Game Design Textbook Recommendations

A student wrote me for advice on game design textbooks. I didn't go to design school, so I asked the industry professionals I knew on Twitter. They gave me the following recommendations (alphabetized):

Here's a recommended library for designers: 
http://www.boffo.us/gdw/BookshelfByTopic.html

Plus a crash course in hands-on design:
https://stacksocial.com/sales/the-name-your-own-price-game-design-bundle

If you have more recommendations, please suggest them in the comments.

Call for Talent

As many of you already know, a development studio has optioned my games. We're in pre-pre-production now (if such a thing exists) and are putting together our initial team. We'll formally announce the project in the future and will list additional information and positions on the studio website as the project grows. But right now, we're looking to fill only a few key roles.

The Project
The games will be story-focused, mid-size games for multiple platforms. Each game will have a unique visual style. Diversity and inclusivity will be cornerstones of our game designs, so we encourage open minds to apply. Pre-production with a small team is scheduled for January 2015. 

Positions
It's critical that candidates are the right fit for this unique project. A willingness to learn and grow is prized above industry credentials, so don't let a lack of experience stop you from applying. All roles will be full-time, in-house positions at the Boston studio unless otherwise noted. More information about the requirements and responsibilities will be available during the application process, under an NDA. Please email xsecretgameprojectx@gmail.com with resumes and inquiries.

  • 2D/3D Artists: 
    We're looking for versatile artists who can translate their concept art into game assets. Your striking, original work will set the art style for each game. A strong understanding of visual storytelling is essential for this role. Previous game experience is preferred, but not required. Please provide portfolios/links. This can be a remote position.
     
  • PR/Marketing Lead:
    You should be an innovative thinker, willing to explore unusual and nontraditional avenues to reach our audience. You will form and help maintain a large, active online community. Experience with user acquisition, promotions, and social media is required. Familiarity with video editing software is a plus. This position will start immediately upon hire and can be worked remotely through January.
     
  • Programmer:  
    Must know C++ and have experience coding professionally. This position requires strong interpersonal skills. Candidates will be good collaborators and communicators. Visual scripting, Unreal 4, and game development experience are a plus. This will be the senior programming position on the project. 

Kentucky Route Zero In Real Life.

I am in deep, soul-kiss love with Kentucky Route Zero. Having it fray the edges of the real world with phone messages and an ebay auction was a gift from the devs. If you haven’t called the line yet, do it now. Stop everything. Shut the door. Sit down with a whisky-based cocktail, and call.

The “Are you holding a snake right now?’ option is pure delight.

Also, Here's an article discussing the beauty of KRZ0's regional voice: http://www.popmatters.com/post/187760-regional-authenticity-and-video-games/

 

Game Pitches

I recently pitched some games to a small studio in New England. It was my first time pitching my own work and I was nervous, but it was also the first time I believed 100% that the project would be a successful one. I'd love the challenge of writing those stories. And I understand my target market, from the inside out. 

I've been researching the market for my game ideas for several years now, watching what they watch, participating in their forums, going to shows and gatherings, interviewing them, gathering data—and making friends. It's safe to say that they won me over and I became a part of their various fandoms. It was fun. And educational. I saw that these women—for they are overwhelmingly women—are underserved by the games industry. These women are willing to spend hundreds of dollars to travel to a con for a 5-minute, $150. photo op with the stars of their favorite shows. They will buy every collectible and special edition you put out. Most important of all, they spend hours creating videos, gifs, manips, headcanons, fanfic, and contests about their interests. It's partly an expression of their passion as fans, but it's partly because they want a deeper involvement in their interests—an investment and immersion—than they are provided. So they make it themselves.

I got into the games industry because I wanted to make games for women. I don't mean "pink" games. I mean games that women can enjoy playing, without those moments of eye-rolling sexism or crushing misogyny that remind women it wasn't made for them. Games where women can be the hero, too, and not just window dressing. Games that let them escape from reality a bit.

Not this.

Escape from reality with…the worst parts of reality!

Escape from reality with…the worst parts of reality!

I'm not putting pink games down. If that's what you like to play, then play on. But those aren't the kind of games I want to make. And they aren't the kinds of games the women I'm targeting want to play.

So when I was approached by the New England studio for game ideas, I knew exactly what I wanted to pitch.

And they loved it.

They got it. They saw the potential.

But (there's always a "but") they aren't ready to make them. For various reasons I can't discuss, it would be a while before they could make my games. It might still happen, but not right away. It's strange to have a pitch succeed, yet end up feeling like it failed. But that's where I am right now.

Another studio has expressed interest in hearing my ideas, so I'll pitch to them and see what happens. In the meantime, I guess it's time to see what existing projects I'd like to be a part of. 

Endless possibilities.

Endless possibilities.





The Creativity of Limits

Kabe Wilson reassembled the words of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own to tell an entirely different story about modern racial and cultural politics. This short article is a great read about his process and how unexpected connections informed his word choices.

A page from Of One Woman Or So.

A page from Of One Woman Or So.

