How can I help you?
Whether your project is in its early concepting phase, in mid-production, or even if it's careening toward launch, there are a variety of ways I can provide narrative support. It's never too early to start thinking about your game's story, and it's never too late to improve on what you've got. Wherever you are in your process, I can help.
You've got a great game in development — it deserves a great story to match!
The question is, how do you get there?
The right way: hire a pro writer with extensive experience in games, as early in your process as possible.
The risky way: hire a pro writer with no experience in games.
The wrong way: don't hire a writer.
It's amazing how often that last option gets chosen! Despite an ever-increasing understanding that strong storytelling can improve most games' quality and success, most narrative content for video games is still written by game designers, whose expertise in this area can range from outstanding at best to . . . well, much less than outstanding.
It's not their fault. Most game designers simply have no training in how to effectively plan, write, revise or execute a game story. But the result when the average designer attempts to deliver professional-level storytelling is often disappointing.
Conversely, hiring a "big name" Hollywood writer for your game — someone who doesn't play games, who has never been on a game development team — can be a recipe for a different kind of narrative disaster, and probably a much more costly one. It raises the strong possibility of a stark and damaging disconnect between the work of a traditional writer who's used to having complete control of his characters and story, and a dynamic game design that strives for providing player freedom and abiity to affect outcomes. Sadly, the dev team will most likely end up throwing out much of this writer's (often expensive) work, because it doesn't serve the gameplay.
The ideal solution is to hire a professional writer who actually knows games. Finding a writer who plays a lot of games is a good start, but finding one who has been in the trenches — through many game project cycles, with varied genres on multiple platforms — is a much wiser choice.
A writer such as this will understand that game stories are unlike those of any other medium — that they must seamlessly mesh with and support the existing game mechanics, not ignore or contradict them. Such a writer will realize and accept that gameplay comes first, and will know how to use narrative to contextualize, enhance and deepen the player's experience. And on a more practical level, a game writer with varied game development experience will hit the ground running, speaking the same language as your team and requiring much less initial orientation or later redirection.
In short, you don't want a writer who only thinks like a writer. You want a writer who can also think like a game developer.
Editing & Script Doctoring
Editing & Script Doctoring
This story isn't working! Now what?
Don't panic. Like any aspect of game development, a game's story can fly off the rails . . . or fail to get onto them in the first place! Does that mean it's "game over" for your game narrative? Of course not! But you might decide that the folks who got you into this sticky situation might need a hand getting you out of it.
That's when it's probably time to call in some narrative back-up. A new perspective and a fresh set of expert eyes can be an enormous boon to a game story in need of help.
Of course, it might be easy to assume that all good writers make equally effective editors and script doctors, but it's simply not the case. As with game writing itself, there is an art and a science to evaluating and revising existing materials which requires extensive training and experience.
My career as an editor started when I was very young (Dungeons & Dragons fanzine in middle school followed by high school yearbook editor), but after studying journalism and literature in college, I gained nearly a decade of professional editing experience at Marvel Comics and Acclaim Publishing. I've edited comic books, magazines, video game strategy guides and website content, and I've provided script doctoring on over 20 bestselling video game titles, featuring characters such as Batman, Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, Transformers, Shrek, and many others.
Moreover, I understand and will find the best ways to work within the constraints posed by your existing game structure, assets, budget and remaining development time.
So, if you're looking for a "hired gun" who knows how to tear down and rebuild a story from the ground up — or a seasoned professional to just add that final level of polish to an already-decent script — your search ends here. I'm ready, willing and able to get your game story moving in the right direction.
VO & Stage Direction Support
VO & Stage Direction Support
Taking it from the page to the stage.
One of the more pleasurable adjustments I needed to make during my long transition from comic book writer to video game writer was learning to script for actors instead of just for the printed page. A talented actor can bring dimension and depth to a line that even the author hadn't imagined when scripting it.
It's increasingly understood that having the writer present during performances is critical to getting high-quality results. Thus, I've been fortunate enough to be heavily involved in casting and recording sessions for years now. And I've been even luckier to get to work with some extremely talented actors, including Tobey Maguire, Stan Lee, James Franco, Armin Shimerman, John Kassir, Nolan North, J. K. Simmons, Fred Tatasciore, Thomas Haden Church, and many others.
Over the years, through these many sessions on the stage and in the recording studio, I've learned not only how actors work, but also how directors handle them and bring out their best.
Writing razor-sharp dialogue is just the beginning. I'll be available to help make sure the files you get back — whether audio, mocap or full performance capture — are every bit as compelling as the words were on the page. Otherwise what's the point?
Education & Training
Education & Training
Because we're all in this together.
Nearly all commercial games are created by teams, and that's true of game stories as well. Even if you hire the best game writer or narrative designer, they can't tell the game story alone. It's the team — designers, artists, animators, audio experts, engineers, and others — who will do the creative work of bringing that story to life.
It's therefore my goal to educate as many game developers as possible regarding the essentials of effective storytelling. Because ultimately, skilled or not, they all end up being storytellers.
The first time I had the opportunity to stand in front of game developers and talk to them about storytelling was at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in March of 2006. . . a time when the iPhone did not yet exist, the Nintendo Wii was still on the drawing board, and the term "narrative designer" was almost completely unknown.
Every year since then I've given talks and tutorials at GDC on the subject of video game storytelling, imparting core narrative principles to over a thousand working professionals and counting. I've also spoken at the San Diego Comic Con, the IGDA Summit, and other conferences and higher learning institutions, and presented modified versions of my full-day writing tutorial at game studios such as Kabam, LucasArts, Firesprite and Vicarious Visions.
My presentations and workshops have recently been converted for fully online delivery, which means I can elevate your team's narrative knowledge and capabilities no matter where your studio happens to be!
When I educate game developers to make them better storytellers, it doesn't just help improve the project on which we might be collaborating. It provides a benefit to your team members that will stay with them — and with your studio — for years to come.
“Evan ran 25 entertaining, informative hours of training for our game team, and every one of those hours was packed with useful material... [it] has unquestionably leveled-up our entire team’s storytelling skills and knowledge.”
Co-Founder and Game Director, Firesprite