Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Session: Game Writing Primer Course

 
4 Weeks to Learn the Basics of Narrative Design and Build a Game
When:  Tuesdays and Thursdays, Feb 20 - Mar 15, 2018, 6:30 - 9:00 PM
Where:  Microsoft NY, 11 Times Square, New York, NY 10019 

I'm pleased to announce that Game Writing Primer is starting up again in 2018!  Come to the free info session this Thursday, February 8 and hear from former students Mary Georgescu and Jon Aiello.  Sharang Biswas, winner of the Dark Horse award at last year's Indiecade, also described his experiences with the course in this Student Spotlight. If you can't make it in person and have questions about the course, you can submit questions through the link on the course information page or attend the Virtual Info Session on February 13.

Whether you’re brand new to making games or looking to level up your skills, all are welcome. You can bring an existing game you’re working on in the engine of your choice or start from scratch to create an entirely new story-based game. In four weeks, you’ll gain an understanding of how to tackle the challenges of writing for games. By the end of the month, you’ll be on your way towards a playable version that can be featured in any one of Playcrafting NYC’s Expos for thousands in the community to play.

Sign up for the 4-week intensive course here.

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer with over 15 years of experience in the game industry.  Her writing credits include 1999 Independent Games Festival winner Terminus, MMO Hall of Fame inductee Wizard101, and the 2007 PC RPG of the Year, The Witcher, for which she was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award in Videogame Writing.  She is the co-author of the book, Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform, and was a contributor to Secrets of the Game Business, Writing For Video Game Genres, and Professional Techniques for Videogame Writing.

Friday, February 2, 2018

GameACon 2016: Breaking Into Game Writing

In this podcast, game writers Sande Chen, Jennifer Estaris, David Kuelz, Matthue Roth, and Ant Tessitore, along with moderator Patrick Coursey, give inspiring and encouraging advice on how to break into the game industry as a writer.

I am really thankful to Michael Beeghley for salvaging this audio recording.  He has really worked wonders with the material, revealing previously inaudible portions.  You'll still hear water glasses clinking or other sound quality issues, but I found that after turning up the volume and listening to the panel, I was not bothered by the crowd noise.  

It was a very well-attended session.  Thank you to everyone who came to the panel! 


Breaking Into Game Writing
GameACon 2016
October 30, 2016

There are as many ways to break into game writing as there are writers, so taking your first steps can be daunting. Join our panel of award-winning writers and designers as they share their successes and struggles with getting a foot in the door of the industry. Whether you dream of writing the next big AAA game or an indie interactive novel, we’ve got the info to set you on the right path.

Moderator: Patrick Coursey
Panelists:  Sande Chen, Jennifer Estaris, David Kuelz, Matthue Roth, Ant Tessitore


 
You can find other download options here.

Patrick Coursey is a writer and narrative designer based out of Baltimore, Maryland. In 2015, he teamed up with Blindflug Studios as writer on the mobile roguelike, Cloud Chasers. The game received four awards including Grand Prize at European Indie Game Days and was an official selection of the Indie Arena at Gamescom. Before that he worked at Fourth Wall Studios in Los Angeles as a transmedia experience designer. He once again joined Blindflug Studios as a writer for their new game, Airheart. He infrequently tweets at @pjcoursey, but would like it if you followed him anyway.  

A writer and game designer, Sande Chen has over 15 years experience in the industry. Her first game writing credit was on the epic space-combat RPG Terminus which won 2 awards at the 1999 Independent Games Festival. She was later nominated for a 2007 Writers Guild of America award in Videogame Writing for the dark fantasy RPG The Witcher. She is SIG leader of the IGDA Game Design SIG. Find her on Twitter @sandechen. 

Jennifer Estaris is a writer, game designer, and mother to a spinning 3 year old. She has worked on games for Nickelodeon, Disney, Tiltfactor, and Dreamworks, and is currently developing indie art games at her studio Astra Rise. Jennifer received her M.F.A. in fiction at Columbia University and why hasn’t my daughter stopped spinning?

David Kuelz is the founder of Awkward Pegasus Studios, a writing and story consultancy for game developers. Since starting Awkward Pegasus in 2012, he has written and consulted for game developers nationwide and has led workshops on video game writing and narrative design all across the Northeast, including for the Gotham Writers' Workshop and Playcrafting. He’s currently designing the narrative for an unannounced RPG at Juncture Media. 

