How to Become a Video Game Writer

From the AMA pile, Anonymous asks:
If someone wants to become a writer for video games, what would your advice be?

My super short advice is to do these in any order: (1) get a video game job and (2) learn to write well.

More in-depth (and hopefully useful) advice follows.

If you have a video game job, you need to learn to write well and squeeze yourself into positions where you have opportunity to write. You can learn to write anywhere: books, blogs, school, reading, but most importantly by actually writing and getting critiques from other writers.

I suspect, however, that the other order (learn to write, get game job) is the one most of you will be interested in. Here are some options:
  1. Get known for your writing and make your interest in gaming publicly known.
  2. Watch for game developer job openings. For example: inXile, Obsidian, Bioware.
  3. Make friends with other game developers. Note that I said "friends," not "acquaintances who can help me get what I really want." Remember: self-serving has a smell.
  4. Learn skills related to the game industry but that you also enjoy and/or excel at. For example: 3D art, 2D art, programming, web development, game design, etc.
  5. Find similar-minded friends and make quality games (or mods of existing games) on your own time.
  6. Become a game tester.
None of these are mutually exclusive. In fact, the more you do, the greater your chances of getting what you really want.

I know game writers who have followed all of these paths. The goal is to get noticed any way you can, so when someone asks a friend of yours, "Do you know any good game writers who might be available for this?" your friend can go, "[Your name here] might be interested, and his [type of work you do] is always good and on time. Want me to ask him?"

Incidentally, my path is here. It's a stranger path than most, but I did #2 and #3 for my first job, and a combination of #1, #3, and #4 for my current one. So my advice applies to at least one person? I guess?


Got a question? Ask me anything.

AMA: Torment Companion, "The Toy"

Garrett / Claive says:
I am fascinated with the idea of the "Toy" companion.  How much "growth" will there be from when you first encounter this creature to when it is finished with you?  How much influence will we as the player have on that growth?  Will that "directed growth" be predictable, variable, random, feed it fire seeds and pray?

Background: Early during our Kickstarter, we announced the following stretch goal: "Our initial plans for Torment included four possible companions for the player and at this Stretch Goal, we will be adding a fifth, which we’ve nicknamed “The Toy.” (That’s not its in-game name. ;) ) The Toy is a changing ball of goo: Is it a pet, an abandoned toy, a dangerous weapon? Whatever it is, it responds to the way you treat it by changing its appearance and abilities to reflect what it perceives as your desires. Its ultimate secrets are... well, you'll have to find out."

The Toy is part of the numenera, some leftover creature from a prior world, or maybe a byproduct of some ancient technological process. Who knows? What it is now is an extremely strange and loyal pet.

I can't tell you in detail how much growth it'll have from start to finish, but it'll be equivalent to the growth your other companions go through over the course of the game. The main difference is the Toy's development will affect its form as well as its abilities.

As it's master (if you choose to be so), you'll have a decent amount of influence over it, but you won't always know what you're doing. The Toy will learn from you, from what you praise or punish it for, from what you ask of it, and from what you yourself choose to do. If you encourage it towards violence, it might get better at that and become a killing machine. If you encourage it to be quiet, it might take that to the extreme, even to the point of becoming invisible.

Or it might not. We know what we want the Toy to do, but there's a lot of design and implementation left before we know what this specific character will do.

And like all the numenera, the Toy will occasionally do things you don't understand and don't expect. Nothing about the numenera is entirely predictable, and the Toy is a major example of this. Especially if it can't make sense of your desires (or maybe even if it can), it may occasionally swallow your enemies or burp a black hole or... who knows? You just can't tell with this thing.