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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Metro 2033

The Times has an interesting article about a book (now becoming a game) called Metro 2033. Read the article here.

The book has been hugely successful and the game is quite well anticipated. Here are three interesting things about the project - none of which could have been true 5 years ago - and what makes it relevant to us.

1 - The book is by Dimitry Glukhovsky. He started publishing it on his blog with comments and criticisms from blog readers prompting a radical rewrite and a whole new second half. The rewrite was then also published on his blog.

2 - The book then got published in book form and has sold well. However, the free version can still be downloaded.

3 - The book then got picked up for adaptation - not into a film, but a PC game (for now). The game meant Dmitry could be more closely involved.

All 3 of these represent our changing times and prove that the project plans you had in place a few years ago may need looking at again.

A couple of links...

Wikipedia page
Official site

Friday, February 19, 2010

6 reasons why you should look at writing for games

In the last of my 'games specials' I bring you some reasons why you should consider writing for games (if you aren't already).

These came from a lecture given by Professor Lachlan Mackinnon at Abertay University - a centre for excellence in games teaching.

One: Money
The games industry is worth $45billion worldwide - so there is money around. The UK is still a player (just about), so you can get a foot in the door. A big UK Massively Mutliplayer Online game will cost £50m to develop. Compare that to how many UK £50m films there are.

Two: It's not for kids
The average age of players is now 33. So your game writing doesn't have to be childish stuff - unless you want it to be.

Three: Games aren't for gamers
Not a hardcore full-on nerdy gamer? Well, that's cool. Neither are the majority of people who play games. They play on their Wii, or their iPhone and they play socially with friends.

Four: You don't have to sit on your own
The biggest games right now are a/ facebook games and b/ online games. The vision of the lonely gamer in his bedroom is now rare.

Five: You won't feel at home
Not true. You will be invited in too late to contribute ideas - or too early so they change it all later. Hey, just like in films.

Six: It is not a whole new world
When you have actors on a stage the director sets the rules for the game and the script is their guide. In games it is the same thing, but one step further removed. The game sets up the rules and we are all actors on the stage. The script is a guide for us all.

Here are my previous posts on this topic:
Sources of games writing jobs.
How to apply for games writing jobs.
Skills you already have that are useful.
Helpful resources to use when you have work.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mr Vista on Comedy Central

Birthdays are for losers

Go on, give Mr Vista your support (ie vote) over on Atom and lets get him on Comedy Central!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Games: Getting work

Okay, so you're looking at the sources of games writing work and you've thought about the skills you have and what you need to develop.

But what do you actually do to apply?

Here are my three tips.

One: Know your job terms.
This is a potential nightmare. Not all jobs for writers say 'writer' or 'scriptwriter'. Worse still, I can't even tell you what the adverts may say instead. In film and TV we have more than our fair share of crazy job titles (Best Boy etc), but at least these are standard across the biz. There is no such uniformity or consistency in games. My current title is "Senior Creative Designer" and yet I do writing. So my advice must in fact be, explore deeper into the jobs and read the descriptions.

Two: Know where to look.
The 'writing' style jobs will normally be in the 'design' section of a website. Design means the games content. Design doesn't mean visual or graphic design, that is called 'art'. Sometimes the writing jobs appear in 'audio' if the work is writing spoken dialogue. Hunt around.

Three: Know how to approach a company.
Whether it is through an agency, through a website, a direct approach, or even a speculative approach then the advice of what to say is the same. In fact it is the same for ANY writing job. Stress your skills that are an exact match. Mention your skills that are transferrable and don't be afraid to join the dots - I can do x which will help you do y. But best of all get some relevant experience of any description. In descending order...

1 - Have worked on big budget games before
2 - Have worked on freeware games before - including mods or flash games.
3 - Have worked on other interactive products - CD-ROMs, large websites with entertaining content, non-linear narratives.
4 - Have been involved in games in some other way. In my case I was on the BAFTA games judging panel a couple of times.
5 - Have played a lot of games and know how they work, in detail.
6 - You are an ardent gamer and have been since the early days.
7 - You play a lot of games.

Obviously success in other fields of writing (comics, TV, films, novels) helps also.

Whatever your skills and whatever your background my final advice must be to keep emphasing how you can meet their needs for this current post. You may not have the requested level of experience (I didn't) but you will bring other things. Bring these to the fore.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Games: Finding work

Everyone loves a list, so here is a list of online resources to find work as a writer in games...

These are recruitment companies that specialise in the field.
Games Recruit
Interactive Selection - who found me my current position.

These websites collect together jobs from elsewhere so you can search more easily.
Games Job Board
Edge Magazine Online
Games Industry.Biz

Here are just a few of the UK based games companies where you can apply directly.
Bizarre Creations
Black Rock Studios (Disney)
EA (Electronic Arts)
Realtime Worlds - where I am now.

Sidelines is worth a special mention. They are the closest thing to an agency for games writers there is. I have found them approachable and they rep one of my colleagues, Gordon Rennie.

Several of the traditional agencies have interactive divisions, such as Independent , but I must confess I have such set-ups to be weak and underfunded, perhaps run by someone looking after it as a sideline to their 'real' duties. United used to do this also, but have stopped altogether.

Here is an example job description so you can see how they list requirements in quite a formal way, totally unlike being a writer for film or TV.

Next post I'll be looking at how you may approach applying for such roles.