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Careers for Worldbuilders?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Black Dragon, Mar 3, 2020.

  1. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

    Recently someone asked me the following question:

    I have a passion for worldbuilding. Do you have any suggestions for converting this passion into a career path (other than fantasy writing)? Are there some careers that are well-suited for worldbuilders?​

    How would you answer this question?
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    Yes please.
    Oh wait, this is a question not a job offer.

    One field to look into is tabletop games. The person in question could approach them for work, the big ones generally have vacancies open. Besides that... youtube. It's a long-shot, but the only losses someone faces there is their time, and if people do take to their style of worldbuilding and presentation they can grow a decent audience. Wouldn't be the first to make worldbuilding a career on youtube.
  3. Vaporo

    Vaporo Inkling

    Perhaps a level designer and/or backstory writer for video games? It's a saturated field, but could be something to look at.
  4. Yora

    Yora Maester

    RPG worldbuilding can be done at almost no cost while still completing basically finished products. There are plenty of people doing that.

    Which is also the problem. I would estimate the total amount of job position for professional RPG setting writers in the English-speaking world at around 10. Getting one of these is basically impossible.
    You can always release your own material, but there are dozens of people doing that and the income generated from that appears to be miniscule. If you're doing well it might pay for a new nice TV or couch, but probably not a car. And that's the whole product life cycle of the work.
    Competition is huge, the market is tiny, and profits almost nonexistent. If you enjoy it as a hobby and want to see if you can make a few hundred dollars or euro from it, it's worth a try. But making an income is not an option.

    There are probably better opportunities in TV and videogame writing, but that's only "better" by a very small margin. From what I heard, videogame writers mostly slip into it accidentally and are often recruited internally. And in TV they mostly look for script-writers, and when you're already in you might once in a blue moon get the opportunity to write backstory for a new show.

    The most viable path I see is to find some kind of novel structure that is setting intensive and still entertaining and try making it as a novelist. Which in itself is already super hard.
  5. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    As above, but...

    How about the other way around? What career path will feed into my passion for world building? What can I do that will allow me to learn more about the aspects of world building that I enjoy?
    Economical analysis? Anthropology? Geology? Social, political, cultural studies?
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I have a friend from college who does parks and urban analysis in NYC. Lots of maps, looks at zoning and neighborhoods and micro economies. Kind of the same stuff but real.
    S.T. Ockenner and Svrtnsse like this.
  7. I have to disagree about there not being opportunities for worldbuilders in the RPG tabletop gaming world. Well-paying, right out of the gate with established companies? Yes, that's going to be very rare, but as with any outlet there are many opportunities that require more self-initiative and legwork to find and take advantage of. There are many gamers who create worlds for established game/rule systems and do very well with their modules and campaign settings. They're not people who are well known like a Monte Cook etc, but they do make a bit of money doing it. Kickstarter, on any given day, is full of them in any number of outlets and some do very well in that regard. I say this with one caveat. I am not thinking of someone who ONLY draws maps or creates races/creatures/settings but someone who can envision the end result of their work, find a collaborator for whatever they are lacking in and do the legwork to understand the many avenues available for product creation.

    Another possibility, and this is akin to self-publishing I suspect, would be Podcasts. Either audio drama or RPG actual plays. I might be able to think of a few more outlets but I'll comeback if I do.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  8. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

    I'll add: look into Patreon and other content-subscription services.

    Youtube is shifting into a platform that is becoming near impossible to make even remotely predictable revenue from, due to algorithm arbitrations, uploading / release issues that demonitize video views and content disputes.

    Every Youtuber I know (subscribe to) has publicly said they were thinking about quitting Youtube outright and/or stopped relying on Youtube because they are getting screwed over. So uploading to Youtube is now primarily about exposure, linking to other social media, and about driving people (viewers) to monthly Patreon subscriptions and exclusive content / contests, etc.

    That being said, RPG, cardgames and tabletop games could be very lucrative if you are patient and can wait a long time to build an audience and fan momentum. Investments in materials should be pretty straightforward publishing costs, with other paper media/ packaging and plastics. If you can find a production house that prints-on-demand through digital files, you're gold. One-off, or small batch is often better than big bulk purchase options when you're just starting off.

    Comic book stores and some coffee joints around me hosts tabletop tournaments all the time, and those kinds of events may be the target audience you're looking for. Maybe take out a booth at a renfaire or comicon when you have prototypes developed, and sign people up to win a starter pack and give feedback?

    I would say don't plan on quitting your day job, but you could plan on this being real passive income once established. Don't be discouraged, just plan on longer time frames to make returns on your investments. A while back, I went with a friend to pick up a new Warhammer 3000 miniature set that had just been released... and let's just say for the price of plastic (pennies) and a 3D printer, maybe physical game development is a much more feasible idea for income than I ever really considered- as he was happy to part with $100+ for something he had then had to glue together and paint. Not too shabby.
  9. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    Environmental Psychologist working at an Architectural firm.
    The best "world-building" conversation I've had in years was with a PhD candidate working on how people's attitudes to green space and cultural heritage affected each other. They understood how world-building worked with people in it. People changed their world, their world changed the people. It made me change how I do many things.
  10. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Is this passion for worldbuilding in general, or only fantasy worldbuilding?

