News

Traineeship in Games Writing

By Sara Veal, September 24, 2020 · Failbetter Interns

Applications for this traineeship have now closed. Out of fairness to other candidates, we are unable to consider any further applications. We will announce future opportunities on this blog.

Failbetter Games is offering a paid traineeship in game writing, running November 2 to December 11, for Black candidates.

What we’re looking for

We are looking for a trainee who writes fiction and who wants to explore a career in video game writing. 

To work with us, you don’t need to have worked on any previous games projects. You don’t need to be a fan of our past work. You also don’t need to be at any specific point in your life. Students, recent graduates, and working adults considering a change of field are all welcome to apply.

What you will need:

  • Software and hardware allowing them to use Slack, Zoom, Google Docs, and browser-based tools
  • The ability to write prose fiction in English
  • Interest in contributing to a game in a Victorian fantasy/horror setting

Who we are

Failbetter Games is a studio based in London, U.K., with a history of releasing award-winning narrative games, including Fallen London, Sunless Sea, and Sunless Skies. Our portfolio also extends beyond the usual for games: among other things, we wrote an interactive narrative to accompany the launch of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

Our team includes five full-time writers who have collectively put many decades into writing for games and other media. We are very involved with the game industry both in the UK and internationally, and several of us have extensive experience with mentoring and teaching. Our work process is very collaborative, and if you join us, you’ll have a chance not just to ask your own questions but to see how we approach problem-solving together.

Failbetter is committed to providing a safe and respectful workplace to its employees. We expect to do the same for our trainee. Our approach to work avoids systemic overtime and crunch; we support flexible working and do our best to accommodate the mental and physical health needs of our employees. We have won a GameIndustry.biz Best Places to Work award three times in the last four years.

What we write

Our games tell stories in which the player can make choices about what to do next. You might find yourself writing dialogue between a human and a Devil exiled from Hell, or an action sequence about defeating a tentacled monster, a description of a fabulous meal or the events of a covert union organisation.

Our games represent a range of character genders, races, backgrounds and lived experiences. We have commissioned consultations on presenting different kinds of characters (for example trans/non-binary characters) and in addressing topics such as colonialism.

In inviting you to join us, we are not expecting you to act as a diversity consultant or to take on responsibility for how people who share your background are represented in our stories. We do commit to listening to anything you want to tell us on these topics; and we’ll do our best to make space for you to tell a story in your own voice, within the context of our game world.

What we can offer

This traineeship is designed to 

  • introduce you to writing for games;
  • help you understand the industry; and
  • give you skills and experience that will help you find more work, if you choose

We’ll teach you how to create new game content for our browser-based game Fallen London. You’ll experience every stage of the writing process, from pitching a new idea to launching the final content, and you’ll end up with publication credit.

While you’re here, you’ll also see some of the process for other games being developed at the studio. You’ll have a chance to talk to our employees in other disciplines, including design, art, quality assurance, and marketing. And we’ll talk you through how our process compares with what you might find at other game studios around the industry.

Our trainee program offers:

  • A guided game writing project, from concept through writing, editing, revising, and briefing artists
  • The opportunity to see your work go live to players as part of our seasonal content
  • Career mentoring from our senior writers
  • Pay at the London Living Wage of £10.75/hour, or about $14/hour US at current exchange rates
  • Choice of part-time or full-time hours, from 15 to 35 hours a week, with flexible hours (details below)
  • Ability to reserve days off for family needs, holidays, or religious celebrations
  • Remote work

About remote work and flexible hours

Because of the pandemic, our studio is working remotely. We can work with trainees anywhere in the world, as long as you can be available for video calls during at least a three-hour window that overlaps the hours of 9 AM to 6 PM UK time. 

For example, that might mean

  • A candidate in Los Angeles online from 7 AM to 10 AM, which would be 3 PM to 6 PM in the UK
  • A candidate in Johannesburg online from 3 PM to 6 PM, which would be 2 PM to 5 PM in the UK

We may be able to work with you even if you can only do these hours on certain days of the week.

Applying

To apply, please email internships@failbettergames.com a link to a Google doc containing

  • A prose fiction writing sample of 500-1000 words; this can be a short stand-alone piece or an excerpt from a longer work
  • A statement of 300 words or less describing what you hope to gain from the traineeship and telling us anything else you’d like us to know about you

The deadline for applications is 9 AM British time October 9.

