Video Game Writing – or How to Commit Career Suicide in One Simple Step

Are you interested in a long video game career as a writer? Then the get the word “writer” out of your title.

video game writing

You’d probably be better off exploring promising canary opportunities in the coal mining industry than being a writer in the game industry. Make no mistake, there are fantastic writers in video game development. Men and women who wield words with the same precision Inigo handled his rapier. People who can make you laugh or cry, who can genuinely touch something inside you and take to you an unexpected emotional place.

And the game developers who weren’t looking for work every six months didn’t have the word “writer” in their title. Because being a “writer” in the game industry is about as prudent as going for a swim off the Great Barrier Reef wearing your favorite raw steak suit.

Look, there’s a fundamental conflict at work here. Good stories tend to have a linear format. Video games, not so much. It’s not impossible to reconcile the two – but it’s damned hard. Which means writers have a role that tends to annoy and irritate the other developers with persistent, bothersome concerns over ‘fictional consistency’, ‘character development’ and ‘narrative arc’.

And let’s face it – many developers have pretty bad literary taste. The latest Star Wars best-seller is about as close to literary classics they’ll get. To a lot of folks, writing is slapping a “fiction wrapper” on whatever game mechanic happened to strike them as cool.

This means writers tend to be the first ones cut loose from a project.

So they tend to spend a lot of time looking for work.

Which means they tend to write a lot of books on how to write for video games.

If you want to write for video games and collect a semi-regular paycheck, you need to be a game designer – who just also happens to write.

But what about glory, you ask? What about your dreams of winning a Writer’s Guild Award? Then make sure you get the word “writer” in your credits – but not your title. Guild rules dictate that to be eligible for a WGA award, you need guild membership (not as hard to get as you might think – but we’ll talk about that later) and to be credited on a project as a writer. The Writer’s Guild wants to squirm its way into the game industry and so far the only lever they have is the glamour of Hollywood. They dangle the promise of red carpets, starlets and hobnobbing with Spielberg. Believe me, these days you probably have a much better chance of hobnobbing with Spielberg as a game designer than being a writer. Hollywood hates its own writers. (And Spielberg likes and understands games a lot)

Oh, sure, there are some high profile writers who get into games. You can write a best-selling novel or comic book or get credit for a screenplay that turns into a movie somebody heard of. In those cases, you can probably get a nice cushy writing job for a few months. And odds are, an enormous amount of aggravation along the way and the bonus of having your work completely tossed out. Those big names you associate with your favorite book, movie or comic that get credited for a video game? They probably worked for a few months, wrote volumes of material, collected a nice sized paycheck – and had every word tossed out by the devs who then went back to the drawing board and started from scratch.
Hence is the way of the game industry.

And here’s final reason to not be a “writer”. Go to a game conference and announce you’ve got free mood stabilizers – see how many writer's hands shoot up. While I’ve worked with all manner of 'characters', 'eccentrics', 'rascals', 'oddballs' and out-and-out liars – by far, the highest percentage of straight out crazy weirdos were the game writers.

Oh, and did I mention – I started my career in the industry as a writer?

That’s how I know what I’m talking about.

Do yourself a favor and develop a career in the video game industry – by not being a writer.


  1. Hi Hi , then what should we be or call ourselves

    to stay in the industry?


  2. Informative post about the role of a game writer in gaming industry! I think its difficult to sustain as a writer in the video gaming!

  3. Thanks for the disconfirming advice! Saved me a lot of heartache.

  4. Ahh...gave me a heartache by just listening to this. Don't get disheartened by this aspiring writers! It is still possible to become a writer and I planned on doing this for the last 2 years of college while everyone discouraged me and still made it into a multi-million dollar gaming company as a writer. There's still hope, bro.