Monday, August 24, 2015

Blaugust Number 16: Life as a Technical Writer at Blizzard Entertainment

Via ask.fm: Would you mind writing a blog covering what you do as a technical writer for Blizzard and how one might prepare to apply for such a role?
I've mentioned before that I work in Global Customer Support Operations (GCSO) for Blizzard Entertainment. In very broad strokes, GCSO is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day for Blizzard CS, and serving as a liaison between CS and our game teams. My team of three writers and one manager are in charge of maintaining content on the Battle.net support site.

We write support articles, breaking news posts, GM response templates, and maintain the site's guided entry system. I also maintain several manuals for our internal CS tools as an additional solo task. That means if you've ever gone to our site looking for help, you've read something that my team and I have created.

Now wait, WAIT!! Put down the rocks and pitchforks. We know that not everything is covered on our site, but we're constantly working to make it the best support site in the world. Be patient, and leave constructive comments on our articles. These things are important for us to be effective at our job.

I want to be a technical writer! What do I need to do?

Lern 2 rite gud.

In all seriousness, you need to write well. I don't just mean fictional writing or blog posts (>.>) either. Most forms of technical writing have strict guidelines that authors need to follow. Here at Blizzard we're not as strict, but we do have a style guide that's continuously updated by our team. My last job followed three style guides: Microsoft Manual of Style, Chicago Manual of Style, and our own internal style guide. That means not only learning the style, but also not getting upset when your article changes drastically to fit that style.

Almost every article we write gets passed through the rest of the team for edits. That means editing skills are just as important as writing. This is the part I'm working on improving the most right now. Having our style guidelines in mind when editing content means that there's a unified voice for our site. Trust me, you wouldn't want a site where every article is written in a different style.

Do you need an English or communications degree? Nope. I have a degree in Game Design. What's important is proving that you can do the work. There will always be a writing test before your interviews. If you can't pass it then it doesn't matter what your degree is in or how many years of experience you have. Can't do the work, can't get the job. Not to say that formal classes or a degree won't help. They absolutely will, if only to teach you what tech writing is all about.

I'll be honest, this probably won't be your first technical writing gig. I got lucky and was introduced through a friend at the last job and got two years of experience there. If I hadn't been working at a place where all I did was document software, I probably wouldn't have gotten this gig. They needed a software documentation expert to expand the team with. I fit the part. So put yourself out there and keep pushing towards a job at Blizzard. Even if you don't have a job doing tech writing, you actually can do it as a hobby.

Create manuals for games you like. Come up with a user story for why a player may contact CS and write an article covering it. Made a piece of software yourself? Document it! Do you know how to fix a broken appliance? That's a perfect thing to document! There's plenty of ways to stretch your tech writing muscles. It may seem dry and boring, but if it's what you want to do, who cares?

So there is, at a very high level, what we do and what you can do to maybe get a job here. I wish all of you future tech writers all the luck in the world.

***Part of the Blaugust series of posts***

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this! I'm more of a "creative" copywriter, but it's immediately obvious how all the flaps and tabs overlap from one to another.

    As much as you really settled the "Where do I start?" question, I was wondering if you could shed any light on the "How do I pivot?" angle. As I'm sure you know, I sort of feel like know that I've written (or more specifically, been in a position of writing) copy of one stripe, I'm mostly locked out of the rest of the writing world. Do you have any advice on how to show that your accomplishments (and I'm confident that I've got some kickin' bona fides) as a copywriter can translate elsewhere.

    Thanks!
    Matt D
    @mattdupree on Twitter

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  2. Thank you for your blog post detailing your work as a technical writer. I would also like to see Matt's question answered (RE: "How do I pivot?" - how can I show my writing skills are transferable?).
    I have job experience as a reporter/editor for newspapers - would this demonstrate a high enough level of skill? Also, what supplemental courses should I take if I'm interested in a technical writing career?

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