This article is part of a partnership with Game Prime.
Writing a story is not a new thing in the creative industry. We can find many types of story writing jobs out there such as a novelist, a movie screenwriter, or a journalist. Every type has its own unique style. A game writer is no exception.
So, who is a game writer, and how is their future in Indonesia?
In a game development, a story writer is often called as a “game writer”. No one knows exactly when the role first emerged, but tracing the modern games history, games with great narratives had been around since the 80’s. One of which is Ultima, an adventure/RPG for DOS platform that has existed for more than three decades.
In countries like the US and Japan, a game writer profession is fairly common, especially for studios developing adventure or RPG genre. So it is not unusual to see great story-based games you might be familiar with are often released by companies from those two countries. Take Final Fantasy, BioShock, The Witcher, Breath of Fire and Metal Gear Solid for examples.
Game writing jobs haven’t gained popularity among Indonesians until recently. Today, every big studio in Indonesia that develops a story based game is searching for a great game writer. Titles like Love Spice from Agate Studio and Just Deserts from Vifth Floor are proofs that game writing jobs are starting to get a rise in demand.
In conclusion, a game writer isn’t a new profession. It has existed since a long time ago, maybe longer than we thought.
Actually, there is not much difference between a game writer and any other writing jobs. All of them need to deliver their ideas effectively, understand writing rules like grammatical errors, and so on. One thing that makes a game writer different is that they craft and write a story for a game. Different platform results in a different mechanism, and so does the market.
Technically, a game writer is a sub-section from game designers role. So, a game writer must not only be expert in creating stories but also have a sharp game design instinct. Why?
Because the main purpose of a game is to entertain gamers, not readers. So a game writer should make the story interesting enough for people who might be not much into reading.
This is a big challenge. If we create a story that isn’t interesting or even disturbs the gameplay’s plan, the worst case is gamers will leave the game before they finish it. And they might not want to continue playing it anymore.
To overcome this problem, a game writer should partner with game designers to plan the storyline. Unlike a novelist who can work alone, a game writer needs insights from game designers to include their story to the in-development game. A game writer should know when the narration occurs in the game, how the story can be represented by cut-scenes, what action can be represented with animations, and how long a narration can be included.
All of those things need an intense communication with game designers as the architects of the game mechanics. They should complete each other.
By doing so, the story produced will be interesting for gamers, doesn’t disturb the game design overall and it will be in harmony with the gameplay. Implicitly or explicitly, both game writers and game designers should have their own moments. And a game writer must be sensitive to that.
Interaction with players is one of the most important elements in game writing. A game should always include players’ participation to make progress on the story.
In novels, we can write fifty thousand paragraphs without a pause, and readers won’t protest because that’s the way it is. And, novel readers indeed tend to like being spoiled by word-play. It’s passive—it lets the readers read and play with their imagination.
Unfortunately, the same rule isn’t applicable to games. We can’t write fifty thousand paragraphs at a time without zero interaction with players. We need to sort out which stories that do or do not need players’ participation. In other words, audiences need to be invited to play an active role to make a progress to the story.
On the other side, scene descriptions or the circumstances that are usually written in novels or short stories can be represented visually in the game. The game writer should understand this.
That’s why, in every story-based game, there is always an NPC or Non-Playable Character. NPC is a character that we can’t play. Usually, when we interact with this character, a series of dialogue will appear. Sometimes the dialogue is important, sometimes it is not. Sometimes it has a connection with the main story, sometimes it doesn’t. NPC is useful to make a story more interactive because intrigued players will click the NPC to know the story and missions that they should do next.
Besides NPC, there is also an interactive object. Interactive object has the same concept like NPC but in form of inanimate project that is important for the story. Take as an example a magic sword or a final object that we can usually find in an RPG’s. If we interact with that object, then a series of dialogue or a short narration about that magic object will appear.
In that event, a game writer’s sensitivity is being tested by placing the story fragmentations in the right places. Unlike novel writers who indulge their audience with beautiful words, game writers have a job to indulge their audience through moments and delivery techniques.
Like I said in the beginning, some Indonesian game studios are starting to search more game writers to create story-based games. One of them is Agate International from Bandung, with its latest project, Love Spice. This visual novel for Android has a complicated story for galge fans in Indonesia. So, it’s no wonder if Agate is opening a story writer position for this visual novel project.
Besides Love Spice, there are also many story-driven games from Indonesia. Just Deserts from Vifth Floor, Celestian Tales from Ekuator Games, INheritage from Tinker Games, and Xagia Wars from NextHeaven community are some of the examples.
According to this trend, a game writer is one of many professions in the gaming industry that you should try. So, start practicing on how to make a great game script from now!