My full list of books I loved in 2023 includes a mix of fiction, graphic novels, and poetry. But I also spent a significant amount of time reading to help improve my craft in games writing and narrative design. Here are the books I read and loved in that regard.
Writing for Games: Theory & Practice by Hannah Nicklin is a fantastic book for anyone interested in delving into writing stories and developing narratives for games. She provides a solid theory for storytelling and story structure and explains how these basic elements fit into the development of games. Taking into account the various ways in which people learn best, Nicklin presents this information in a variety of ways, including case studies and a practical workbook with exercises designed to allow the reader to apply the knowledge they gleaned.
Old Man’s Journey (developed by Broken Rules) is a gorgeous puzzle adventure game about a man who receives a letter that sends him on a journey across the countryside. As he wanders closer and closer to his destination, he reminisces about the past and the family he became estranged from. The gameplay involves an simple, yet innovative puzzle mechanic, in which the player changes the height of the hills and landscape in order to allow the old man to traverse through the stunningly created landscapes. And I mean it, the art is phenomenal. This was such a chill and lovely experience — albeit a short one at only an hour or two long.
The Game Writing Guide: Get Your Dream Job and Keep It by Anna Megill is a wonderfully practical guide to understanding how to build and maintain a career as a writer in the games industry. Her advice — which is based off interviews with dozens of writer mentors, as well as her own experience writing for games such as Fable, Control, and Dishonored, among others — runs the full gamut, from job hunting, writing resumes and cover letters, building a portfolio, and interviews to moving up within the company once you have the job and leadership roles.
All of this advice is delivered in simple, well-organized, and straightforward manner — with little dashes of humor sprinkled in — making the book easy to ready and follow. Where Megill is less confident in her commentary, she admits so upfront and presents insights of other mentors or other avenues for seeking this information.
With so many folks vying for writing jobs at the moment, I thought I’d highlight a few of the takeaways I found particularly helpful thus far. Each of these bits of advice are primarily on the job hunting side of things (as opposed to the job keeping side), since I’m still at the stage of looking for full-time work in games.