There a so many writing jobs out that I, like many others, are discovering each day.
For example, writing a game, I thought, would only consist of writing a game plot and developing character story lines.
How wrong I was. This week I was lucky enough to talk to Rik Lagarto about the ins and out of game writing, and his experiences as a games writer.
– Laura Bartlett
‘I’ve been a game writer for 8 years now. In 2005 I realised that despite finding success as a theatre director and performance creator I was still a struggling and starving artist and nothing was ever going to change. I had to do something else with my creativity, but what?! Enter my mum, (who like all mums can come out with some real gems of advice), who said “At the heart of it you’re a story teller, the medium is irrelevant.” Immediately a voice in my head said GAMES! Which was kind-of natural for me as I’m a pretty hard-core gamer – and not just with computer games, but board games and tabletop war games as well. I have a good head for game mechanics, so I contacted a friend who worked for a games studio in Brisbane and asked how could I get into the industry as a game designer. He told me to send my CV, and letter about why I thought I would make a good game designer, to the studio where he worked. Somehow the stars aligned and they asked for an interview. Next thing, I was moving from Sydney to Brisbane to work for a game studio as a game designer. Man, what a learning curve. From then on I have slowly moved from game designer to writer to narrative designer (which is strange position that is part game designer and writer, where you design not just the story but more importantly how the story is told from within the game)’
Is your mind blown? Mine was. Already, I could begin to see the differences in game writing, novel writing and non-fiction writing. I asked Rik to explain the difference between novel writing and game writing.
‘I’m still really learning the craft of novel writing, but I’d have to say the main differences are: Firstly a novel, despite the involvement of editors etc. is a solo creative effort. Writing for games is a very collaborative and dynamic process that involves dozens of people and departments within the studio and a lot of it is out of your control. Which brings me to the second point, which is often, you are serving other people’s ideas not just your own. Thirdly, when you write a novel you are usually just writing in one form. In games you will have to write/create in multiple forms such as scripts, encyclopaedic world background, systemic dialogue, on screen text such as tutorials, unit/character/faction/item info, quests/missions, things that may be seen/heard via radios or TV’s in game, even PR promo material for the game.’
‘With game writing there are a variety of different styles of writing to incorporate. Writing a novel or any piece of writing varies in the time it takes you to write it and the same applies to game writing. ‘Some games are made in less than 12 months, others over 5 years.’ This depends upon the production of the game, and what type of game it is. Even then the plot, like everything else in games, is subject to change; all the way from starting from scratch multiple times to minor tweaks, right up to the point where the game goes to what is called ‘Gold’ stage and is ready to be mass produced and sent out onto real or digital shelves.
When working on any writing piece, the writer is in control of everything. They are involved every step of the process when it comes to getting published. Game writing is similar, as Rik explained.
‘Writers can be heavily involved throughout the entire production and be a part of the in-house studio team, all the way to contract writers who may never set foot in the studio and get assigned specific things to write in specific ways without ever having a real picture of the game until it is finally released.’
There is so much more to learn about writing for games. Whether you’re a lover of Geek and Sundry, you’ve enjoyed years of cheating at Monopoly, or you’re often glued to World of Warcraft, it’s easy to forget that someone’s imagination is exactly the thing that brought that game to life. If you want to learn more about games writing and entering the field yourself, Rik’s running a workshop at the ACT Writers Centre this weekend. Rik left me with some great advice; ‘Play games and write! Understand games and the different ways different games use and tell stories. And be prepared for anything, writing for games is like trying to spin half a dozen plates while straddling a fault line during an earthquake.’ Not only can this apply to game writing but novel writing too.
Writing For Games with Rik Lagarto
10-4pm, Saturday 1 June
This workshop will provide writers new or interested in writing for games and understanding of what is involved in writing for games. The workshop includes practical exercises that will put writers into the headspace of writing for games.
The workshop will cover in detail:
- Anatomy of a game development team.
- What it’s like to write for game developers & what game developers expect/need.
- Terminology and concepts common to writing for games.
- The difference between narrative designers and game writers.
- Purpose of Story in Games
- Types of Player characters.
- Systemic dialogue and scripted scenes
- Different types of narratives structures used in games
- Linear and non-linear narratives
- Using environmental story telling
- Game design and the game writer. (game design and game writing Dos and Don’ts)
Rik Lagarto began his professional story creating career as a theatre performance maker, working primarily as a director and writer in performances that fused text, movement and multimedia.
After 12 years in theatre and community cultural arts projects, Rik took his creative bat and ball moved into game development as a designer and writer. For the last 7 years Rik has worked as a writer, narrative designer and systems designer for companies such as 2K Marin, Creative Assembly (Sega), Krome, Iron Helmet Games and Black Orc Games, including writing for Lucas Arts for their Star Wars Game ‘Clone Wars: Republic Heroes.
Venue: ACT Writers Centre workshop room.
Cost: $110 members, $95 concessional members, $170 non-members (includes 12 months of membership).
Bookings: You can book by phone on 6262 9191, online or at the office. Payment is required at time of booking.