Veteran writer (and scion of Tom Clancy) Richard Dansky asked an interesting question:
So what knowledge do you think is absolutely essential to working in games writing? Concepts? Elements of craft? Specific terminologies? Legal and professional issues?
I responded with eleven tenets that have served me well. Most of these were learned the hard way so I thought I’d (hopefully) save other writers and would-be writers the hassle and headache. Feedback and anecdotes from other writers is most certainly appreciated.
11 Things I’ve Learned About Writing for Video Games
1. A writer’s role in a project varies not only from studio to studio and from project to project but from stage of production to stage of production.
2. Many aspects of writing are the easiest thing to change when developing a game. More than anyone, you must be flexible.
3. Chances are, no one will care more about the story than you. You will be called upon to champion ideas and fight for story elements but you cannot be precious about small things and must be able to compromise.
4. You must be able to find your voice in any project, work-for-hire or not. If you cannot put yourself into another’s project, you need to work on that first and foremost.
5. When I freelanced, I was often called in near the end of a project to give context and structure to pre-existing characters, locations, and situations. If you intend to freelance, be really good at assembling LEGO bricks.
6. Understand that seemingly small decisions–such as locations, animations, costume changes, and characters–can have a huge impact on budgets and workflows within other departments. You must be able to own the budgets, both time and money.
7. Games are a team project. Learn the lingo used by other departments and disciplines. Learn what they need to get their job done. Learn what their priorities are. They are your best friends. And if you get in good with them, they will do what they can for you when you absolutely, positively need a new location, animation, costume change, or character.
8. You are a step in the process. Be mindful that audio, cinematics, animation, level design, scripting, and others will work from what you create. Be realistic about your deadlines and, once set: HIT. YOUR. DEADLINES.
9. You are a step in the process. Others must be mindful of your deadlines and, when they are not, you must be comfortable addressing that issue and telling them how their delays affect you.
10. Changes happen. All the time. Notes come down from directors, producers, marketing, publishers, and changes must be made. Sometimes the deadline will shift to allow for those changes; often, it won’t.
11. Games are great but it’s your life that’s important. Don’t be so in love with writing for games that your quality of life suffers.