WRITING: Game Design and Writing I

The title might be a bit of a misnomer, in that my passion for game writing and design far outstrips my experience with it. Thus, though I’m fascinated by the subject and can’t wait to try it, I have little more than the teachings of others to go off of. That said, I eventually want to dig into the field, and what better way to push myself into researching and discussing it than using this blog to do so?

First off, some basic resources…

  • ExtraCreditz did a great feature on various issues in game writing that have lead to problematic results all across the gamosphere. It discusses entrenched problems in the industry like the role of the writer in games, and the lack of infrastructure to help writers develop interactive-specific skill sets. The rest of the series, which focuses largely on gaming and the creation of games, is also pretty brilliant.

 

 

Now, my story…

Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m crazy about TV. Love watching it, love writing it. I’ve funnelled most of the last six years into it, and plan on spending decades more on that path. But. My love of television only really kicked off in 2001/2002 with Alias and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and then gained strength in 2005 after the premiere of Lost. My first love, the one that I spent my youth playing at and preparing for, was games.

One of my sister’s favourite stories is of me, as a little kid, wandering the house with a thousand tiny notebooks filled with endless details about a Zelda game I was designing in my head. Endless items, dungeons, supporting characters. Notebooks and notebooks full. Then, when I was satisfied, I was done; they’d go in my drawer and I’d never look at them again. But that process was my first real act of creation, before even my fanfiction phase (which was intrinsically tied to my anime phase). And though I fell fast and hard for television, game design and writing was always in my mind, to the point where even as I was focusing on Ryerson University for TV and Radio, I also had one eye on Game Design courses. I suspect it was only the requirements of game design and development – that is, artistic ability and programming – that really made it a 100% second choice. After all, script is amazing, and all you need to know is how to use the formatting in Final Draft! Everything else you can pick up along the way, through practice and learning techniques from the masters. No all-night study sessions or memorising new programming languages. No retraining myself to have some scrap of artistic ability. It’s pure writing, almost as pure as prose (and half as frustrating). So I pursued TV writing with a passion akin to a religious frenzy, and have loved every moment of it.

That said… I still want to devote some time to learning how to write interactively. I want to learn how to design amazing games. And, in fact, I’ve got plans for a partially-designed iOS game hidden in my room, waiting until I have the time and connections to finish it. I actually found that, at the simple beginner’s level I am at, it was still fun to design basic mechanics and levels for a simple old-school platformer. All I had to do was go back to my childhood memories of Mario and Chip and Dale for NES:

 


One of my intentions, by the end of next year, is to finish a basic game design for my portfolio so that I can potentially take on any actual game writing / design job opportunity that might come up. I’d have to partner with an artist of some kind, at the very least, but I’d love to break into that market. The storytelling potential for games is massive, and there are so many ways of playing with narrative and character that haven’t been tapped. The capabilities of games, and game writers, grow every year. Even if I only play in that sandbox once or twice, it would be a fantastic chance to stretch as a writer.

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3 responses to “WRITING: Game Design and Writing I

  1. Marius Masalar (@Mathazzar) March 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Do it. There’s no writing task I can think of that’s more dynamic, exhilarating, or ultimately rewarding than crafting interactive experiences via good game writing.

    There simply isn’t another storytelling medium like it.

  2. Courtney March 27, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Oh gosh I have fond (and horribly painful) memories of Chip and Dale for the NES.

    My advice would be to be careful you don’t get yourself too caught up in the design and even the programming that you forget why you’re doing it in the first place. I’ve done the same and I’ve yet to finish a true demo I’m happy with because I keep trying to make it perfect. If writing for games is what you want to do then anything with some rudimentary dialogue editor will suffice. Aurora Toolset, RPG Maker, etc.

    Good luck! I hope you’ll keep this blog updated with your progress.

    • R. Lackie March 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks, Courtney! The advice is definitely appreciated. I loved the old version of RPG Maker I had as a teen, so when I finally take my baby steps into Game Writing, it will probably start there!

      I’m not sure I’m ready to dig into Game Writing yet, especially as I’m just embarking on a career in TV Writing after 6 years of study, but I definitely want to quietly develop those skills while I work in other media. Then, when I am able to make the switch, I’ll have the rudimentary skill set to jump in with both feet. I will definitely keep the blog updated on every game-writing step I take! In fact, I’ve done very basic development work on a cute little iOS game I’d love to develop down the line. Hopefully I’ll find the time sometime next year… Watch this space!

      Thanks again!

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