My go-to. It’s an excellent primer if you’re first learning about writing for games and narrative design. But if you’re more experienced, it’s also a good way to lend a common language to a practice and process you’re probably already doing. Includes worksheets that are good references, as well as good exercises. Good for AAA, mobile, and indie.
Follow-up to the first book. This one is more focused on specific aspects of narrative design (such as writing cinematics).
A really insightful look into games writing specifically (not narrative design), with a focus on indie games and alternating perspectives on writing theory. Hannah has a rich background in theatre and draws on it extensively to provide helpful lenses for thinking about the opportunities and challenges in games writing.
This one isn’t instructional, but is a good combination of interviews with games writers and narrative designers, and critical analysis of video games, ranging from AAA to experimental indie.
A great book on writing for mobile games specifically.
I haven’t read it myself yet, but have been recommended it very highly. Recommended as a really good read for interactive fiction writing and design specifically.
Excellent read and primer if you’re interested in procgen narrative design or writing.
While this one isn’t specifically about how to write and design narrative for games, it is a really excellent look at how writing practice is applied, in reference to a specific game.
This one is a tome, but it contextualizes games writing in other media well.
By Meghna Jayanth for GDC 2016, about writing NPCs that don’t just revolve around the protagonist/player, and how this creates both more compelling characters and gameplay.
By Chris Remo for GDC 2019, about creating deeply integrated narrative into games, specifically without any challenge-based mechanics
By Hannah Nicklin for GDC 2020, about writing ensemble casts and looking toward a narrative structure that is the best fit for games, rather than other media.
One of my favourite recurring panels at GDC, the Narrative Innovation Showcase is always a good glimpse into how teams are approaching building on and challenging how narrative works in their games. 2019’s Showcase included: Clara Fernandez Vara, Matthew Weise, Tanya X. Short, Mark Backler, Whitney “Strix” Beltran, Dave Gilbert and Allen Turner.
I love data. I love learning about how players engage with games and narrative systems, and I love learning how we can design based on what data tells us. In this 2016 GDC talk, Cassie Phillipps talks through the successes and challenges in writing branching narrative for mobile, backed by a the data Pocket Gems has collected over the years.
By Kim Swift and Erik Wolpaw for GDC 2008, the two discuss how they approached Portal’s story and gameplay simultaneously and used each department’s strengths and needs to enhance the overall game. Listening to developers talk about how they approached solving problems is always a good learning experience.
Meghna Jayanth’s talks are absolutely critical for approaching games writing and narrative design with thoughtfulness and care, and this keynote from DiGRA 2021 titled “White Protagonism and Imperial Pleasures in Game Design #DIGRA21” is no exception. Meghna has also provided the text of the keynote if you would prefer to read it.
It’s impossible to pick just one of Emily Short’s blogs to link to, as they are all foundational and good reading. Even if you’re reading a post on a topic you’re not necessarily interested in, you will learn something. If you want a jumping off point, the posts on Storylets are fantastic.
Max and Nick Folkman hosts game writers and developers to talk about storytelling in video games. The episodes are all interesting, so I suggest scrolling for names of writers/developers you want to hear talk about writing for games! (Disclosure: I did an episode with them.)
Not Video Game Specific
Just an awesome, short book on how to write characters, with excellent worksheets and activities.
Same deal as the above: awesome, concise, with worksheets and activities, that presents the most usable instruction on how to go about worldbuilding.