I get a LOT of requests for gamewriting book recommendations. Some of you want a manual or how-to guide that covers the basics. Some of you already work as designers or artists and want to understand the story side of games better. "Anna," you say, "there's a crapton of gamewriting books these days. How do I find the best book for me? I don't even know what I need to know!"
I hear you. It's tough. But I'm here to help.
The best way to learn is by reading books and playing games—and then tearing them apart to understand how they're made. Learn to read and play games with a critical lens. Always ask yourself how the creator makes the story and characters work—or why they don't work.
"But, Anna," you say, "how do I get that critical lens?" Okay, fair question. I wrote up a list of resources to get designers started, but it obviously won't help non-designers. So, here's my new plan. I'll write short reviews of gamewriting and narrative design books. And by "short," I mean a sentence or two. These will not be in-depth critiques. I'll discuss the book's focus, its best audience, and how practical/useful/accurate I find its content as a professional gamewriter.
I'll add critiques one by one as I finish reading the books. If there's a book not listed here that you'd like me to review, list that baby in the comments.
Basics: These books are not about gamewriting specifically, but many are considered foundational texts. Read them with a thoughtful, analytical eye, and they can provide great insight into storytelling structure and technique. If you can resist the temptation to use them as story templates or checklists, they're fantastic sources of information.
Reviews: Books that I am reading and reviewing.
Slay the Dragon: Writing Great Video Games by Robert Denton Bryant and Keith Giglio - This was a quick and interesting read. It covers writing and game basics like structure and character with lots of bleeding-edge media examples—such as Remedy's recently released Quantum Break. The knowledgeable and well-connected authors are aware of the latest discussions and debates taking place in the gamewriting community. The book includes helpful exercises at the end of each chapter.
Best audiences: Screenwriters making the switch to games or interactive media. Novice writers who already know the basics of good writing.
- Simple, understandable explanations of how game design influences story.
- Concrete examples that include IF, board games, films, and plays.
Video Game Storytelling: What Every Developer Needs to Know about Narrative Techniques by Evan Skolnick. - PENDING
DISCLAIMER: I'm friends with many of the authors, but I receive no payment of any kind for these reviews. I pay for the books with my money. I read them on my own time. And I offer these reviews not as a promotion or endorsement, but to help readers find the best book for their needs.