In the four years since Ed Kuehnel became a full-time freelance writer for video and computer games, he’s stayed busy. The Portland, Ore., resident has clients throughout the U.S. and as far away as the Netherlands, India and South Korea. “It’s been pretty rare that I have nothing to do,” he says.
“Breaking into the industry just as a writer is very, very difficult,” he explains, adding that gaming job sites occasionally post jobs for writers, but often require that candidates have previous experience in writing for video games, television, film or science fiction.
If you’re trying to break into the business as a writer, here are some strategies to consider.
Develop a Portfolio
“If you don’t have any sort of track record, people will not take you seriously,” says Anne Toole, who worked as a daytime television writer before launching a successful career as a video-game writer a few years ago. “A lot of people are doing indie games. There are lots of opportunities. You need to be willing to put in the time. Have a portfolio that shows you understand the medium. You don’t want to write a novel and call it a game.
Other things to do: Create mobile games with friends while you’re in college, and get an internship.
Of the independent gaming opportunities, Kuehnel suggests, “Write for them for free so you can have something to show.”
Although a growing number of the large studios are hiring full-time staff writers, getting one of these jobs can be difficult. Strategically, it might make more sense to find work at one of these companies in a different capacity, and then try to move into one of the writing slots.
“Try to break into industry as a game designer,” says Kuehnel, who began his video-game career 11 years ago as an assistant produce, then moved up to to designer. “It’s easier to get a job as an entry-level game designer and then try to gravitate toward writing.”
Pick up Other Skills
Being able to handle tasks outside of writing will significantly increase your marketability with in the industry. “You want to think about ancillary skills like design and programming languages like Python,” says Toole.
In almost any industry, who you know is key. And who you know doesn’t necessarily have to be a company executive to be valuable.
Toole recommends adding the International Game Developers Association to their networking tool kit. “They have local events that include student members,” she says. “Students can attend and network to learn what’s going on in the industry.” And, she adds,” The student membership is totally affordable.”
She also recommends attending annual Games Developers Conferences, which bring together thousands of gaming professionals and industry titans.
Blogs are another way to find networking events and worthwhile conferences. “You have to connect with people,” says Steven Savage, who blogs about the gaming industry. “A good game has many people behind it. If you know a person that has put together a manual on gaming, talk to them. You want to get experience in gaming. Period.”
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