TBT: Vague Thoughts on Game Writing from 2012

I posted this in April 2012 on my old blog. Thought I would share it again for Throw-Back Thursday.

We had a good GGDA meeting (okay, party) at Mowgli to celebrate the release of their Songster Facebook game. Fun mix of people – pros, amateurs, students and outsiders; artists, coders, musicians, business folks and writers.

It’s not easy being a writer in the game industry. Everyone feels they can write and, sadly, many games show the result. At HDI we used to joke about programmer voice actors, but the same sad results can happen when a designer tries to be a writer. Trouble is, people who are successful writers outside of games have a hard time making the transition. Too much to unlearn.

At tonight’s meeting we had a good mix of writers, including folks who are making their living at game writing (Derek Koehl with the Writer’s Studio) and folks doing it because it is their passion (Charles Moody with the Grey Backpack). This left me brooding as to what makes for a successful game writer.

I think four traits are essential – skill, contacts, knowledge of games, and diligence. Then the question becomes which is the most important. Skill and contacts can balance each other out. If you have good skill, contacts will come as a result (usually). If you have good contacts, they will put up with you while you develop the skill (sometimes). A knowledge of games really is not something you can pick up in a month of playing, but really needs to be developed over a long period of playing games, thinking about games, and talking about games. Still, it is learnable.

However, none of these really matter without the diligence. All of these require diligence to develop, and then it takes even more diligence to put them into practice. Diligence for writers is a tricky thing. I was at my best back in the days of regular (usually daily) deadlines. Longer milestone periods, like one gets with games, can be a dual-edged sword.

Writers have their own ways of dealing with this. Many have daily word-count milestones. Kerouac would type on a scroll until he could type no more. Hunter S. Thompson would lock himself in a hotel room with Wild Turkey, firearms and a typewriter, and see which ran out first. Asimov made a deal with Satan.

Right now I have one or two things on my plate, so I have learned that in order to get my best productivity, I have to divide up my day into hour blocks with associated tasks. So, yesterday (today was all meetings), my day was 8 – 9 Prep, 9 – 10 E-mails, 10 – 11 Faerie Escape: Atlanta, 11 – 12 Financials (yay tax time), 12 – 1 GGDA/SIEGE, 1 – 2 Haunted House Tycoon, 2 – 3 Break, 3 – 4 E-mails, 4 – 5 Noble Armada, 5 – 6 Other HDI tasks, 6 – 8 break, 8 – 9 personal writing.

I’ve learned that if I devote too much time to one task, at some point I will get stuck on it. That’s fine when I have four hours to devote to it and can batter my way through writers block and the like. When there are this many things with which to deal, however, I don’t have that luxury.

And now I want to go create Emperor Alexius’ palace on Byzantium Secundus as a Songster music venue …

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