Writing for Video Games


In this six course Professional Certificate Program hosted on Harvard and MIT’s innovative edX learning platform, you’ll learn the tools and techniques of writing for video games in a comprehensive program designed by successful, working game writers and UBC teachers. From story and character development to worldbuilding and interactive narrative, this Certificate will help you excel in an industry that rewards creative, flexible team players.

What You’ll Learn

  • The crucial differences between traditional storytelling and writing for video games
  • The writer and narrative designer’s role in the game development process
  • How to develop characters and write scenes that serve both the narrative and the production of a game
  • How to work with art directors, programmers and level designers to create interactive narratives
  • How to develop an application portfolio and excel at industry-standard writing tests

Course Length: self-paced (estimated at 5 weeks each).
Cost: Free to audit. Verified certificate cost from $99 to $249 per course (USD).
Schedule: Sign up any time. Courses are self-paced and open now for registration.

Course 1: Video Game Writing Essentials

Learn the essentials of writing for video games: from the game development process to the ways that game stories differ from other kinds of stories

Writing for video games is truly a new frontier, a place where writers and game developers are still learning, innovating and pioneering bold approaches to telling stories.

This course is your introduction to this frontier. We’ll look at what interactive storytelling is as well as touch on the history of video games and the kinds of games that have been developed since the medium was born. We’ll discuss the complex, collaborative process of game development and hear from working game writers about their jobs. Then we’ll dig into the way game stories are built, where they come from, and how they are changing.


Course 2: Writing Video Game Characters

Learn how to make effective, memorable video game characters, from protagonists and antagonists to NPCs

You might spend two hours with a character in a movie, but you can spend hundreds of hours interacting with the player character, antagonists and all the non-player characters (NPCs) in a video game. Getting character right is a vital part of getting the game right.

This course will teach you how to create a player character who fits into the mechanics of a video game and all the limitations of the medium, as well as how to create memorable player characters and how to deepen and develop them.

We’ll discuss how characters relate to gameplay, working with existing intellectual property (I.P.) and how a great game needs a great villain. Finally we’ll dive deep into the world of NPCs, exploring the tremendous variety of characters who can populate a video game, and how to make them distinct and interesting.


Course 3: Writing Video Game Scenes and Dialogue

Learn the fundamentals of writing cinematics, cutscenes, and in-game dialogue

Increasingly, game developers are realizing that cutscenes, cinematics and character interactions through dialogue are not just breaks from gameplay, or ways of providing exposition. They are integral to the player’s experience of a game. Talking is action. Dialogue is gameplay.

In this course we will explore how to create compelling, vital scenes, and how to use dialogue to support gameplay, deepen character, and advance the game’s story. Early career game writers will often get their first experience writing dialogue for NPCs, especially the infamous barks and taunts. We’ll show you how to make this dialogue work, when it should sing and when it should be invisible.


Course 4: Worldbuilding for Video Games

Learn the fundamentals of building video game worlds, from a writer’s perspective

A game’s setting is second in importance only to the game’s player character – and some say it’s more important. Game designers must create a compelling world that players will want to explore and inhabit for many, many hours.

Game writing is a collaborative process, and worlds are designed with input from art directors, level designers, and even marketing teams. But writers have an integral role in making these worlds feel rich, deep and believable. In this course you’ll learn to use the tools of environmental storytelling, lore, readables and audio/video logs to help create a memorable game setting.


Course 5: Interactive Narrative

Learn how to use player choice and interactivity to create compelling game experiences

The primary difference between video games and other art forms is interactivity. Players embody the characters in a game; instead of watching the protagonist make choices, they actively make choices for the player character.

For writers, choice takes on a different meaning in games that allow players to control the outcome of the plot. How do you ensure that game choices are meaningful, have consequences, and also don’t require an impossible amount of work for the game development team?

In this course we will explore how choice works in games, how branching plots work, and how to manage them with tools such as pinch points, bottlenecking and story silos. We’ll look at characters and dialogue, then get you writing your own interactive narrative with commonly available online tools.


Course 6: Working as a Game Writer

Learn what it takes to work as a video game writer: from resumes to writing tests to contracts and NDAs

What is it like to work as a video game writer? How do you even apply for a game writing position? Is it true that you might have to take a writing test?

This capstone course puts everything you’ve learned in the previous courses together. Each assignment has helped you produce material that is suitable for a portfolio. Now we’ll show what to do with it.

We’ll explore what it takes to get a position as a video game writer or narrative designer, including how to get experience that will make you stand out. We look at what the hiring process is like, what sort of writing tests you may be asked to perform, and how to connect with people in the industry.

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Not only is the content well-produced, but it rings very true regarding the kind of lessons a budding narrative designer/video game writer will benefit from. An applicant who has successfully completed the edX Professional Certificate in Writing for Video Games would have a definite advantage.

Heidi Eaves
COO Relic Entertainment
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