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GCG: ‘The Professional Game Manual Maker’

GCG: ‘The Professional Game Manual Maker’ Exclusive

August 26, 2008 | By Jill Duffy




Belinda M. Van Sickle has one of those ‘other’ jobs in the game industry, the kind that doesn’t fit neatly into the designer-artist-programmer triangle. GameCareerGuide.com, Gamasutra’s sister site for game-related careers and education, has just posted an interview with her, “The Professional Game Manual Maker.”

Van Sickle is president of GameDocs Inc., and has more than 10 years experience writing and creating game manuals and documentation. She has also been an awards judge and a member of the awards committee for the MI6 Conference, a game industry event focused on marketing and advertising.

For people who are aspiring to work in the video game industry but don’t feel well suited for a job in the production line, Van Sickle’s career might be something of a guiding light. In this excerpt from the article, she talks about what her specific experience in the game industry really is:

“My specialty for nearly 12 years has been game manuals. Manuals aren’t meant to sell a game -- they’re intended to add value to the title by adding depth and immersive game world info by allowing players to learn more about power-ups, weapons, etc. The other most important purpose of a game manual is to reduce customer support costs by helping players get the best experience from their game without getting stuck and frustrated.”

She also talks about game design document and why they’re important not only for game designers and the in-house production team, but everyone else on the project, too:

“I’ve seen a huge change in the quality of game design documents in the last 10 years. It used to be the GDD was a joke, so old and out of date, it barely reflected the game. And those were the days of extremely long development cycles and huge cost overages on most titles.

The industry has really grown up in the last five years and GDDs have improved significantly. Not only are they written better, they usually reflect the game pretty accurately. I’ve also noticed that certain developers are better than others when it comes to GDDs. And the fact is, developers that create high quality, accurate GDDs are the ones that have contracts with top 10 publishers.

Game design docs today are used by many different aspects of publishing, including marketing, PR, and documentation. A good design doc is used by all aspects of development, including programming, 2D and 3D art, and level design. …

The industry’s standards have gone up so much, I really recommend that small developers without a strong relationship with a publisher improve their GDDs. Publishers don’t want to risk money on a developer that doesn’t even have their ducks in a row on paper."


To read the complete interview with Van Sickle, interested parties can visit GameCareerGuide.com now.


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