Writing On a Group Project vs Writing For Yourself

Hello! Jorden again having to announce myself every time because I didn't put my name as part of my username like some kind of idiot and instead just went with "Circuitman" on the blog site because that's just my standard username. Real forward thinking, that choice. Preamble aside this post is gonna be directed a little more towards other writers who like video games and may be interested in writing for video games. I've been writing for a video game for two whole months now in a job that I got through my friendship with the creator so I am definitely not trying to claim expert status. Instead I'd like to go over what I've learned in those two months and how this process has differed from my normal totally unpaid amateur writing work.

My primary writing up to now has been short stories in the Fantasy and Science Ficiton genres (for the non-writers this is referred to as "speculative fiction") which is a lot of fun and gives me a lot of practice at the basics of story structure as well as helping me to work on keeping my writing more concise. If you haven't yet guessed that I can be long winded at times, that's only because this is just the second blog post and we don't know each other very well yet. When you're just writing short stories that may or may not be published one day there aren't a lot of rules. Actually there's almost no rules, you can do whatever you want and create whatever worlds you want and nobody can tell you otherwise. That's the perfect freedom of working on your own stuff, I imagine most other writers are familiar with it. Now we compare to my work on Rank: Warmaster which is almost nothing like that.

When I joined the project Rank: Warmaster already had a world with many of its rules and concepts already defined by Arthur. This is Arthur's dream since high school and he's had plenty of time (age joke!) to think about how he would like the setting to be. I can't just run wild with whatever idea comes to mind, even if that idea would make a cool story; it would be insulting to Arthur and counterproductive to creating a good game. For many writers of speculative fiction this is a restriction that can be quite unfamiliar and yet I kind of love it. The best way I've found to approach the entire situation is that much of my work is already done for me, I just have to pry the relevant information out of Arthur from time to time. Many of the questions I might have to answer about the setting have already been answered. There are no aliens in the solar system and they've never visited, everything the player encounters is human in origin. The primary method of space travel in the game is a mixture of conventional thrusters like what we have today and some version of the Alcubierre Drive that basically moves space around the ship to get around lightspeed limitations. The politics and economy of Earth are dominated by huge mega-corporations spending billions of dollars on technology innovations all with the goal of gathering more and more wealth. Colonization of the solar system is in very early stages and besides a few test runs that may or may not have been legal the player is among the first humans to set up long term facilities on Mars. That's quite a bit of work that I just don't have to do, allowing me to get down to the meat of what I'm here for faster and easier. Some setting questions did end up getting answered after I started during meetings with Arthur. Earth was always intended to be isolated and unreachable, the people trapped behind the planet's own laser defense grid. I helped to come up with the more exact how and why of that, as well as how it affects the player in the long run (but I don't want to spoil the fun of playing through the game's main campaign for yourself). Arthur hates to micro-manage so I still have the freedom to come up with characters and world events and even to adjust the core setting to suit the narrative I'm trying to build and that's a key aspect to working on a group project like this.

If it seems daunting or restrictive to try and work on someone else's setting then I have good news: I have exactly as much freedom as I have when working on my own projects with a setting I've already established for myself. I'm still required to keep the setting consistent and maintain the rules and elements that have been established, the only difference is that I answer to someone other than myself if I make a mistake. So the takeaway I'm going for here (the first takeaway, anyhow) is that if you love writing and video games and always wanted to merge the two but you're worried that you don't have a good idea for a video game narrative, there is still a way for you to participate in creating games that you would love to play and it's honestly not any harder than working on your own stuff, just a bit different.

The second takeaway is a bit of self reflection I did while coming up with this post today:
I never wrote fanficiton and in fact I kind of looked down on the practice when I was in high school like a total snob and honestly I think it might have been good for me to try. I genuinely can't think of a better way to practice for what I'm doing today than taking the fully fleshed out world and characters someone else created and attempting to write consistent, believeable prose with it. So full respect to the fanfiction writers out there getting tons of really valuable experience in a marketable writing skill.

See you all in two weeks!

No feedback yet
Leave a comment

Click here to log in if you already have an account on this site.
Your email address will not be revealed on this site.
(Set cookies so I don't need to fill out my details next time)
(Allow users to contact me through a message form -- Your email will not be revealed!)

What goes tick tock?
Please answer the question above.