We’ll respond to every application by October 22, regardless of the outcome. We will ask for a short interview (ca. 20 minutes) before making a final offer.

If there’s anything you’d like to know from us in advance, please write to us at internships@failbettergames.com and we’ll do our best to answer your questions.

If you are unsure about whether you should apply, we hope that you will. 

FAQ

Do I need to be a published author?

No. Sending us a writing sample is enough.

Do I have to be sure I want to go into games?

No. This is an opportunity to find out whether this is a good field for you – you don’t have to know the answer coming in.

Do I have to write a particular type of fiction?

No. If you work with us, your main project will be set in Fallen London, a setting that combines fantasy and horror elements. But our staff writers and freelance contributors come from a range of backgrounds, with writing credits including speculative fiction, television, theatre, radio drama, tabletop role-playing games, and training programs for nursing students — there are lots of different ways into this field. 

It sounds like your games are heavy on text. Is that typical in the game industry?

There’s a whole genre of games called interactive fiction, where players’ interactions primarily involve text. (Other examples of interactive fiction include inkle’s 80 Days; the Choices and Episodes mobile games, Choose Your Own Adventure books, and many others.) If you work with us, you’ll be working primarily on Fallen London, which is very much in this genre.

We do also build projects that include other kinds of gameplay and more extensive art.

Is it okay if I’m not good at video games?

That is completely okay. Many game writers aren’t good at them either. You will not need good reflexes or experience with strategy games to do this work.

Is it okay if I already know a lot about games and narrative design?

Yes! And it’s also okay if you don’t. We expect we’ll adjust the training to the person who winds up in this role. 

I’ve been unemployed, retired, or not in regular work. Is that okay?

Yes. We’re interested in your writing and your aspirations for the future, not your recent employment history. 

I’d be doing this alongside a job or academic program. Is that okay?

Yes, as long as your other institution doesn’t claim ownership over what you write, and as long as you think you’ll have the time and energy to engage with us. We’re happy to be flexible with hours to help make this work for you.

I have children or someone who needs care at home. Can the hours accommodate that?

We’re happy to be flexible with hours to help make this work for you. We have several parents on our team.

I’m not a native English speaker. Does that rule me out?

We are looking for someone who can write English fluently and who will not need significant editing for grammar and flow. However, we know writers (including on our own team) who have excellent written English as a second language. If you’re not sure, please do send us your writing sample.

Do I need the right to work in the UK?

No.

This is the wrong time for me, but are you ever going to do another of these?

This is the first time we’ve run a traineeship like this. If it goes well, we’d definitely look to repeat it in the future.

Could you do a traineeship like this but for art, coding, or design?

At the moment, because of our studio’s focus, we think we’re best positioned to bring on trainees in narrative work.

I might need some special accommodations in order to do this traineeship.

Please get in touch with us at internships@failbettergames.com and we’ll be happy to discuss those accommodations in more detail.

Is it lawful to restrict this opportunity to Black candidates?

Yes. When we’ve advertised employment opportunities, Black applicants have repeatedly been disproportionately underrepresented.

It’s lawful in the UK to take positive action to address such inequalities.  When considering how to do that, we decided to offer a paid traineeship.

This is not a job: it’s a training opportunity that we hope will assist the person who undertakes it in finding employment in the games industry.  The successful candidate will follow a training plan with explicit learning objectives; they will be invited to block out time for activities that will benefit their understanding of working in games development, such as asking non-writers on our team about their disciplines.

We’re dedicating far more resources to this traineeship than we would a position of employment. This is something we see as a long-term investment – committing resources now in order to build up the studio’s ability to bring in new and different voices, and to make the industry as a whole more fair.

As for why it’s paid – we want to ensure it’s available regardless of a candidate’s financial circumstances, as far as possible.

This year’s events, and the Black Lives Matter protests, created a greater sense of urgency around equity and diversity in the game industry. But these are persistent, long-running problems; they can only be addressed with committed and on-going action.

Different companies are positioned to offer different things. It happens that we have a robust writing team and quite a bit of experience working with junior writers, so this kind of traineeship seemed like the best way to use our resources. But we’d be very excited to see what other companies might do, given their own resources, to proactively bring more underrepresented groups into the game industry.

Updates on this Traineeship:

https://www.failbettergames.com/update-traineeship-in-games-writing/

https://www.failbettergames.com/update-traineeship-faqs/

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