Writers who help create narratives for video games, table-top roleplaying games and card games will be eligible to join the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) following a membership-wide vote. SFWA will take applications for this Active-level type of membership beginning August 1.
“I’m proud to be leading an organization acknowledging the wide range of forms genre writing can take,” said SFWA President Cat Rambo. “I’m also looking forward to the expertise and experience such writers can bring to the organization.”
Games in any medium may be used for qualification so long as the game has a narrative element, is in English, and in the science fiction, fantasy, horror or related genres.
Prospective members working on games may qualify by showing a sale or income in one of three ways:
- By making at least one paid sale of a minimum of 40,000 words to a qualified market, or three paid sales to qualified markets totaling at least 10,000 words. Game publishers may be designated as qualified markets using the already established process and criteria used to qualify fiction markets.
- By showing they have earned a net income of at least $3,000 from a game that includes at least 40,000 words of text (not including game mechanics) over the course of a 12-month period since January 1, 2013. Income can be in the form of advance, royalties, or some combination of the three.
- If no word count is possible, such as work done for a video game, prospective members can qualify based on one professionally produced full-length game for which they were paid at least $3,000, and with credits to no more than two writers clearly shown on the work.
Money from crowd-funding campaigns can be used as part or all of the required income once the game has been delivered to backers, but the amount that can be claimed cannot be more than the net income from the number of games produced and delivered to backers (calculated by the number of backers multiplied by the minimum tier which receives a copy of the game.) Work done for salary is not eligible.
Following the announcement, Cat Rambo unexpectedly found her day monopolized – “Talk about things I did not anticipate having to spend my morning answering email about. *pulls hair out*”
She collected some of her answers in a post on her personal blog with the title “SFWA Admits Gamewriters, All Heck Breaks Loose, Film at 11”.
Q: Hey, I’m a SFWA member! Why didn’t I know about this earlier?
A: I’m not sure. We publicized the vote before and when it happened, we had a SFWA chat hour devoted to it, and we’ve been talking about it on the discussion forums for over a year, I think, including calls for people to serve on the committee and make recommendations.
Q: Where did these qualifications come from?
A. From the Game Writing Committee, which researched the question first of whether or not we should put the issue to vote and then what form the qualifications might take. We included some game writers on the committee (its members are Jennifer Brozek, Steve Jackson, Richard Dansky, Rosemary Jones, Noah Falstein, and Jim Johnson with Matthew Johnson as the Board Liaison); the SFWA Board used their overall recommendations as the starting point….
Q: Why don’t game instructions and mechanics count?
A: Because we consider them nonfiction.
Q. Why don’t multi-book contracts count?
A. Actually, they do. They are not considered “salaried” but often given with contracts w/ advances.
Q: Why have you excluded work done for salary?
A: That was built into the original set of requirements and in talking to the committee, it seems to me to be an oversight. Looking back through discussions, the original thinking was in practice salaried writers are unlikely to qualify because of the rule against works by more than two authors.
So are we re-examining this in light of the many people pointing out the issues with it? Yep! The Game Writing Committee, the SFWA board, and a couple of staff members have all been mailing and talking back and forth about it most of the day.
Do I think it will get changed? *shakes magic 8-ball* All signs point to Yes — but I cannot say definitively. We’re discussing things right now, and I’m pushing to tweak that part.
Q: Why did you put this out if it wasn’t perfect?
A: Because this is how we make it perfect, by putting it into action, seeing how it works, and adjusting accordingly. It’s what we did last year when admitting indies and that also remains an ongoing process. If you’re a SFWA member who wants to help with that process or a non-member who wants to provide useful feedback, mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Will there be a gamewriting Nebula Award?
A: Not at the 2017 Award ceremony, but stay tuned for further developments…
Q: Do you, personally, support gamewriters joining?
A. Dude. I’ve been playing D&D since I was 11 and that was the ancient, original set that came out right after Chainmail. I worked in a book/game store for close to ten years. My bachelorette party was a Call of Cthulhu scenario that turned out to be Paranoia by the end. Of course I support this. I love gaming, and a good game is a work of art. I’m really looking forward to what this change brings.