    I'd think that maybe set designers, costume designers, and such might be fairly good careers for those who love worldbuilding. These are mini-worlds being created for each project.
  11. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    Some of the jobs where one could use world building skills:

    Book Cover Illustrator
    Urban planning
    Film set designer
    Stage set designer
    Illustrator (for books and visual novels)
    Satirical travel guide writer
    Animator (Creating the backgrounds in cartoons, anime and so forth)
    Comic/Manga Book Illustrator
    Fake Country Web Site Creator (I did this but I was up front about the fact the place I created was geofiction but some Arabs offered to invest in this country. I told them straight up what I meant by geofiction as it was obvious they didn't understand the concept.)
    Political Propagandist (What is political propaganda but creating an imaginary place based on what you claim would happen if you vote for a particular group?)
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  12. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

    This is the correct question, so kudos for asking it this way round!

    I don't know how old you are, but it sounds like you're in high school & still considering future options. (Kindly forgive if I'm wrong!)

    I would say that it really does not matter one bit which career field you choose. As much as "economical analysis" sounds to me like a very uncomfortable intestinal condition, you would certainly be able to apply that knowledge base to your geopoesy. Fields like anthropology, geology, theology, cultural studies -- all of those stand out as obvious in their specific application to the art of making worlds. But notice how narrow most of these applications would be!

    Far more important than the field you choose for a future career path, however, is your present and future attitudes towards learning & research for the sake of learning something!

    Whether you choose to become a plumber or a nurse or a financial consultant, there is no reason at all why you can't also pick up texts on geology, Asian folklore, theology, economics or mythology. It's the broad reading you do that helps you with worldbuilding, not so much the specific career.

    Now, if you're one of those blessed souls who stops the car along the side of the highway to get out and look at half billion year old rock formations & who collects fossils and books of minerals, then perhaps a career in geology will be a good fit for you! Don't choose geology because it can help you make a world; choose it because you're passionate about rocks! And let it help your geopoesy into the bargain.
  13. Vaporo

    Vaporo Inkling

    The number of suggestions here that seem to imply that techniques for fictional worldbuilding be applied to serious real world problems is frankly a little bit disturbing to me.
  14. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    Fictional places are often created to test computer models, for polling purposes, for technical purposes such as ISBN and ISSN book cataloguing and military exercises so world building does have some real world applications. In many cases fictional places are used for the purposes of making social or other commentary about a real place in situations where it could be dangerous for the commentator to refer to the real place.
  15. Vaporo

    Vaporo Inkling

    Computer models and using a fictional setting as an analogy are one thing. This thread almost seems to be encouraging the thought process of "Hmm. I like coming up with societies and molding their very foundations according to my vision. I should become a politician and do that in REAL LIFE!" I think a person following that line of reasoning has too much of a god complex for my liking.
  16. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Writing RPGs might work if you're ready for some serious work load and not making much money on it.
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I think you’re maybe reading too much into it. Some real life jobs involve getting into the details in ways similar to world building. Pointing out those connections hardly implies a god complex.
  18. Malik

    Malik Auror

    I work in strategic intelligence.

    My team studies small wars around the world (the ten-dollar word is "intractable conflicts") and assesses the likelihood that they'll turn into big ones. To do this, we have to assess a number of factors including sociocultural issues, geography, history, economics, languages, military capability and known tactics, as well as the interactions of the leaders and the people with external actors including things like espionage, resource exploitation, and smuggling.

    We write massive academic papers, sometimes over a hundred pages, that go through a formal publishing procedure including editors, peer review, and a publishing directorate. We brief and teach troops before they roll out to these areas, teaching days-long classes that sensitize them as to what to look for. We also fly around the world briefing senior military leadership, government officials, and foreign leaders.
    My first series is in no small part a sandbox for some of my personal theories on the role of weapons technology in destabilizing intractable conflicts; something I've taken a keen interest in, and which I realized I could simulate by taking a person from modern-day Earth and injecting them into a world operating at a tech level equivalent to our Viking era. I did my worldbuilding to the extreme level that I did so that the regional powers in my books would react realistically to destabilization.

    I wouldn't be able to do the level of worldbuilding that I can do now had it not been for my job, but I also wouldn't have been interested in this corner of the intelligence community had I not already had such a deep love for worldbuilding.

    The intel community is also brimming with SFF nerds. It's a good fit.
  19. Malik

    Malik Auror

    You're a better man than I. If they'd come to me, I'd be writing this from a yacht in some non-extradition bolt-hole in the South Pacific right now and those idiots would be holding receipts for half the oil wealth in ScrewYourMommaStan.
    Demesnedenoir and Svrtnsse like this.
  20. Ronin Hawking

    Ronin Hawking New Member

    Hey guys,

    I am new to this forum, and I was the one who posed this question to the administrator. I super appreciate Black Dragon for bringing this to the forum. I want to put this question into context a little bit.

    My problem is that world building for me has been a serious obsession for over a decade now. It can almost be diagnosed as escapism if you will. It is mainly centered around medieval fantasy genre, more specifically the Game of Thrones world. I would create the world in my mind in the most minute detail as possible with an intense and compulsive desire to live there. You can imagine how that would affect my regular day to day life.

    So the question of career out of world building stems from that psychology. That since it has such a grip on my life, is there a way to convert it into some productive venture that may sustain a decent livelihood.

    But a more essential question to me that I would ask is how does one manage this passion/hobby with regular day to day life. I am curious to know, are there others who are also similarly struggling to strike that balance. In fact, this central question among other things, drove me to seek out membership here.

    Silvahkir and S.T. Ockenner like this.

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