[Script Frenzy] Press Select: A first-person tutorial about game writing

“Press Select”

“New Game”
“Continue” [Appears conditionally on previous save]


The camera is behind the player-character’s closed eyes, slowly flickering open in a very cliche, minimalist white room. As soon as the player-character’s eyes are fully open, he can navigate the 3D environment with ease. The painfully shiny, circular room is empty, devoid of windows and doors.

Welcome to your mind, player-character. As you can see, it is a bit of a blank slate right now. But you are here right now because you want to write a video game script. My name is Alex. My function is to get you started on the basics. First, let’s talk about formatting.

A black slot appears in the wall and promptly vomits a gray sheet of PAPER, light but contrasting significantly with the whiteness of the perfect room.

When the player picks up the PAPER:
Resources” checklist added to inventory [viewable in Pause menu].

Take a look at your resources list to get started on any formatting questions you might have. As far as I am aware, there exists no “one” industry standard for game formatting–it all comes back to the game itself that you are writing. First, what kind of game would you like to make?

[1.1] I will create the next Bejeweled.
[1.2] I will create the next Fallout.
[1.3] I will create… honestly, I have no idea.

So you envy Rovio then. Try to focus on quality, however, over quantity. Your game may or may not have a storyline, but it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to write it. It certainly won’t occupy a hundred pages if you’re planning this project for Script Frenzy. Still, it needs words. It needs a script, or at least a storyboard. Every action has a consequence.

The center of the floor in the room cracks, a sapling of a tree abruptly springing from it. Pink cherry blossoms float to the ground.
IF the player is standing directly over the crack, he will be thrust to the ground. [-10 HP]

Branching will become your best friend or your worst enemy.

The player-character, examining the tree, sees that each of the branches bears a glowing label, “Touch Me,” upon approach.

IF the player-character touches the BRANCH, two more BRANCHES spring forth, each with the same label and exponential growing ability.

When the player has activated any six branches:
Accounting for every possible action the player could take is a hassle, admittedly. But it is worth it.
[Go to Conclusion]

Did you know that the video game scripts for games like Bioshock and Mass Effect consist of thousands of pages, not including character bibles and world encyclopedias? Furthermore, consider that good games do not entirely rely on convenient cutscenes to make a complete story–even the classic JRPGs contain story elements in the fights and missions between movie-like, cinematic sequences, even if it just means interacting with a shopkeeper. Cutscenes are the solution of a screenwriter forced to work on a video game. The best way to write a game is as a gamer.

[Go to Branch Chapter]

Do not concern yourself with details too much. Your mind is not empty–it is only clear. Do not worry at this time about what kind of mechanics you have, or what kind of graphics you want in the final product. Write plot, first. Write characters, first. Write your ideas like a chapter of a novel, or a short story.

[Go to Conclusion]

A section of paneling from the wall becomes a DOOR, moving out and sliding up. Outside, an exotic, barren, and beautiful landscape of rocks and trees appears. The sky is dark with night, but stars and some kind of planetary body cast a romantic glow on the landscape, illuminating it.

Another section of paneling slides out and up. CHEERY AUTOMATED MALE enters, carrying a Chromebook under his arm and making a beeline for the door. He stops at its entrance to face the player-character.

Let’s start imagining.

Alex J. Freemont is a self-nominated android fascinated by the humanizing appeal of good stories wherever they can be found, especially if they involve time-travelling British men. It muses about the geek life on Twitter, while on transcending pixels it picks apart the aesthetics of genius casual games.