We’ve been asked on more than one occasion, mostly by developers, what it means that we’re both members of the WGA and game writers. The easy answer is that it doesn’t make a difference in how we work. We write games because we “get” games. We also happen to have experience in other visual media that we can bring to bear. More often than not, however, what developers really want to know is: What does working with a WGA writer entail?
It could take a million posts to cover this topic, but here it goes in a nutshell. The WGA does have a new media contract. Unlike the MBA (minimum basic agreement) required in film and television, the new media contract is about a page long and does not make any demands regarding how much the writer is paid. As a game developer, you can hire a WGA writer under a WGA contract. You can also hire a WGA writer without a WGA contract if the writer agrees. By hiring under a WGA contract, you have the peace of mind knowing your freelance writer could get health insurance and the best pension in the entertainment industry. Since there are so few WGA writers in games, it’s a safe bet there won’t be picket signs in front of your office any time soon.
Are WGA writers more expensive? It depends on the writer. Certainly a big “name” Hollywood screenwriter would be more expensive, but you may find some WGA writers less expensive than major game writers outside the WGA fold. If money is your primary concern, however, remember you may get what you pay for.
Are WGA writers better writers? This often unspoken question lies at the heart of the game industry’s love-hate relationship with itself. I’ve seen game developers who get stars in their eyes around “real” Hollywood people. I’ve seen experienced game developers turn up their noses at Hollywood writers with an inability to grasp the gaming medium. The truth is you’ll find both better and worse writers in the WGA. That’s why it’s important to hire writers not based on how impressive they seem, but whether they’re a good fit for your project. Your game isn’t cookie-cutter, so you wouldn’t want to hire your writer that way.
Is the WGA taking over? I’ve seen a lot of articles discussing how WGA writers are just flooding into the game industry during the strike. After walking around in circles with a bunch of WGA members, I’m going to say it’s not true. While some WGA writers have expressed interest, many of them don’t seem to “get” games, so I doubt they’re running off to tell their agents to get them on a game. Of the few I’ve met who have written for games, they do it “on the side,” like one of the writers of LOST who contributed to its game.
Are you afraid of the WGA in the game industry? Or do you think it’s mostly harmless? I’m curious on your views.