Game Design and Writing
Just as every movie starts with a script, so does every video game. Video games have always had writers, but in the past few years, video game writers have had a lot more writing to do. It's only in the past few generations of video game consoles and PC processors that video games have been able to store hundreds, if not thousands, of lines of recorded dialogue. Because games can now hold such a large amount of data, writers have to write longer scripts with more characters, dialogue, and plot twists. In fact, today's video game scripts can run anywhere from 300 to 600 pages long. Compare that to the average feature-length movie script of around 120 pages.
Whether it's writing pitches for original IPs or being hired by a development team to write the script for a game in preproduction, the job of the video game writer is an important and exciting one in the industry.
Hours involved: Typical forty-hour workweek, but can often turn into a sixty- to eighty-hour workweek during game production.
Work environment: Video game writers work both from home and in the development office. They spend the majority of their time reading books or working on their computers.
Salary: Starting salary around $60,000; more experienced writers can make $150,000 and up.
Most video game production companies look for a bachelor's degree in English from their prospective writers. Many video game writers today got their start in Hollywood, writing scripts for the motion picture industry. Taking classes on screenwriting or having some experience in the entertainment industry is a big plus.
You've got to be a proficient writer of prose, both fiction and nonfiction. Writers in the video game industry will be expected to write technical manuals, in-game text, entire game scripts, and character dialogue, just to name a few examples. A writer's technical tools are as simple as a word processor or script writing program.
Microsoft Word: The industry standard word processor.
Final Draft: Script writing program.
You've got to be a fast writer, comfortable with the written word, and highly creative. Writers have to be able to keep a cool head under hard-to-meet deadlines and high-pressure turnarounds. People skills are important as well, since writers spend a lot of time pitching or explaining their ideas to others.
How to Get Your Foot in the Door
Get as much writing experience as possible. Whether you're writing for your school newspaper or writing articles for gaming magazines, do whatever you can to get some experience under your belt.
An internship with a video game production company or a video game industry magazine can be a great way to learn more about writing and make some connections along the way.