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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

The Pros and Cons of Game Writers

Posted by Ad on February 23, 2012

I’d much rather give this a lengthier and more applicable title, but it’d be too long for Twitter, I’m afraid. Id’ call it something along the lines of: “The Pros and Cons of Game Development Using Writers Who Do Not Appreciate Games” or something like that. At least I’m not talking about how ppl are ruining the internet again.

Yes, there’s a shitstorm concerning BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler‘s ill-conceived idea that games should let players skip the gameplay, much akin to having an audience skip the destruction, violence, and stunts in action movies, the songs in a musical, or the reading in a book. Seems to me like Hepler is in the wrong industry. If you want to write stories but don’t like having a lot of words, you should write write comic books, or children’s books, not epic fantasy tomes. In the same sense, if you don’t like the interactive aspect of games, find a different medium to write for.

That said, I may be misrepresenting her position of several years back. I think the ability to skip combat is ridiculous (grinding, on the other hand…), but there are some merits to having writers that aren’t pleased with or familiar with the medium.

An obvious pro of having non-game writers write for games is that the outside perspective and outside experiences can bring in fresh new ideas. Voice acting in games is something that can be used badly in so many ways, so having someone with experience with voice acting would certainly alleviate some of those issues. At the same time, gamers play to _do_, not to watch and listen, so a counter-balancing perspective is obviously also needed to avoid turning games into movies with chores between scenes.

Another pro is similar, but rather concerns storytelling itself. Unskilled or inexperienced writers or non-writers can look at the writing side of storytelling in games and think of it as needing to _tell_ the story, leading to excessively wordy stories, story scene upon story scene, dialogue line upon dialogue line repeating ad nauseam what the players figured out a few minutes into the game. A skilled writer, gamer writer or non-game writer, would understand the story elements that need to be told, the ones that can be shown, and hopefully what can be experienced rather than shown or told. Let me re-iterate my position on interactive mediums: they’re the only art that within a work lets you experience regret.

The obvious con is that non-game writers might not write for the strengths of the medium. A non-game writer wouldn’t necessarily make the scenes between Guybrush and Elaine in Monkey Island 1 interactive (to the limited, hilarious extent they were). A non-game writer wouldn’t necessarily understand that gamers play to act, to do, to have agency in that world and influence over the characters they play. There are linear stories in linear games with linear characters, but not all games can be like that, nor should they.

Still, for whatever past failures to understand the medium and its audience, Hepler does not deserve the response she’s been getting. Those that say they want no part in an industry she’s part of should stick to their word and stay out of video games. Don’t play them, don’t talk about them, don’t get a job that involves them in any way.

On a related topic, the rules (especially the Swedish rules) for Antoine Bauda’s 7 Wonders, a board game, are terribly written, and the version I got my hands on didn’t have an English rulebook included. I know ppl around here are expected to be able to read one of the local languages, but when the rulebook is a wordy mess, I’d prefer to have an English version available, one with a little more effort put into clarifying the rules and not leaving portions of other languages (plural) in it. Whoever wrote the rules is a bad writer. The game is good, tho.

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Posted in game design, video game industry | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »