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Writing for Video Games

English 328: Writing for Video Games

Chapman University, Fall 2019

Instructor: Morgan Read-Davidson

Meeting Time: Monday 4-6:50pm

Meeting Place: Library B14

Instructor’s Email:

Office: DeMille Hall 133

Phone: 714-532-7706 (email is better)

Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 10-12p, or by appointment

*I highly recommend making an appointment ahead of time, even if it’s only 10 minutes ahead. That ensures that I’m not getting coffee, visiting the library, sitting out on the plaza, etc.*


Catalog Description

This course will focus intensively on the possibilities of narrative in an interactive, choice-based environment. It will question how branching narrative bears a resemblance to traditional, linear methods, while challenging students to take the very best from what has come before in order to create something new and rich, but no less affecting. It will utilize critical theory in order enhance understanding of how games exist and why, before utilizing examples of interactive narratives to show students how they work and how they can be improved. (Offered as needed). 3 credits.


Course Objectives

Upon successful course completion, you will be able to:

  1. Understand the timelessness of gaming on a macro level through the study of critical primary texts, how rules contribute to the concept of meaningful play, and how to use the rules when creating your own interactive narratives;
  2. Use essential techniques of storytelling to better analyze your own stories and how to tell them effectively in an interactive medium;
  3. Improve the speed and clarity of your creative and critical thinking by learning how to harmonize multiple objectives, plot threads, and character make-ups into a cohesive narrative that relies on cause and effect;
  4. Better understand how to create a story with a group of writers, which is essential to understanding the working environment within the video game industry;
  5. Begin creating a creative portfolio necessary for securing an entry-level writing job in the video game industry.


Program Learning Outcomes for the English BFA in Creative Writing:

  • Write using proficient sentence-level skills, including punctuation, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary
  • Writing demonstrating proficient use of genre elements, techniques, and conventions to produce a defined work: a story, a poem, or creative non-fiction piece
  • Adeptly employ multiple writing techniques in a single piece or digital work
  • Invent a distinct personal voice or style that is appropriate for the content and effect in the given piece
  • Explore the personal definition of what it means to be a creative writer

Course Format

This course will be a collaborative immersion into the theory and practice of writing interactive narratives, realized in the form of role-playing video games, but also text-based games and table-top roleplaying. We will read texts and view videos that establish the theoretical basis for understanding how role-playing video games are the next frontier of storytelling; we will view playthroughs of games to see how the theory occurs in practice; and we will put theory to practice by creating our own interactive, immersive narrative games through a series of scaffolded deliverables, culminating in a final, playable game.

To accomplish this intense immersion into game writing, we will be working in constant collaboration: full class discussion and interaction, and team collaboration. At the start of the semester, you will be assigned to a team of three, balanced as best we can to create a cohesive unit of skills and experience. You will work as a team to design your game throughout the semester, as well as write and play table-top roleplaying adventures to understand and practice the complex intricacies of interactive narrative. Thus, commitment to attendance and active participation, including the highest level of preparation, is mandatory to succeed in this course. Our skills of social interaction, time management, task delegation, attention to detail, conflict resolution, and problem-solving will be put to the test, and hopefully positively improved.

Additional Requirements

  • A set of tabletop role-playing multi-sided gaming dice: D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, and D20.
  • Access to a computer and the internet, capable of using a free game creation tool for quest/mod creation.
  • Access to a console or gaming computer capable of playing the game that you will be modding.
  • A Chapman email account. I will conduct all class e-mail communication on your official Chapman account.
  • Access to Blackboard, where I will post the syllabus, our daily schedule, and other important documents. Please check Blackboard regularly.

The following categories spell out how the course will work:

Required Texts

Grade Breakdown

Areas of Evaluation

Classroom Environment

University Policies

Course Calendar

Gaming Resources