SFWA Admits Game Writers, All Heck Breaks Loose, Film at 11

Cat Rambo

by Cat Rambo

So this morning one of the items that’s been hovering in the wings for a couple of weeks now finally went out, which was the announcement of the game writing qualifications. Since there there’s been a lot of stir and some questions about it. So here’s some answers.

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: What are the qualifications?

A: Here you go. You can find them here too.

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.

Note that 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.

For membership questions not answered above, please contact Kate Baker, SFWA Director of Operations, at operations@sfwa.org.

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 president@sfwa.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.

ETA: I tweaked a couple things to make them clearer. I cannot say what the Board discussion will result in, but we are certainly paying attention.


Cat Rambo is the president of  SFWA. Her 150+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com. Her short story, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. Her most recent book is her debut novel, Beasts of Tabat. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see http://www.kittywumpus.net, where this post first appeared.

2 Responses

  1. Todd McCaffrey

    Hi Cat!

    I remember hearing about this a while back and I was ALL for it!
    I’m glad to hear it’s become a done deal.
    I’ve always believed that SFWA should be as inclusive as possible with as strong a voice as possible and I think allowing Games Writers into SFWA is a great move.

    Todd McCaffrey

  2. Jason Pitre

    Thanks for releasing this information and for making game writing eligible. Wanted to ask a couple questions concerning the requirements.

    1) As the owner of a small press since 2009, I release a 1-2 books a year normally. Does the “publish consistently” requirement mean that my market cannot qualify, until I increase our rate of production, or is this instead a requirement that publishers exist for a significant period of time?

    2) How are you drawing the line between “game mechanics” and “not game mechanics”? There is a lot of ambiguity in situations such as procedures or example text which could arguably fall in either camp.

    Jason Pitre, Genesis of Legend Publishing