as much as possible. This is what
Jessica Tams recommends. Tams is a director of partner development at an entertainment
company, and has designed video games in the past.
"Anyone interested in getting a start in creating video games should not
be afraid to start creating content with the skills they have," she says.
"For example, those with excellent writing skills can write reviews and stories
in their spare time and publish them on the Internet."
Toner agrees with Tams. And while it may be appealing to think about writing
a simple "shoot 'em up" video game, he also stresses how similar writing for
games is to writing serious fiction.
"Well, as Leonard Cohen once said, blacken your page," advises Toner. "Writers
need to write, regardless of the genre: this is most important. Game writing
is most akin to dramatic writing. Students would do well to focus on that
part of the craft. Story, character, dialog -- these are the building blocks."
He also says that as people who grew up playing video games get older,
the demand for more mature plots is out there.
"Game audiences are getting older, suggesting that their tastes are becoming
a little more sophisticated. Less blood and gore, more story."
If your fancy is more towards songs than scripts, there are opportunities
in that field as well. Jack Wall writes music for video games. He has written
for Disney and Sony, among others. He says that networking and having the
right attitude are important.
"Well, the job market in composition, specifically in video games, is quite
broad. But you still need talent and contacts," says Wall. "The industry is
very large and there are lots of opportunities for people with passion and
desire to write [music] for games. The key is passion and having a good personality
with a team-player attitude."
Wall believes that writing music for video games is definitely a solid
career. "Yes it is, for those with a healthy mix of talent, drive and decent
business sense, or the ability to learn it."
Education and Networking Skills Required
Tams also says that this is a promising field. She stresses the need for
"Careers in the entertainment industry are a viable and stable career option,"
she says. "Despite downturns in the economy and outsourcing, consumers have
proven to have an appetite for entertainment content created by those who
understand popular culture.
"Students should focus on obtaining a solid, well-rounded education," Tams
continues. "While in school, they should focus on learning as much about the
gaming industry as they can.
"But they should not make games their only focus. After graduation, those
looking to get into the gaming industry should not be opposed to jobs outside
of the industry. There they can gather more experience while looking for a
job in the games industry."
Toner agrees that education is important, but he also stresses networking.
"More so than other industries, the game space is still about connections,"
"So you need to meet people -- not always an easy thing to do. For a student,
one of the best ways is to attend a post-secondary school that offers a credible
program in game design. A few years ago such places didn't exist, but there
are good alternatives available today."
Industry on the Rise
Understanding popular culture is important. Enjoying and keeping up with
video games is half the battle. Of course, being able to write or compose
is the other half.
Toner points out that having writers for video game scripts is a relatively
"Not that long ago, game writers were an almost unknown breed," Toner explains.
"Writing was done usually by the game designers themselves, who were generally
tasked with many other assignments.
"I've heard stories of producers at one company literally walking down
a hallway and asking people to write 10 lines of dialog each. Of course, with
a process like that you aren't going to get very good results, something that
was often masked by the nature of the games themselves."
Whether it's creating the tunes or crafting the script, the video game
writing field is a market that is on the rise. And it's only getting bigger,
"Games aren't going away. They are now a huge industry that actually dwarfs
Hollywood, depending on how you calculate revenue.
"Games are now seen as a necessary extension of conventional media properties
from film and TV. If you want to be a writer anyway, game writing is a reasonably
good income stream."
The Art of Making Games
Keep up with news and events in the video game industry
Game Developers Conference
Dedicated to showcasing upcoming conferences, including those
for video game writers
Game Audio Network Guild
Lots of resources relating to the musical aspect of video games