Members of Guild Wars 2’s narrative team discuss an ArenaNet narrative mentorship program

    
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Our own doom.

To hear Guild Wars 2 narrative designer Novera King and associate narrative director Bobby Stein tell it, getting into video game narrative work is challenging, with a number of roadblocks that get in the way in terms of experience. To help grant budding games narrative writers that experience, Stein has helped put together an initiative at ArenaNet to mentor new talent, a program that is the subject of a recent GamesIndustry interview.

The mentoring program’s first iteration was a six month program at ArenaNet’s Bellevue studio, which brought promising candidates together who had at least prior writing experience and a cursory knowledge of how games work to learn how to combine the two. According to Stein, the idea for the program first came about in 2018, when ArenaNet was looking to expand its narrative applicant pool to find more diverse writers. “We decided to look at the people who are applying who maybe had potential but weren’t ready, and figuring out if there’s anything we can do to help them bridge that gap,” explained Stein.

Through the interview, both King and Stein continued to stress the importance of having diverse writers and collaborators in the program and in narrative teams overall. King herself explained that she learned how to use her own experiences as a strength instead of burying them when she was mentored in the initiative’s first run.

“With Guild Wars 2, we are trying to tell stories of very disparate characters. We’ve got women, we’ve got men, we’ve got gay people, got straight people, we’ve got people from different races and ethnicities. And we have a very global audience that this goes out to. And so being able to be in a space where you can give another writer critique like, ‘I don’t think a chick would say it like that,’ or, ‘Think about this subtext,’ or ‘Let’s look at not just Western storytelling, but lots of other different story types.’ I think any time if I’m sitting in a room with another writer, and we’re both too much the same, we need to bring someone else in this room.”

The program has had only two runs thus far — the first in 2018 and a second internal-only run to let different departments learn more about narrative — but both Stein and King have designs to expand the initiative, with eyes on including other studios. For now, ArenaNet is opening up applications for new mentees in January, which will accommodate those who can work only remotely this time around.

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Robert Mann

Given that I have a long history in work on several kinds of writing, and a long history in playing video games… I thought to myself “Would I apply?”

The answer was no. It was no because that video game writing tends to be both pathetic and driven by developers/publishers pushing ideas that don’t really work well all too often in direct control.

Having enough experience in each, I cannot believe that I would be happy trying to adjust a quality story into where those forces that be push writers to go. I can only assume that I would continue to be as I am, insist that something so dimwitted was a tragedy that deserved a Romeo drinking poison side to it, and burn bridges with the people providing the work. XD

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TomTurtle

I can believe that it’s hard to find good writers for such a position due to how poor video game writing can be in general, MMOs in particular.