An Incomplete List of Things I’d Need to Know In Order Not to Be A Total Impostor

In honor of folks freaked out about how many things they “have to” do to advance their career, I present a very partial list of things I’ve been encouraged or expected to do/know since I got into games.

Not shown: which of these were fantastic advice, which were legit job requirements, and which were gatekeeping.

  • history and canon of literary hypertext in the 90s
  • improv technique
  • theories of narratology
  • all works of Infocom, Scott Adams, Melbourne House, Magnetic Scrolls, etc
  • canon and design trends in CYOA and gamebooks
  • who’s who in Oulipo
  • history of text adventures in languages other than English
  • state of digital humanities as a field
  • Prolog, Answer Set Programming, and other logic programming approaches
  • general history of table-top roleplaying game development and some rough concept of what goes on in LARP design both North American and Nordic
  • Agile dev practices and a bunch of specific associated software and systems
  • every game ever submitted to the IF Comp in its 24 years of history
  • transmedia: what are/were the major projects, what are/were the tools, why haven’t we heard so much about it lately
  • running safe and inclusive spaces, codes of conduct and the arguments concerning these
  • nonprofit fundraising and institutional development
  • JavaScript
  • who is working on narrative games, game AI, or procedural generation at the academic, indie, and AAA levels in the US and Europe and ideally elsewhere also
  • freelance scheduling, billing, networking, insurance, accounting, marketing and time-management strategies
  • recent developments in interactive video and audio
  • conversational pragmatics
  • stage magic techniques
  • C#
  • norms of participation in academic conference program committees and journal reviewing
  • marginalized authors in games and IF, and standout works that capture unusual experiences
  • the landscape of London games/writing/journalism/TV/radio personalities specifically
  • escape room design and canon
  • interactive documentaries, canon and tooling
  • roguelites
  • the complete oeuvre of Telltale
  • locational games, canon and tooling
  • Lua
  • every game that’s nominated for an IGF narrative award or other industry writing award, whether or not I was on the judging panel at the time
  • uses of interactive storytelling in museums and cultural heritage sites
  • who’s who in speculative fiction and what they’re doing these days
  • standard wisdom about running startups, MVPs, and attracting investment
  • ontology and knowledge representation
  • writing for voice actors
  • accessible app design for narrative-heavy apps
  • art direction
  • educational game design and requirements for school-facing projects
  • design practices for VR and AR
  • how to deal with being interrupted repeatedly, and other apparently gendered behavior that is hard to call out in the moment
  • TADS, StoryNexus, StorySpace, Varytale, Twine, ink, Tracery, Texture, Unity, Unreal, GameMaker Studio, Hugo, Alan, Quest, Ren’Py, AIML, ChatScript, and assorted specific modding tools; how to plug these together, in some cases
  • physical object storytelling, both in terms of common practice and in terms of production methods
  • theme park design
  • assorted visualization tools, now mostly JavaScript-based, though at one point there was a trend for Processing
  • IF and narrative game publishing venues
  • government grant application processes
  • typography and layout
  • Tableau
  • public speaking skills
  • board games with a narrative or storytelling element
  • every “blockbuster” AAA game
  • natural language processing methods; NLTK, assorted online APIs
  • attend GDC, SXSW, PAX, PAX East, E3, IndieCade, Practice, GamesCom, Amaze, Develop, EGX, AdventureX, Feral Vector, ELO, ICCC, ICIDS, FDG, AIIDE, DiGRA, INT, et al. (yearly)
  • narrative content design for MMOs
  • history and current status of academic research programs in procedural narrative
  • trends and marketing concerns in children’s interactive ebooks
  • machine learning methods and tools
  • how to write a literary novel that would garner respect, e.g. by winning the Man Booker Prize
  • everything that would be taught in an undergraduate computer science course
  • immersive theatre, what the major shows are and how they work
  • assorted specific culture references, especially WestworldHarry Potter, and Game of Thrones
  • advergaming and viral marketing game tie-in methods
  • how to write a popular novel that would make buckets of money and appear on the NYT bestseller list
  • assembly language
  • narrative design for free to play systems
  • alt controller design
  • how to wear clothes as a woman at an industry event
  • current market size and revenues from interactive fiction games and narrative-heavy games
  • Alexa skill creation
  • Personal Brand development
  • computational creativity theories and practices
  • dozens of books of writing and design advice for game writers, screenwriters, novelists, etc, etc
  • computational paralinguistics
  • which parties to go to at GDC and how to get in
  • detailed CV of the person I just met, who is no doubt famous, but unknown to me
  • C++
  • Zizek

6 thoughts on “An Incomplete List of Things I’d Need to Know In Order Not to Be A Total Impostor”

  1. A followup based on some Twitter questions: yep, some of this stuff I do now know. Some of it was well worth learning. Some of it I’ve used in past jobs, or use now in my current one. Some things I’ve dabbled in, or learned enough to use on limited jobs, but I don’t have mastery and I likely never will, because it’s just not central enough to what I’m doing. Some stuff is really important to someone, but not important to me. I don’t foresee assembly language rising to the top of my to-learn list any time soon. And some stuff is probably not vital but actually I *am* glad someone recommended I look into it, because it made for a really interesting cross-medium comparison and it enriched my thinking.

    The thing is, the more you know, the more you encounter stuff you don’t know yet. And — especially if you don’t look like the standard-issue demographic in your field — the more things people are likely to use as gatekeeping tests.

    But it’s got to be okay to take all that varied input and set your own priorities about what’s useful to you. And it’s got to be okay to learn in public.

  2. Some of those made me laugh out loud; some made me think, “Yeah I should totally do that… except I’m not going to”. The best part is that everyone who reads that list would divide it up differently.

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