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Real talk about what it's like to write video games

Real talk about what it's like to write video games

August 15, 2016 | By Alex Wawro

August 15, 2016 | By Alex Wawro
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More: Console/PC, Indie, Design

"The story is not everything in a video game. Maybe this causes you to clutch your pearls in shock, but it’s true. A game writer has to bow to the requirements of gameplay and level design, as well as to the limitations of both technology and the schedule.
Just because I can imagine the story taking a turn into a giant castle doesn’t mean the art team wants to build said giant castle."

- Longtime video game writer David Gaider.

It can be tricky to pin down exactly what's involved with being a writer in the video game industry: the work changes to suit the needs of the project.

Writer David Gaider (pictured) has a fair number of said projects under his belt, having spent nearly two decades as a writer and designer at BioWare on games like Baldur's Gate II, Knights of the Old Republic and Dragon Age: Inquisition before departing early this year and joining up with Beamdog shortly thereafter.

Now, the veteran game writer has published a lengthy Medium post about what he thinks it takes to be a writer in the video game business, in the process providing an interesting perspective on what it's like to try and adapt the traditionally solitary work of a writer to the collaborative process of game development.

"Game writing is largely about collaboration, and that’s not something everyone thinks about," writes Gaider. "The team works together, and every department has their needs and is contributing their piece to the whole exactly the same as you are. The writers do not get everything they want all the time."

This is a fresh spin on a common maxim, but Gaider goes on to elaborate on what, specifically, that collaboration entails -- figuring out how to make a story work inside a game that's continually being pulled apart and put back together in different configurations throughout the course of development.

"Implementation. That is 80% of your job. Figuring out how to make the story work inside a video game," continues Gaider. "And you will do it with a smile, because it’s your job to make it all come together like it was meant to be that way from the beginning and not be a princess about it because the story you pitched in Pre-Production and which everybody liked is now half the size and parts of it don’t really make sense and let’s not even talk about that ending level and someone’s going to write a blog about how you’re a crappy writer because who would ever write a story like that intentionally?"

"If any of that’s a problem for you, then go write a novel and be happy."

Gaider's full post, which includes further insight into the protean nature of writing for video games as well as practical advice on building a career as a writer in the game industry, is worth reading in full over on Medium.

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