When I talk about how collaborative the gamewriting process is, people often ask me if I'm bothered by the limitations. The answer is no. Parameters can inspire creativity, because you must figure out how to tell your story within those constraints. The story of how Kabe Wilson linked Woolf's writing to Toni Morrison and Howard University is a wonderful example of this kind of forced creativity. Thinking outside (or around)  the box can lead to serendipities and  epiphanies. You often end up with more original story ideas because you couldn't go the traditional route or employ the usual tropes. It's more difficult to work within constraints. And it can require more research and more examination. But if you succeed, the payoff is profound. 

That being said, too many constraints don't leave you any room to move and that stifles creativity. So there's a fine line.

Game Journal

Or maybe Journal Game? I'm not sure what to call it yet, but it's an idea I've been kicking around since last fall. I was working on a bunch of short stories about gamifying everyday life, and I kept thinking, "Wrong medium." What better way to discuss that kind of gamification than to make a game of it? So I'm thinking of creating an open-ended Twine game, loosely based on the events of my recent life. An interactive journal. I'm not sure how much interest there would be in something so personal, but it will be fun to work on. I might even start a Patreon to fund it. This project will give me something to focus on while I'm getting my head together. If I can earn a little money for it, all the better, but that's not its purpose. 

I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you know of any interactive journals or games about the dailiness of life, please link me to them.

Codille

Tomorrow it will be one month since my Old Man Cat died. Everybody knows Codille's death hit me hard and that grief laid me low for a while. I still miss him every single day. I've had a tribute to him on the front page of this website for a while, but now I'm moving it here. It's not about forgetting him or our fifteen years as companions—I never will—but I need to stop focusing on my grief and start trying to put my life back together. 

 

Codille in happier days, basking in the rare Seattle sunlight.

Codille in happier days, basking in the rare Seattle sunlight.

New Adventures

I'm leaving Quebec City and heading home to DC for a little break. While I'm there, I'm interested in taking on new projects. Something small and fun would be exciting. If you're an indie company or small studio looking for a writer, or if you have a project that you think I could help with, please drop me a note through my Contact page. I'm looking for new adventures. ^^

Note: Many of you have written to support me and to lament that you don't know of any projects  in the DC area. First of all, thank you all so much for your encouragement and kindness. It means more to me than you know. Second, I'm going to DC to regroup; I'm not necessarily staying there long term. And I'm emerging from this experience with the need to work on a meaningful project. So if you know of small or indie companies ANYWHERE who are looking for a talented gamewriter, or if you know of someone working on a game that screams "Anna" to you, please let me know. 

#GameFaves

I've started a little tradition on Twitter. Every Saturday I tweet about a lesser-known game that inspires or delights me. I went through some hard times this year, and it helps to remind myself of how wonderful games can be. Anyone can join in by tagging their tweets with #GameFaves, and it's been fun to tweet along with people as we discuss our gaming loves.

I've had guest hosts recently, and it's been interesting to see what games excite other people. For example, I'd never heard of Ecstatica until Marc Laidlaw mentioned it. Now I'm ransacking the used game stores in town to see if I can find a copy.

Because Twitter is ephemeral, there's no permanent record of our tweets. So this post is where I'll keep track of the titles we discuss. 

 

 

Walking the Walk

Some men in the games industry are as sick of seeing women left off panels and out of public discussions as I am. They got together and signed a pledge to not participate in any panels that don't have women on them. I hear that their stand will soon extend to all kinds of diversity, so we can hope to start seeing people of all races, genders, and sexualities speaking soon, too. If the industry listens.

This is a fantastic step for allies to take. This goes beyond merely supporting women or raising awareness. This is concrete action that will have an affect on the industry. Very excited to see this happen and can't wait to see the list grow.

Their Tumblr page is here: http://plzdiversifyyourpanel.tumblr.com/

Check out their Twitter hashtag: #PlzDiversifyYourpanel

Check out their Twitter hashtag: #PlzDiversifyYourpanel

My New Job

Well, my hiatus was wonderful, even though I didn't accomplish as much as I wanted to. But all good things must end, so I started job hunting in January. I'm extremely fortunate to have found something right away.  I'm excited to say that I'm joining the writing team at Ubisoft Quebec to work on Unannounced AAA Title. I know, I know: game titles are so unimaginative these days.

I'll be around Seattle for at least another month or two while I wait for my visa to clear. That gives me just enough time to wrap up this writing project, say my goodbyes, and learn some basic French. 

ubisoft for website.jpg

The Problem in Brief

So…I got into a little dustup on Twitter today. That's not unusual. Any woman in the games industry who puts herself out there finds her opinions challenged all the time. What's different about this argument is that Jessica Price storified it:

http://storify.com/Delafina777/why-it-s-so-hard-to-get-better-portrayals-of-femal

(Thank you, Jessica!)

The saddest part of the situation is that guys like that don't even see that they are part of the problem. This guy started off discussing how to get women more into the industry but ended up displaying exactly why there are so few. Conversations like this make me grateful for the all the open minds I know.

 

Is Video Game Creativity Dead?