Matthue Roth is a game designer and writer on 30+ acclaimed and award-winning games for iOS and Android. From 2012-2015 he was lead game designer at Amplify, an educational games company that won awards from the iTunes Store, BAFTA, and Games for Change. Most recently his games swept the 2015 Serious Play Conference, earning 3 out of 4 gold medals awarded that year. He’s also the author of six novels, and the New Yorker called his writing “eerie and imaginative.” 

Ant Tessitore is currently working as creative lead on a to be announced TCG and freelancing as a names and flavor text writer for Magic: The Gathering, Ant Tessitore is an avid gamer, writer and narrative designer. Ant most recently worked on Oath of the Gatewatch, and has cards to be released in both Conspiracy: Take the Crown and this year’s Commander product. Ant has also written for Artist Noah Bradley’s The Sin of Man Project, weekly articles at Gathering Magic, and supplement products for Dungeons and Dragons.



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Free Game Writing Workshop this Saturday

Rejoice!  If you are in any way interested in game development and are close to NYC, then you still have time to sign up for this weekend's PlayCrafting + Microsoft Game Jam, which was the largest game jam site in the USA last year for Global Game Jam (GGJ).  Join first-time jammers and veteran developers in experimenting with new ideas for games and learning more about game development.  To participate, you will have to sign up at the official site AND register with PlayCrafting NYC. Watch the video from last year's GGJ.



In addition, Saturday will be Free Workshop Day, which will include my own game writing workshop patterned after Game Writing Portfolio Workout.  Sign up for all or any of the workshops on UI/UX, Unity, Unreal, or Game Design.  The Game Writing Workshop is from 3-4 PM.  It's a nice preview for the upcoming run of the PlayCrafting intensive course, Game Writing Primer, which is kicking off February 20, 2018.

4 Weeks to Learn the Basics of Narrative Design and Build a Game
When:  Tues and Thurs, February 20 - March 15, 2017, 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Where:  Microsoft NY, 11 Times Square, New York, NY 10019

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer with over 15 years of experience in the game industry.  Her writing credits include 1999 Independent Games Festival winner Terminus, MMO Hall of Fame inductee Wizard101, and the 2007 PC RPG of the Year, The Witcher, for which she was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award in Videogame Writing.  She is the co-author of the book, Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform, and was a contributor to Secrets of the Game Business, Writing For Video Game Genres, and Professional Techniques for Videogame Writing.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

IGDA Survey Shows Diversity and Job Stability Concerns

In this article, game designer Sande Chen relates the lack of progress on diversity and job stability, as indicated by the IGDA 2017 Developer Satisfaction Survey.

The IGDA's 2017 Developer Satisfaction Survey (DSS) was released last week (and can be downloaded here) and in it, you'll find that according to the data, the typical worker in the video game industry, whether freelance, self-employed, or employed, is a 30-something, white or multiracial with white, heterosexual, college-educated, married male without a disability or children.  According to the 2017 survey, 74% of respondents identified as male while 21% identified as female.  Despite growing interest in the importance of diversity, very little has translated into actual change at companies, as can be seen from the similar results on the 2014 DSS survey.  


The survey also provided a snapshot of an industry with constant job volatility.  Even though 70% of respondents were permanent employees, on average they had already switched employers twice within 5 years. This is consistent with surveys from prior years. And only 39% expected that they would stay with their current employer for 3 years or less. 53% reported that crunch time was expected at the company and employees would work anywhere from 50 hours to more than 70 hours a week during crunch.

Just like the permanent employees, freelancers or contractors who responded to the survey predominately had 6 years or less experience working in the industry. But unlike the permanent employees, freelancers tended to have a longer relationship with clients, which leads to the concern that freelancers may be de facto employees, just without benefits or regulatory rules. The IGDA believes there is a real danger of freelancers bearing the brunt of the development work without any protection from potential abuse.

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.


Friday, January 5, 2018

The Passion Requirement

In this article, game designer Sande Chen weighs the pros and cons to hiring super-passionate game fans.

In a recent New York Times article about Nintendo, an interesting Shigeru Miyamoto hiring tidbit came to light.  He said, “I always look for designers who aren’t super-passionate game fans. I make it a point to ensure they’re not just a gamer, but that they have a lot of different interests and skill sets.” The article states that many of the current staff hadn't been gamers when first hired.

