Darby McDevitt is a scriptwriter for the hugely successful Assassin’s Creed series of games. But he doesn’t only write for games. He’s also released several prose fiction works, has been published in national literary journals and anthologies, and has released several music albums. He’s also written, produced, directed, or designed the audio for a number of successful films.
What advice would you give to somebody who’s thinking about becoming a Video Game Writer?
Number one, make your own games. Small ones, if necessary. The world is full of great tools for burgeoning game writers and designers — GameMaker, Unity 3D, etc. — so just dive in and make a little game. This will look incredibly impressive to a prospective employer.
“If you can’t talk with game designers on their level, you’ll be in a much worse position on the project.”
Number two, learn a trade other than writing. Probably design or coding. If you can’t talk with game designers on their level, you’ll be in a much worse position on the project.
What would you recommend for education, books, or other learning to start down the Game Writer career path?
Ralph Koster’s book A Theory of Fun is one you’ll hear tossed around a lot, and for good reason. It’s engaging, accessible and short. Rules of Play is another academic-flavoured tome it wouldn’t hurt to read.
In terms of writing education, I’m a bit of an oddball in this regard. I think Modernist and post modernist experimental writers — like Joyce, Beckett, Paley, Barthelme, and Lydia Davis – offer the best preparation for learning to write in games. Understanding their unique approaches to literature will improve the quality of your writing while getting you in the habit of thinking outside the box.
In games, writing comes in all forms. It helps to be experimental. To be sure, classic plot-driven novels can be fun too, especially if they have crackling dialog, like a Raymond Chandler novel. But narrative-driven games make up only a fraction of the total types of games found in the wild.
Also, take some coding or digital art classes in university. They’ll help tremendously, even if you don’t major in them.
And lastly, play games with a critical eye. Not to determine how good or bad they are, but to understand how they work and why they keep players attracted.
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Best of Luck!