Jay Castello
Freelance Writer
jaymcastello@gmail.com
@jayplaysthings

How To Games Writing #1 - Ideas

I recently floated the idea of a series detailing what I know about games writing (as much or as little as that may be) and people seemed keen on it, so I’m using this week’s Patreon funded Extra Thing to “pilot” it.

By “pilot” I meant that I will almost certainly continue, but I really really want your feedback! I want this to be as useful to you as I can possibly make it, so if, for example, there’s something you’d like me to discuss, feel free to ask.

I figured it was best to approach this roughly chronologically, so the first thing that you need to be able to write something is to know what it is that you want to write about. People ask me about this relatively often and it’s something that I struggle to answer because I have the opposite problem – too much to say, and I have to figure out what’s actually worth saying. But the process is similar, in that I highly recommend trial and error.

This is definitely going to be a theme of this series! I advocate so hard for just trying things out and seeing what comes of them. Ideas are partly inspiration, but they are also just practice like everything else. I certainly found it more difficult a year ago than I do now. (Again, this is true of almost everything.) Regardless, here are some tips that I have found useful.

  • Play games (or read books or do whatever it is you want to write about). This sounds ridiculously obvious (and it is) but sometimes I get into a drought because I’ve been busy and I start thinking oh my god I will never have another good idea in my life and then I actually play a game and I suddenly have all the ideas in the world. Play your games. It’s a great excuse.
  • Play your games with a sense of awareness. I’ll come back to this in a later installment, but this is, again, a skill that’s learned, but you’ve also definitely been doing it already. You know why you like your favourite game or character, though putting it into words might be tricky.
  • To that end, I recommend having some quiet time to reflect on what you want to say. When I was stuck on a plane with nothing to do last week, I took about 20-30 minutes to write a list of potential article topics, ending up with 55. (Many of them are bad ideas, but some of them are good!) I needed that time to be able to lay out things that had been stewing in my unconscious brain for a while. Walks are good for this, if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • You can take inspiration during these quiet times (and always) from non-games things. During the aforementioned plane time, I was listening to music and a lot of the ideas came from my mind wandering from that and figuring out how I could apply these other things I was thinking about to games. In general a lot of good games writing comes from applying outside knowledge/ideas.
  • Read. Read games writing you like, and read everything else.
  • Talk about things with your friends and other likeminded people! This is also great for motivation.
  • If in doubt, just write something. Something simple, like about your favourite character. Oftentimes ideas beget ideas. 

A Gaymer X Roundup

You Should Play Ace Attorney