The New Medium Where Writers Are Trying To Make It

What would you expect to be paid to write a video game script? $US100,000? Maybe you'd get that a few years ago, but the rate is now more between $US10,000 to $US20,000, writes The New York Observer.

It's one of the more interesting did-you-knows cropping up in a collection of anecdotes about solid writers who are leaving more establishment gigs - news, novels - to try their hand at a chaotic field that's still establishing a who's who and professional structure. Games writing is largely a freelance, gig-by-gig career, like you'd expect for Hollywood, the difference is it pays a ton less.

The expectations are also a lot lower, to put it charitably. "I always say that the games industry makes Hollywood look like avant-garde poetry publishers," writer Tom Bissell said. "In the lit biz, I'm, to quote Ron Burgundy, I'm kind of a big deal. But in video games, no one cares."

N'Gai Croal, the former Newsweek games writer who founded the games consulting firm Hit Detection, figures prominently in the piece as well. "If you want a Frank Darabont, for instance, you need to pay Frank Darabont's quote or you don't get him," he says, comparing Hollywood and games. "But the flip side is, if you can't afford it, than maybe he's not the best one suited and maybe you want someone who knows games better, maybe isn't as big a name, but can deliver you 60 percent to 70 percent of what Darabont brings to the table in terms of dialogue and structure."

Other fun facts: N'Gai drinks strawberry mojitos, apparently. That's not exactly hard-luck shot-and-a-beer poison, so we'll assume his new gig can pay the rent. But strawberry, N'Gai? Tsk.

Scrawl of Duty: Novelists and Journos Defect to Video Game Industry [The New York Observer]


    Ten to twenty thousand? If I could get paid that much for crapping out something like Black Ops' script, I'd be set for life.
    I mean, hell. That must have only taken them a few drunken afternoon board meetings, right?

      More like a few guys watched Fight Club/The Manchurian Candidate/Bourne Identity a few more times, pinched the story and hoped no-one would notice.

    That ten to twenty thousand might only be paid out after a long and intermittent process of submitting drafts and getting notes back that can drag out to months and years. It's not glamarous.

    Rhianna Pratchett (daughter of Terry and a games writer) has spoken about the process of writing for games a few times.

    The writer should really be in the studio, with the developers, and paid a salary getting the minutae details and helping getting the best info possible to shape a good script.

    I'd write a game script for free just for the hell of it.

    Whoever wrote the script to Just Cause 2 deserves double that amount - seriously it may be one of the greatest (and most ludicrous) video games stories of all time!


    No, It would not have taken a few drunken afternoons. A writer doesn't just do a story outline in something like Black ops, they have to write every line of dialogue, every scripted sequence, every cutscene. Even if it wasn't particularly good I'd like to see you write something that good.

    That's actually quite dissappointing considering the medium really needs to try and show its a serious media player. I do hope some of the big RPG game writers get more than $20,000 a game because that would be just cruel. Also don't some developers keep writers on staff full time? Bioware springs to mind first.

    Any ideas how much someone gets paid for a first novel? Because I can tell you they would be lucky to get over $10,000AU. Writing isn't a money business, this is old news.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now