They’re writers, too. I think writers need to start playing more video games—things like Half-Life 2, where the storyline is integral to the play.
In fact, video games are a particularly challenging kind of storytelling—one that is interactive, and you must be able to deal with multiple branches of possibilities. Most normal writers do encounter points in their writing where the story could branch off one way or another, so we choose the “right” way and continue linearly. But what if we had gone the other way, and it’s just as valid?
Okay, now try keeping track of both branches and develop each.
Now try having the branches cross at some point of commonality.
Got enough plates? Now try doing that with multiple branches, each of which can branch.
Think about that when you see another one of those video game reviews that say “My god, the storytelling was a blast!” And these days, since we’ve run out of how interestingly water can be animated, story is taking center stage. Video game writing is gaining more respect now, inside and outside the industry, but it still has a ways to go.
Some links about video game writing.
Ficlets Blog – Video (Games) Killed the Lit’ry Star, by John Scalzi.
If you do not know who Scalzi is, go educate thyself.
Oh noes! Video games are killing our children’s desire to read! We’re all gonna die!
Eh. Not seeing it myself.
The problem with writing in games is that we point out when it’s terrible, but we don’t praise it enough when it’s good. Consider Half-Life 2.
Writing for games is too often attempted as a linear exercise, which might be okay for an utterly linear game like Gears of War, but typically falls down the moment the game offers choices or branches, as the writing then has to adapt to cover emergent situations—not an easy thing to do. Throwing a film writer or novelist at a game architecture encounters this problem, especially when the person isn’t an experienced gamer or doesn’t play many open-world or RPG titles.
Susan O’Connor has worked on many titles, from big blockbusters like Gears of War and Bioshock to more casual games like Shrek 2 and Finding Nemo. It’s an impressive list that really spans age groups and gender gaps. In 2005, she founded the Game Writers Conference to get writers together and start sharing ideas about their work and the industry as a whole. O’Connor has been in the trenches for a long time trying to make sure that something interesting is being said in these games. After all, when the characters open their mouth, it’s often her words that are coming out.
Not so long ago, games weren’t written so much as they were constructed — by programmers and artists.
Now, however, when all next-generation games tend to look and sound terrific, savvy publishers are saying that great writing is a neat way to differentiate your title from the others.