Text-Based Games Live
Text-based games are making a comeback in the world of smartphones, handhelds, and good ol’ cell phones. Finley, who fairly recently transitioned her writing skills to the game industry, started in browser-based games. She is now looking ahead to the future of texting games.
Finley writes for Academagia: The Making of Mages, which was released a couple of months ago by Black Chicken Studio. This PC game, aimed at audiences ages 9+, combines mechanics from life simulation and text-based role-playing games.
Academagia, although not a console AAA title, has been a great learning experience for Finley as a freelancer. Undoubtedly writers, especially those working online, often struggle to be fully included in the development process. “It’s a vast game, so I was able to add a lot of my ideas to the universe,” says Finley.
Finley is currently writing the downloadable content adventures. Soon, she will be starting design work on the sequel. Above all, player feedback drives her as she thinks ahead to the sequel. “It’s been a pretty awesome experience watching the community on the forums respond to the game and discover the elements which I contributed.”
Shortly after working with Black Chicken Studio, Finley also picked up a contract as an Interactive Story Designer and Game Designer for Slooce Technologies. Slooce creates single-player and multiplayer text-based games over Short Message Service (SMS). She gets to spend her days writing choose-your-own adventure style stories, albeit within a tight word count limit.
”I’m also playing around with new game concepts, which enable friends to play with each other, even if they don’t have smartphones,” Finley shares. Of course, she can’t talk about those, but their impending releases will demonstrate the exciting possibilities of the text-based game genre.
Finley’s journey into the game industry started with literal journeys to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco.
“I’m one of those ‘I’ve been writing since I was three!’ types and I’d been playing games since I was five,” says Finley. About four years ago, she began to explore how she could combine her two passions. A friend of hers who was an owner of a game development studio suggested she check out GDC. Although she enjoyed the event and met with several very helpful Human Resource representatives, there weren’t any openings for game writers, let alone studios with in-house positions or freelance contracts.
Despite the setback, Finley attended the event again the following year and met a community of supportive writers. “After spending time with them, I was pretty confident that I could work in the industry,” Finley shares.
It took time and lots of posting on message boards and mailing lists, but eventually Finley found a request on a writer’s forum for lore writers, which turned out to be Academagia. Her enthusiasm and skills led to a position and later promotion.
Now, Finley is balancing the age-old challenge of freelancing—continuously seeking new work while completing contracts. Each project is different, which means that Finley can’t recycle writing samples time and time again.
“When applying for a job, you need to create all new samples that show you tailor your work to the project’s genre, tone, and style,” advises Finley. This can take a lot of effort and energy, and doesn’t guarantee getting the position, but it does build a portfolio for future work.
Notably, freelance writers also face the unfortunate reality that their supportive community can also be their competition. One strategy for handling this situation involves finding a unique niche and sticking with an established client base. The other strategy requires developing your skills by focusing on getting a position using tailor-made writing samples and then learning along the way. After all, writing styles for games are just as unique as the mechanics themselves, as Finley has learned.
Finley is looking forward to unveiling her latest writing that involves unique game concepts for phone-based games.