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Posted on Sunday, September 30th, 2012 by Malin
QUESTION 01: What is at stake?
I need to to work with a video game’s mechanics and narrative because there is so much to be discovered. Video games might have a few set of rules, but nothing is really set in stone. The rules are bendable and exchangeable, which means this might be the medium we can tell stories on without feeling constricted. I am perfect to explore that adventure, and I’d love to do so.
My window of opportunity is the fact that the need for narrative designers is potentially growing inside the video game industry – especially for those who understand game design along with a story arc structure. With new and heavy story-based games as Uncharted, Bioshock and Deus Ex: Human Revolution who all feature Lead Writers / Narrative Designers, the need and populace of such said writers are growing stronger. Mary DeMarle even stressed the importance of a narrative designer in her GDC talk “Building the Story-Driven Experience of Deus Ex“.
With that in mind, as Tom Jubert once said, “[...] realise that being a video game writer is one of the most sought after jobs on the planet because it’s one of the most amazing jobs on the planet.” I definitely believe that is true. There’s a bucket-load of competition out there, possibly even from your own friends. But instead of seeing them as competition I prefer to see them as a partner in crime. No one is ever alone, especially not in the video game business. The companies thrive on teamwork, and though there might be “too many cooks for one soup”, I am one of those who have on many occasions followed another designer or story writer’s vision and branched it out, as well as being the Lead writer and asked co-workers to flesh my story out. As long as the main ingredients are in there; team work, friendship, and respect – the soup will be delicious. Fantastic metaphor, right? (curse sarcasm for not being readable in text..!) Anyway, that said, there is always the chance that I will fail. My dream job might not knock on my door, but you know what? If the mountain won’t come to Muhammed and all that. Creating experiences matter to me, so if there’s nothing out there, I’ll create it myself. How? Well, as a designer that’s the point of the whole job, isn’t it? I’ll think of a way – you can bet your little tushie on it!
QUESTION 02: Why should we care?
I want all of my co-workers to support and believe in the vision I have. That is, that they believe in the story I want to tell. For concept artists it’s important to me that they get inspired to draw something they love; thus in turn, inspiring me right back. (Once again; the friggin’ Team Work!! LOVE! <3 )
To the players I’d like the work I’ve created to reek of the sentence “I have a story to share, and I want you to take a part of it”. This does not only include them to play it once and say it was “alright”. One of the most fantastic compliments a game/narrative designer can get is a fan who gets inspired to be creative with what you’ve told them. This includes mods, fanart, fanfiction, cosplays and perhaps even fan-made roleplaying events, based on your universe and story, and THAT is a true partaking in a story – showing how much you love it by either dedicating something to it, or even continuing it. If I were to get just a tiny little fanart or fanfiction for the characters or world I’ve created, I’d be happier than can be.
QUESTION 03: What are the opportunities?
As a Game Designer and having the job of one, I’ll be able to add the competitive advantages of knowing a scripting language (possibly LUA or Python or any web-based scripts out there) to my skill set, meaning it would be easy to implement and test game/narrative designs I might have. As a Narrative Designer, I would more than enough understand the Hero’s Journey, and perhaps even know how to break the mould of it, in the way I’d design my narratives. I’d know how to communicate with game designers as a narrative designer, and work with them instead of against them as many seem to believe. I am not there to create a story outline and push my cut scenes onto the game designer, but to merge it all in one ecstatic experience. Implementing narrative into game design is awesome – if successful – so to actually make that happen is a perfect skill set to have.
There might not be an estimated financial game to become a narrative designer, but let me pull something from a new IGN review. The game Amy from 2012 got the following rating: “The game’s plot could have very well been Amy’s only saving grace, but the highly nebulous nature of the story doesn’t really tell you much of anything at all.” That more or less means that even if everything was horrible in Amy; if the story was good, it would’ve saved it and made it bearable. And let me remind you that one of the greatest games out there (I’m not biased, aherm!) Silent Hill 2, is not remembered for its amazing game play, but for the genius story telling. Needless to say, there’s a huge financial gain in having a narrative designer on your team that knows how to sell and tell a story. It really shouldn’t be underestimated.
QUESTION 04: Who can share this potential?
As a Narrative Designer, I can help the game designers find meaning behind puzzles, levels, characters and push the story forward. I can help inspire them in their work, and maybe even help them use the tools of a story to create an intoxicating game play and level design that keeps the player coming back for more. This also goes to make the world more plausible. If creating a town that doesn’t have a blue-print, there are always things that might turn on the “Uncanny Valley”-alarm if the level designers doesn’t know what to put in there, and why. I can help them blend the lines between story and game design, as I’ve already tried explaining in my text. I can help encourage their work-flow, and this goes for concept artists as well. In my work-process with concept artists; style sheets only goes so far. Style sheets are nothing if you do not add a little bit of personality to each character, level, or world – together with a bit of a description to go with it.
People say that a picture speak more than a thousand words, but to create a picture, some describing words might actually help to create the image in the first place.
That said, all participants need to actually be interested and read what you put in front of their noses. Text can be boring, and thus, being a narrative designer is not only typing text, it’s about knowing how to tell every participant a story in such a way that they are interested in what you’re telling. Music videos, informative and easy-to-understand style sheets – anything that you know works with the ones you’re working with. Including the player.
Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012 by Malin
In reflection of my first assignment, my main motivator (used in accordance of the Two-factor theory) is challenging work. I’d like to see everything as an experience, thus I would love every work task to be challenging, different and exciting. I know that routines must be followed to a certain extent, but if it’s so, then there will hopefully be other factors making it different – and if it isn’t I bet I’ll find a way, even if it’s just to try to solve an issue in another manner, or find a new variation of a game play mechanic or another type of story instead of flipping through the library that already exists.
