Comikaze 2015: Game Industry Veterans Discuss How To Make It As A Writer

The game industry right now is in an interesting place. With video games becoming bigger and bigger, plots can no longer neccesarily be a one paragraph blurb, but in some instances huge intertwing plots that have to keep players engaged. But how does one go about doing that, let alone get in the industry to do so? At this year’s Comikaze, Robert Denton Bryant, co-author of the book “Slay the Dragon: Writing Good Video Games” was part of a panel alongside The Witcher writer Anne Toole, Dying Light writer Haris Orkin, and surprise guest panelist Steven Elliot Altman (who wrote the script for Acclaim MMO Nine Dragon) to discuss what it takes to become a writer in the modern game industry.

Although it’s been said before, and I imagine a lot of college students here all the time, is the importance of networking. “Networking and knowing someone is still key”, Orkin said, as he and everyone else on the panel got there start in non-writing fields, such as movies and advertising, before getting brought in to work on video games. However, just because you can’t or don’t get hired by a major publisher, doesn’t mean that you’re totally out of luck. “If you have an idea, be passionate about”, said Altman, as every major piece of work started off as an idea from one passionate person before growing into something bigger. Writers also have to find a middle ground between being able to write compelling intricate plots and dialog, while at the same time make it so that gamers are invested, though as Altman put it, “some players don’t care about that and just want to shoot something, and that’s totally fine.”

Other topics that were discussed during the course of the panel included writing the game plot like you would a play, when coming with a game idea, don’t start with the story first but rather the gameplay (as well as start small), don’t rely heavily on Kickstarter when you first graduate, and most important of all, the difference between a first draft and a second draft, or as Altman called it, the difference between “Vomiting” and “Mopping”. “Your first draft should be the whatever comes to mind”, he said. “Don’t worry about changing stuff or getting rid of ideas in your first draft (or vomiting)…when you’re sick, that’s not the time to clean up; let your ideas come out, like you were throwing up, and keep that to yourself. Your second and subsequent drafts should be the mopping up what you wrote originally, when you clean up your ideas, take out what doesn’t work, and fix any errors or typos.” A bit gross to be sure, but it certainly does make sense in a strange way.