The Internship Chronicles – Maina Chen

By Maina Chen; Professional Writing ’18

Ever since I came to Champlain, I’ve been fighting. I’ve had a difficult road to travel and I’m not close to finishing; but it all started when I decided I wanted to be a Game Writer. Barely had I stepped foot into Accepted Students Day, did my soon-to-be writing professors inform me that the game writing specialization was gone. With it, they nearly dashed my hopes of ever pursuing the career.

It became this whole endeavor of trying to revive the specialization with a few peers, while improving on my own writing skills–not once did I ever give up on my goal. The whole reason why I chose an out-of-state college and left NYC, is because of Champlain’s Professional Writing program, and the college’s involvement in the video game industry. I knew that if I didn’t choose this school, it would be almost impossible for me to gain valuable information about the industry, and learning the ropes around it.

One of my suggestions for breaking into the game majors while still being in my own, was to take the semester up in Montreal. Triple A’s and indies were all up there and it was constantly talked about as a great site for networking opportunities. I didn’t think I’d be able to land an internship, because game writing was uncommon (I’d be one of the first game writers to come up, and writing is still thought of as a luxury rather than a necessity). But I took the chance anyways, and ended up with my internship at Lucky Hammers.

Lucky Hammers is an independent game studio based in Montreal, whose primary focus deals with VR games. The studio itself was originally called Fidel, and was founded in 2004. After joining Stolo this year, it’s been re-branded into the name it has now. The team is full of video game veterans and young developers who’ve made quite the name for themselves in creating branded games for Nickelodeon and Disney. With their platforms crossing onto mobile, online and recently their first ever released VR game (Sour Patch Kids: Zombie Raid), the studio is venturing into the rapidly expanding VR world.

I became their Creative Writing Intern for my semester abroad, and honestly, I couldn’t be more grateful. Technically, I’m labeled a designer as well, and I work closely with the Creative Director and the Studio Head on the creative team. I’ve collaborated with them to create client-facing game concepts, proofread and edited various game pitches and proposals, and contributed to their Canadian Media Fund grant documents. I’ve also played a part in allowing for a more engaging experience in scripted design; established context, mood, and general direction through short stories, and created the foundations of in-game narrative and interactions through multiple beat charts.

Maina with her on-site mentors.

Maina with her on-site mentors.

It’s safe to say that I’ve been busy these past couple of months, and trying to constantly churn out ideas can be tiring. However, being a part of Lucky Hammers and getting to see the industry has made me incredibly happy. Most of the time it’s more like I’m disappointed that I don’t have more ideas to flesh out. It makes sense though that as creative writer, there are days when my workload is less glamorous. Yet there are times when I’m in charge of entire backstories and possible lore for game ideas, and I get to really delve into what I’m most interested in.

The amount of responsibility I’m given is intimidating at times, especially if the pitch or storyboard I’m working on can go to the higher-ups in even larger industries. But if I’m ever confused about something, my mentors are always there to answer my questions and give me feedback.

For any of my fellow aspiring game writers, this is an opportunity you cannot miss out on. Although I can’t guarantee that you’ll automatically get an internship, and that the balancing act between school and work is going to be challenging; I have faith that you can make it through. Narrative is going to keep evolving, and we should be the ones to foster its growth.