Day in the life of
Game Writer – Sande Chen
I’m a writer and game designer who’s been working in the game industry for over 15 years. I was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award in Videogame Writing for my work on the game, The Witcher. I am delighted to help guide the next generation of game writers and narrative designers.
A game writer may be writing the voice dialog for the characters in the game, the item descriptions, the back story, or the overarching story.
Since I’m a freelance game writer/designer, I work project by project. My responsibilities differ by project. However, there are some game writers in the industry with full-time jobs and their responsibilities may run the gamut from creating back story and lore to writing dialog and quests to what we call “flavor text,” things like the names of different spells.
To give you an idea of what I might be doing for a project, I’m currently designing quests for a fantasy game. I come up with the overarching story for a section (which could be a chapter, a land, a world, etc.) and figure out what are the player’s obstacles. What does the player have to do or solve to get past this section? Since these are quests, I’m limited by what playable actions exist. For instance, the player may have to search for items or talk to a non-playable character (NPC) as part of the quest. All the quests need to make sense in the overarching story and also link to the next section.
The section also has to be populated with NPC’s who are quest givers. The player will talk to the NPC to find out what needs to be done to move on to the next quest. I need to envision what else the player might see: the buildings, structures, animals, land, etc.
After the initial draft is submitted, I do a rewrite. Maybe there’s something that’s hard to program or the artists have made different creatures. Perhaps the producer wants to re-use some artwork. Even afterwards, there may be additional tweaks that I may never know about. Video game developers are constantly improving upon their work.
I’m a freelancer which means I get to work on all different kinds of projects for different companies. I’m never bored!
Video game writing is generally a solo thing, which can be a pro or a con. There are some projects that are large enough to have a writing team and there are others where there is only one person to do everything. I would think that even within a team, an individual writer would get assigned tasks and those tasks would be written individually rather than co-written. Therefore, this is a job where you have to be responsible enough to get things done on your own and keep track of your own time.
Sometimes, a writer isn’t brought into the process until late in the development cycle. That means that there isn’t much wiggle room to create a story because the art or programming may be completed already.
Game Writers are typically responsible for developing the plot and assisting the Narrative Designer during the development of video games. Depending on their experience, Game Writers may craft the entire story or write the dialogue and text that appears in the game.