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I am interested in plot writing for games, and wondered first of all:

Is this available as an entry-level position, or is it accessed through other avenues (even external to games development)

And secondly, what are the daily tasks of a games writer, both at the entry level and at a higher level?

Thank you.

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Writer? So quick to abandon programming. :) gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/5538/… –  James Feb 11 '11 at 23:06
    
Writing plots for video games is like writing a script for a movie (write something awesome and maybe in 3-5 years you can get someone to look at it :))... Good luck! –  James Feb 11 '11 at 23:10
    
@James It never hurts to ask, or be interested in different fields. I'm glad both questions have received responses not only useful to me but to anybody reading and interested. I thank you for your banter and for the good luck wishes. –  kymully Mar 30 '11 at 15:11
    
Never does hurt to ask and I do hope it is seen while I wrote it in good humor, I was not being sarcastic. The full time writer we had on our staff was also a screenplay writer, their backgrounds and such being very similar.. So a traditional writing background will be very helpful in this. I suppose the main difference these days is instead of picking the most awesome path for a book or movie, video games will tend to let you explore any path through the story. –  James Mar 30 '11 at 16:26
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2 Answers

I work at one of the relatively few studios that retain a full-time writing team. I also work very closely with the writers in my role as a tools developer. We have around seven (I think) full-time writers, including their lead, and two writer/designers who act as lore directors and generally are the final authority on the direction of the world.

For the most part, the writing team authors new text or edits existing produced by other designers. The kind of content they generate tends towards the minor characters, dialog scenes and conversation, bits of chatter and background VO, quest description, descriptions for areas -- basically, anything that needs to be written. They also work with those designers to help ensure that all the text that is produced fits within the framework of the universe we are creating -- that nobody uses anachronisms, that characters of a particular cultural background exhibit the traits of that background, that the game is not too chock-full of pop culture references, et cetera.

Our writers also work with external partners, such as the authors of books based in our world, to ensure accuracy and adherence to what is canon. Most studios maintain a "story bible" of some sort that documents these sorts of things, and maintains guidelines for what is and is not canon (ours are not public, but Bungie has published this guide to what is considered canon in Halo, for example)

If you have a strong background in literature, writing, or related fields you may be able to break in to the industry provided you can find a company that employs a team of full-time writers. This may be difficult. I would caution you that is far more about editing and creating in-the-small than it is sitting around and getting to dictate the entire plot of a game.

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  1. From what I've seen, IF you're already published in other media (e.g. novels), AND you have a personal connection to a game company (e.g. you're good friends with the executive producer), AND the game company is relatively small and unknown, you have a good chance of getting hired with no prior experience in the games industry. Otherwise, it's probably pretty difficult.

  2. Most game writers would spend the bulk of their time writing whatever needs to be written, whether it's NPC dialogue, backstory, etc. Whatever story you write will need to be tailored for the game, and you'd be working under the direction of the lead designer, design director, producer, or other such person.

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