Interlude: That Writing Role

By Failbetter, December 17, 2014 · Failbetter

Earlier this year, we started hiring for another writer. We’ve been very transparent about our hiring process, and we wanted to continue that – both for applicants and for other interested parties. Here’s where we are now.

Writing jobs in games get a lot of applications, and it’s hard to filter quality – so we applied a set of strict criteria to applications. As we’d expected, we got a few people who applied despite not meeting the criteria. These ranged from time-wasting to heart-breaking, but our firm position was: if someone couldn’t write publishable interactive narrative before applying, they likely couldn’t after applying. And if they couldn’t write something like that, they couldn’t do the job.

Once we’d got that far, we weeded out a good many candidates who satisfied the basic criteria but just weren’t as good a match as some of the others. That left 25 candidates.

We contacted all those and offered them a test piece to write. (If you’re curious, it’s here.) It’s not a big piece, and we placed an upper limit on size – but we still expected about half the remaining candidates to drop out, procrastinate, or provide something broken. A dozen solid candidates would still be plenty.

As it happened, all but one of the applicants submitted a suitable test piece – leaving us with 24 pieces to review before the New Year. Eep! Honestly, this was a mixed blessing – it is great that we have so many credible folk who want to work here, but it’s a lot of work for a small team to review, and we are going to end up saying no to people who we like, however this pans out.

What we’re doing now is the next step. Each person in the content team here is reviewing each test piece independently, to compare marks at the end. What we’re reviewing –

  • Engineering – how effectively does someone use the interactive, responsive mode?
  • Prose technique – how competently can they bang words together?
  • Setting & voice – how well have they understood and captured the tone of our franchise?
  • Spark - this is subjective, but we agreed we needed a way to flag when someone feels like they have an individual voice, an unusual talent, an evocative element to their work.

and finally we added a ‘faults’ column – in case someone’s work is sloppy, buggy or otherwise has issues worth flagging, but scores highly on the points above otherwise. Bad habits can be corrected, but talent and hard work can’t be trained in.

In January we’ll reconvene and talk about (i) clear leaders (ii) cases where we violently disagree. At that point, we’ll narrow it down to a handful of candidates and invite them to interview.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding to see the many different directions people are coming from – I’m looking forward to it!


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Alejandra Nov 19, 7:35pm

I haven't had any dreams that peartin directly to whales last night I used the question, What do I need to know about the whales and what should I do about it? as a mantra before going to sleep last night, and meditated before a blue candle with a photo of a whale on it.This was the dream I had, I'm curious about other perspectives:As I fell asleep last night I had some pain in the left side of my belly, I could feel the pain in my sleep. I tossed and turned and began dreaming in kind of a twilight state. I dreamed that a ghost , an invisible being, was pressing on my belly. I was paralyzed and powerless and couldn't fight it off, it was annoying and painful and I couldn't do anything about it. I finally managed to turn over and the ghost started pressing me on the other side, and kind of batting me. I couldn't move, I couldn't swat at it, and it was annoying like a fly, in the way it was pressing on me and wouldn't leave me alone. I tried to yell at it, and had no voice.This went on for a while, until I managed to stand up and open a door and walk out. Up to that point, the scene was just like my room in waking life, but the door in the dream was to the left of where my bedroom window is IWL. The ghost tried to keep me from opening the door, it was difficult to turn the knob. I went in and out of feeling powerless and paralyzed, and finally opened the door and stepped outside. There was a dark aluminum frame of a screen door on the outside (no screen or glass, like my mother's back door). I could feel the wind catch the ghost and it began to dissolve and float away with the wind. Residue or parts of the ghost tried to get back into the apartment and close the door, but I held the door firmly open and felt more of it that had been wrapped around me fall away and dissolve. I think my voice returned then, too. Then I woke up.After I woke up, I got up and moved around. My stomach still hurt, so I put some hot water on the stove to make some ginger tea, then decided as a symbolic act of acting out my dream I would open my front door and step outside I stepped outside for a few moments, then came back in and heard a loud POP! and the sound of breaking glass .I had turned the wrong burner on and exploded a dark blue pyrex dish left on the stove. It felt like a release of energy, related to releasing the ghost or something. And now there is glass all over my stove and floor because I don't have a broom yet

One of Twenty-Four | Paul Kirsch Dec 17, 6:25pm

[…] Failbetter has since released a very heartfelt update for those of us who applied (or anyone interested). Apparently I am one of 24 candidates still in the running. […]