The Lazy Designer

Writing Videogames

Just a short observation but I get asked the question of whether its worthwhile to work, as a writer, for a videogame developer, like BioWare. Most often I am asked this by other writers I have met.

So here goes.

A disclaimer: I was never really a writer at BioWare (other than a bit of dialog in Baldur’s Gate 2 and item descriptions and other misc text throughout my career) but I worked with and managed writers. As well what advice I offer is in the context of writing strong narrative games like those that BioWare creates… plots, subplots, followers and so on. I have no experience, say, writing a game like Angry Birds.

Will Being a Videogame Writer Make Me a Better Writer?


Is Being a Videogame Writer a Stepping Stone to a Career Writing Books/Stories?

Probably not.

Let me Explain

Writing for videogames is exhausting. Most writers are too busy working to produce fiction in their spare time. There are exceptions and some like Drew Karpyshyn and David Gaider have written novels while working on games. They are exceptions.

But what’s cool about videogame writing is that you are getting paid a lot more money than most authors will ever see writing stories and novels. And you are getting paid that money to write (and sometimes rewrite and sometimes edit and sometimes to sit in long boring meetings where overly energetic technical types talk about crazy stuff… but mostly you are paid to write).

What you also get out of the experience — and even as a non-game-writer I feel I have benefited from this — is that you work with incredibly creative, talented folk and you’ll encounter a 101 different ways to improve your writing. Some writers are better at developing detailed, engaging NPCs with distinctive voices. Others know how to make plots all twisty and fun. Others are great at seeing the potential in a less-than-imperfect first draft, tearing it apart, and then helping to rebuild it into something amazing. And you will learn from non-writers too!

And all of this learning happens every minute of every day at work. Except for at lunch. That time is reserved just for crazy talk.

So I do highly recommend the experience, if you can get into the industry, but temper it with the advice that you will probably be too busy to benefit from it until you are all old and retired. Like me.

So How Do I Get a Job Writing in the Videogame Industry?

Ask me that next week. I have to go make dinner.

For now you can check out some of my ‘how to get a job in the games industry’ posts in my Lazy Designer section.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.


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