Jan. 19, 2023
Years of playing video games, and professors’ encouragement, pay off for Anna Webster
VCU alum, an in-house writer at Well Told Entertainment, recently received a prestigious honor in the industry at The Game Awards.
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Growing up, Anna Webster never considered that all the hours she spent with a gamepad in hand, maneuvering her way through video games, was anything more than fun. It certainly never occurred to her that one day she would be working as a lead writer in the video game industry.
“I never thought of it as a career,” said Webster, a 2017 graduate of the Department of English in Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Humanities and Sciences. “Playing video games was a portal when I was young. They were wonderful and brilliantly written. It helped me realize that story and game play are intermeshed.”
Webster started her career in the industry in 2019. She worked at a couple of gaming companies before landing her current job as a lead writer at Well Told Entertainment in 2021.
“You bounce around the industry,” she said. “You get hired by development studios, and you work on projects. Getting your first in-house industry job as a writer is a big deal. Many companies don’t hire a permanent writer.”
In December at The Game Awards, Webster was named to the Future Class, which serves to recognize professionals who improve the well-being of the video game community and elevate voices that represent the future of the medium.
According to The Game Awards, the Future Class “consists of 50 inspiring individuals who represent the bright, bold and inclusive future of video games.”
“As a creator, it’s an honor to be named to the Future Class,” Webster said. “I am floored.”
Learning the ins and outs of video games
Webster had the writing skills for video games, but she had to learn how to make the games as well. She taught herself how to build video games by modding, a process in which you use an existing game to create new or modified content.
“When you are game writer, you have to have a good idea of how to tell a story, but you also have to understand the technical and design aspects,” she said. “The writer needs to be in the room from the beginning, hearing about the concept and what the game could be.”
Because the game is being built from the ground up, “you want the story and the game play to be built at the same time,” she said.
Webster started VCU as a performance/voice student in the Department of Music in the School of the Arts before switching her major to English. The late Rebecca Tyree was her choir instructor. Tyree had served as an assistant professor of choral music education and choral ensembles in the School of the Arts.
“She always told me, ‘You are going on to do great things,’” Webster said. “She was always very encouraging.”
She was also encouraged by Les Harrison, Ph.D., associate professor and chair in the Department of English.
“He told me that writing for video games was a new frontier, and that I had to go for it,” Webster said. “He followed the game industry. It was great to have professors that were gung-ho over these new areas of storytelling. He told me just go for it.”
Writing for an “exploding,” evolving new art form
Telling stories has always been Webster’s goal, and she credits her performing arts background to helping her sharpen those skills.
“Storytelling allows for other people to feel seen and understood in the story, folks from underrepresented backgrounds, for example,” she said. “I want to be able to use my experience as a writer and my platform to boost their voices and experiences. This is how I want to view my contribution to the industry.”
Webster’s first major project — “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2” — is still not out yet, she said.
“But that’s very common in the game industry,” she said, adding that writing time varies per project. “It can take four years to produce a large game from start to finish. Smaller games take just under a year to write. It all depends on the project and game cycle. You have to be ready for anything, whether it’s a marathon or a sprint.”
Being part of the Future Class will help boost Webster’s career, she said.
“Games are exploding now,” she said. “The industry has started to diversify. It is looking at people from diverse backgrounds.”
Video games are beginning to be looked at as an art form.
“It’s exciting to be part of that process and help shape it in the way that I can,” Webster said.
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