Considering that as a designer, Shigeru Miyamoto is inspired by everyday life (Pikmin was inspired by his gardens), this statement from him is not altogether surprising, and many people would agree that aspiring game designers should have broad interests and seek a liberal education.  However, a lot of game job adverts do call for "passion" for games. It's almost like a requirement.

And what is passion? Is it just regular enthusiasm?  Is it code for "hardcore gamer" or perhaps "superfan," at least for the company's products?  A recent Verge article points out sometimes, "passion" can be PRSpeak for "rude, obnoxious, and toxic."  And with the recent World Health Organization draft on gaming disorder, is "passion" just a nice way of saying "mental health addiction"?

One advantage to having gaming fanatics as new employees is that they are already up to date with gaming culture.  They understand what gamers want and how gamers act.  They already know the history of gaming and what's the latest craze.  They may play the latest games and know all the latest game news.  Moreover, they may know your game inside and out.  They fit in.

This requirement, however, could exclude a lot of worthy candidates.  In the past, women hires didn't have that gaming acumen but had expertise from related fields like entertainment or the technology sector.  By not hiring diverse employees, companies may stagnate, appealing to the same limited market instead of broadening its appeal.  As I have mentioned before at conferences, there are case studies where diversity of employees have led to expanded markets and more profit.  A diverse pool brings new perspectives, opening the door to originality.  In an industry where copycat games can run rampant, it can pay off to be the first mover.

What do you think? Is passion a requirement for you?

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Art of the Brainstorm

In this article, game designer Sande Chen provides the ground rules for a successful group brainstorming session.

When handled badly, brainstorming hurts!
We all know about unproductive meetings.  They're frustrating, annoying, and mostly a waste of time.  It's even worse when it's a group brainstorming session gone wrong.  I remember being in a room full of mobile game developers with the boss at the whiteboard.  He shot down suggestion after suggestion.  We felt such immense pressure over the name of this mobile game!  Why couldn't we come up with an approved, awesome name?  I left the meeting feeling like my brain was fried.

The pressure, the boss, the environment.  All of this was terrible in terms of encouraging creative insight.  Let me tell you, we creatives will do better work in a non-judgemental zone.

If you want to get better at group brainstorming, here are some guidelines:

1)  Can the criticism

Nothing shuts down a brainstorming session more than criticism and defensiveness.  The purpose of brainstorming is not to cause arguments, but to generate ideas.  The mantra should be Quantity, not Quality.  You want to get as many ideas out as possible without stopping to think if they're lame or not.  You can sort out the ideas later.  And who knows, maybe that first idea will lead to better ones as the session goes on, but if you had stopped it there, you would have never gotten to the pearls.

2) Even the environment

If you use a facilitator, then the facilitator probably shouldn't be the boss.  You want the participants to feel that all opinions are valued and that it's a safe environment to share.  Sounds mushy, but that's the way of it. The brainstorming session is going to go better if it's not dominated by a few, loud voices.  Let everyone mingle in a room that's free from pressure and make it a fun activity.

3) Bring out the toys

As in most prototyping sessions, there should be supplies such as sticky pads or index cards or whiteboard markers.  If you've got a doodler, then this is the best time to doodle.  For something like names, you can play word association.  In fact, at the last Global Game Jam I attended, we simply went around in a circle and asked each other what associations or feelings the jam theme word evoked.  This inevitably led to more ideas and furious sketching about what the gameplay may be like.

A successful group brainstorming session is a joy.  Everyone feels energized and excited to continue on the project.  Next time you have a group brainstorming session, try these tips for a more productive meeting.

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.



Thursday, December 14, 2017

IGDA Game Writing Podcast: Sande Chen

In this podcast, game writer Sande Chen discusses her career in games and covers various topics such as narrative design, system design, and work-life balance.

In 2014, Carl Killian was interviewing game writers for a podcast series for the IGDA Game Writing SIG.  This initiative was stalled (but still going on slowly) and my interview was not posted.  However, I recently was able to obtain the raw, unedited recording.

So, if you don't mind static and lack of polish, what follows is a very frank, hour-long discussion about my career and how others can pursue game writing as a career.  I talk about working on The Witcher and Terminus as well as give advice on how to break in and become a writer in the game industry.




You can find other download options here.


Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.