If the answer is “Yes!” or “Maybe,” or even, “Huh? They use writers for games?” then read on, Mario, and learn about the journey that can make you the ultimate game god…its creator:
by Luke Kelly
“I enjoyed it, but there isn’t much career progression for writers in the cruise ship market.”
From sailing sketches to Sherlock: David Varela has come a long way. Last year saw him sharing scripts with Sherlock co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, whilst also receiving tips on how to get the best out of Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. David had been hired to write Sherlock: The Network, a companion app to the TV show which made a great deal of its bespoke cutscenes featuring the series’ stars – not bad for someone who started out writing light entertainment for cruise liners.
Last year I interviewed David as part of a study looking at how the worlds of writing and gaming are beginning to overlap. In an era when the median salary for professional writers in the UK has collapsed to £11,000 (according to a survey by the ALCS), the games industry seems at first glance to be bucking the trend.
Develop’s own salary survey revealed an industry median of £29,000 last year – and for writers the figure increases to £33,000. Are games then a viable career path for a generation of writers struggling to make a living?
This was the question we tried to answer in Connecting Stories, a report which provides a glimpse behind the scenes of five games which all somehow rely on writers to stand out from the crowd. Whilst admittedly restricted in its scope, what we found was that each of the writers involved had fallen into the industry almost by accident; none had received any formal training, and each admitted to have learned several costly lessons via a painful process of trial and error.
“I’ve often been brought in as a writer, but ended up doing as much Project Management as actual writing,” explained David Varela.
“It’s not necessarily that I even had experience of this: in a small team, when it’s all hands on deck, everyone has to just do what they can to make the project work.”
The sentiment is probably familiar to anyone with experience at an indie crunching their way towards release – as indeed are David’s experiences of story often being treated as no more than an afterthought.