Thursday Review: Be Awesome At Freelance Game Design

Be Awesome At Freelance Game Design is written by Creighton Broadhurst at Raging Swan Press. It’s an interesting look at the art of making content for games. However, one thing to note is that it touches most heavily on three independent aspects: freelancing, the games industry, and then writing. If you’re thinking about writing your own stuff you’re not really a freelancer, but it’s also important to note that the guide is more for adventure, campaign, and setting writing than for actual game design, which, to be fair, is a topic which is colossal in scope.

As far as the freelancing advice goes, Creighton is right on the money. Be Awesome At Freelance Game Design touches on all the important points of the process, including the need for professionalism in marketing yourself and the fact that as a freelancer you’re not the one calling the shots but you should still retain some independence in your work, or else you’ll get slogged down doing things you’re not good at and don’t enjoy.

The games industry insight, I feel, is particularly one-sided. Most places tell you what they want to see; Catalyst’s put out huge things about the making of acceptable art on their blog, for instance, and I feel that Broadhurst really falls short by assessing pretty much exclusively the Paizo/Wizards of the Coast market and not looking into depth at publishers who have an alternate way of doing things. That’s not to say it’s bad; most of what you’re looking for is still applicable, but you won’t see Shadowrun looking for an alternate setting any time soon. Of course, a fair deal of this is because that’s still one of the places that is the most prominent in the games industry, but it’s also something that overlooks a potential market.

Likewise, much of the writing is exclusively oriented toward the fantasy genre and conventions, feeling like something out of the golden age of Dungeons and Dragons. A lot of this is cross-applicable, but it’s annoying to a certain degree to see stuff that could be very well generalized applied to a specific context and concept; the writing’s advanced enough that anyone who reads it for its fullest effect will almost certainly be capable of applying general advice to specific cases,

On the other hand, the writing advice is very solid. It reminds me a lot of some of the writing textbooks that I’ve really loved, but with a more practical look at adventure writing and the process of creating believable and enjoyable environments. It’s good advice even for people who aren’t going to professionally write for games, but the parts of it feel rushed and crammed; like the goal was to get the writing done within a length limit instead of providing everything there is to know about best practices and going beyond the simple statement of facts into their application.

So, in short, Be Awesome At Freelance Game Design is far from horrible. It’s also pretty basic. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of stuff in here that’s really useful, but you really need to be the target audience-a traditional Swords and Sorcery adventure writer looking to write adventures, to get the full benefit out of it. Will it help you in other fields, for instance simply as a GM? Quite possibly, though the amount of information pertinent to any of the many hats it presumes the reader will wear is limited to a brief overview of a broader field.

To summarize my summary; good, but more useful for the target audience than for the general public.

If you’re interested in Be Awesome At Game Design, you can find it at DriveThruRPG here.

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