I’ve worked on a lot of various projects, university, work and personal, all of them surrounding the story or game design aspect. I go out of my way to make them all exciting, and so I believe I am able to do this in a new work environment as well. This also means that I love having new personalities to work with in a constructive collaboration, and finding those I work exceedingly well with. When it comes to Group Dynamics I usually only take command when it’s necessary, which means I can can follow orders, but I often tend to bring creative input while doing so. In a group brainstorming is important, and is something I love doing, and thus I always treat every group member as an equal. No one gets cast out as I believe that if given a chance, all group members can bring something to the table.
Posted on Sunday, September 16th, 2012 by Malin
What attracts me to the Game Industry is the fact that you are almost always collaborating with other types of competences. When I am in such a situation, I am great at listening and taking instructions to develop them further by asking relevant questions. When it comes to giving out instructions however, I’m not one that can tell a person off the bat a clear instruction. I have worked out a method to this however, often drawing scribbles with text beside them. To make sure my point’s across I often ask the person if s/he has any questions.
For example, this doodle has a lot of questions.
If I have a problem that needs to be solved without me having any prior experience nor support, I’ll go out of my way to really dig deep into the subject to find an answer. The negative with this is that it takes time, but in my opinion it is time well spent as it makes me confident in what I am creating – thus I’ll have an answer to why and how the problem can be solved.
Search, search, search!
Looking back, a job in the game industry somehow always felt abstract to me, and even more so after my first on look of the business: the “Making of DVD” that came with the European PS2 release of Silent Hill 2. It was way too far-fetched and it didn’t even occur to me that I could be a part of it. But as I began a fandom of the Gabriel Knight series, my opinion developed to something more hopeful. In my search for information about a Gabriel Knight 4 (that sadly still hasn’t seen the light of day), I started finding out more about the woman behind it all; Jane Jensen.
She started as a systems programmer for Hewlett-Packard but thereafter transitioned to Sierra Online where she wrote for a lot of games and co-designed King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow and eventually even wrote her own games, including Gabriel Knight. As if that wasn’t enough, Jane published books like Dante’s Equation, and after many years she still continue to move on ahead in the game industry. For me, she seemed to have this incredible force and will to create games, and no matter what, she made it happen. She gave me hope. You know, that cheesy “anything is possible!”-type of hope, and I still look up to her immensely.
Jane Jensen, in all her glory.
Even since my early years I’ve always wanted to work inside the creative industry. As a pre-teen I took animation courses in my spare time, learning stop motion and 2D animations and storyboards, and even created a fan-website to Final Fantasy and Silent Hill (weird mixture, right?) that I kept running for more than 4 years.
While in grammar school I took the specialisation of Media, meaning I had 3 years of making more storyboards while recording infomercials, commercials and live shows with video and radio along with producing infographics, illustrations, photography and using HTML and CSS for creating and designing websites. Ad
d 3 more years of Game Design & Graphics at the University of Gotland, and what you have is a boiling mixture of creativity. I am used to interact within group projects, but more importantly it shows I know how to tell and sell a story to a viewer no matter what medium, and this is exactly what I want to do in the game industry. As a narrative and game designer, the challenges that I feel are the most gratifying to solve are incorporating narrative and game play without it feeling forced. It is difficult and always unique to each genre, each story, and each level, but I do love the imaginative work it needs.
A small stopmotion film I created, featured for and at a festival.
I lean against the first of Costa & McCrae’s five Big Factors, the “O” in the achronymh OCEAN. This stands for ”Openness”; a person who has appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience.
Description for all five personality traits.
I aspire to be working as a game and narrative designer in 2-3 years. According to Strategic Skills Assessment for the Creative Industries, representation of women is lower in Creative Industries than across the economy as a whole (42% in Creative Media, 40% in Creative and Cultural), but hey – there’s no other way to go but up, right?
Monkey agrees with me.
Actually, when I was thinking of applying to a Game Design University, I thought back to Jane Jensen. I wasn’t convinced I had that same drive. Did I really have what it took? On another quest to find out more about one of my favourite adventure games; Overclocked: a History of Violence, I stumbled upon a “Behind the Game” where a camera man visited the developer (now closed House of Tales)‘s studio. The fact that it was nothing but a small room with a few people cramped together amazed me, along with the fact that I wanted nothing else but be in that same room and work. This emotion convinced me, and to this day it still does; I got into this business for the right reasons, and I will stick to those reasons as long as I live. It’s not the money and it will never be the money. It’s that fantastic and specific feeling of working on something you Truly Madly Deeply believe in.
And with that, I bid you farewell hoping you know what song I was referring to. If not, you get a second chance:
Posted on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 by Malin
One of my fellow co-workers were kind enough to give me a little gift; these cards were handed out at a convention to promote The Rabbit’s Apprentice!
(Apologies to my awful camera…!)
The first one is drawn by concept artist Mathias Fischer and is a part of a card game featured in The Rabbit’s Apprentice. The second one is a mask worn by a Foxgirl referred to as Kitsune, and the third one features our hero Jerry Hazelnut fighting off evil~! I can’t believe how beautiful these turned out, aaahhh!
They all feature the same back, and unluckily I can’t read German (…yet! Taking a language course in a few weeks, woopwoop!) so I have no idea what it says. Maybe one of you guys do?