Some of the statements I made in my Giant Bomb interview continue to haunt me. Here, writer Cal.L examines my assertion that the industry is stagnating.

http://gamersyndrome.com/2013/video-games/are-video-games-stuck-in-rut/

I like this article—not just because the author agrees with me and provides evidence to bolster my point, but because it gives a shout-out to indie games. I spoke with Patrick Klepek at PAX on Saturday, after speaking at my panel and touring the main expo hall floor. Everything I had seen up until that point confirmed my worst fears about the industry churning out formulaic shooters and endless sequels. There wasn't a single game I wanted to demo. Even my usual thirst for swag died in the face of so much sameness. I felt…bored. And it was directly from this experience that I went to chat with Patrick. I hadn't yet seen the Indie Games MegaBooth. If I had, my interview would have gone differently.

I want to be clear that I stand by my claim about the industry being trapped in stale thinking. I'm not taking it back. But I'll qualify that statement by noting that indie games are pushing innovation in ways that big-budget projects can't and aren't. Gone Home, That Dragon Cancer, Unfinished Swan, Thomas Was Alone, Kentucky Route Zero, and Papers, Please are all small titles with a big impact. The lonely poetry of KRZ  is exactly the sort of game I told Patrick I've been missing. Gone Home offers a fresh narrative perspective. Papers, Please will make you question your ethics. All of these games are pushing the creative boundaries of the industry. They are redefining what the medium can express and how it can make people feel. 

Maybe it's too much to ask that blockbuster games innovate. Maybe it's enough that they provide a familiar and reliable experience. I hate to give up on AAA titles, though. I would love to see more big-name projects borrow energy from their indie counterparts and try something besides a proven formula. I would love to see them take some major risks. I would love to see some unusual gameplay mechanics, at the very least. Until then, I'll keep funding Kickstarter projects and supporting independent studios.

Source: http://gamersyndrome.com/2013/video-games/...

Epic Rap Battles of Tyria: Adelbern vs. Kisu

Robert Gee, our GW Skills Master, tries his hand at an ERBoT: Adelbern vs. Kisu


ADELBERN

 The name's Adelbern, the K-I-N-G

Retreat now Kisu you can't beat me

I got Magdaer in my hand and a crown on my head
I'm taking this "To the Limit!" and putting you to bed
 
I'm hero of the Guild Wars elected by the masses
You're just a figurehead ruler who hasn't got the brasses
I earned my kingship with deeds you got it on a silver platter
You wear a purple dress too that makes it even sadder
 
KISU
You're the king of Ascalon but Cantha is greater.
I rap from a gold palace; Your kingdom's nothing but a crater.
I'm closer to the stars, ascended through the age
Insult these royal robes and you'll face the dragon empire's rage
 
My country has an ocean of jade all you've got is dirt
The gap between us is so bad it must hurt
We've got so many riches here it's gonna make you cry
Our guilds are better too you know I don't Xun-lie
 
ADELBERN
Your half-brother would have been a bigger challenge than you
Even though he's losing hair he's still got his rap fu
Do you even do anything besides hand out hats?
You're stinking up this battle like a celestial rat. 
 
I charge into battle, you hide behind walls
You're a miserable coward, let me list out your shortfalls:
You're helpless, you got kidnapped by a royal bodyguard
If you ever stepped foot in my country you'd just get CHARRed
 
KISU
From Harvest Temple to the Raisu Palace
I survey all I see without a hint of malice
You've got anger problems Adel just face the facts
Not that I can blame you when you got beat by some cats
 
You banished your own son because he talked some smack
It's no wonder that nobody else has got your back
You're sad lonely monarch on a tiny little throne
You like to talk big but you're just overblown
 
ADELBERN
You were never my prince and you were never my son
But you're still a kid compared to me when all is said and done
Your whole empire gets overthrown because of some brat named Ashu
Hold onto your robes while this next verse goes past you:
 
I fought off titans with a party of four
I've faced armies of charr and come back for more
I count my victories in the twenty score
My legends reach from mountain to shore
You're a bore, 
a chore, 
a royal eyesore.
Challenge me and you'll be finished off before
You even feel your body hit the floor
 
I'll be remembered for centuries you're just a footnote
You get mired by your minsters but I go for the throat!
You're no match for me, you might have been a contender
But you forgot something important: Ascalon will never surrender!
 
KISU
You're a phony excuse for a king that can't even rhyme.
And your sword ain't that great I see them drop all the time.
Kowtow before me I come from generations of kings
Now listen up while I teach you a few things:
 
My rhymes are like dragons they spit soar and spit fire
Your lyrics are sloths they flop and get tired
My people stay inspired
Yours have all expired
Your kingdom is a mire
On its final funeral pyre
I'll keep going higher and higher
While all you can do is sit back and admire
How my land shines like a sapphire
 
Your country Ascalon though it doesn't look that great
It’s sad that you can't beat those charr, they're only level 8!
Now with my final words the tide I'm gonna turn
So "Watch Yourself!" Adel, you just got BERNED.