Building My Portfolio: Writing Barks

What are Barks and why should I practice writing them?

Michelle Kwan
5 min readDec 28, 2023

I was reading Slay the Dragon: Writing Great Video Games by Robert Denton Bryant & Keith Giglio when I came across the word “Barks”. I had never heard of it before then, and was reasonably confused.

Turns out, barks are an irreplaceable part of games, and are incredibly hard to write. So today, I am exploring the intricacies of writing barks and how they make games all the more immersive for you and me.

What are Barks?

Have you ever entered a battle in a game and heard dialogue in the background? How about when you almost rushed into danger and someone warned you about it off-screen? Barks are lines delivered mostly by NPCs (or the player) in certain given situations (we call these triggers).

The most notable example for me is the Persona 5 series. During a battle, your companion Morgana often gives offscreen advice to you as the player. When you are navigating the palaces, your characters can warn you about locked doors, and potentially strong enemies, or even sometimes alternative ways to find your way through the map.

The game notifies the player that they get to attack first. (Source: Atlus)

Now, you know what your next step should be and what you could expect. A character asking you to first go to a safe room is the game’s…



Michelle Kwan

Aspiring Narrative Designer/Game Writer + Avid Storyteller. I mostly write about games, but sometimes I go off-track and write about other things too.