The Weekend Gamer
Thoughts on gaming culture, living among non-gamers, and growing up in the nintendo generation

Why Writing Matters In Gaming

A quick follow up to last week’s post of Adam Maxwell’s article concerning why writers aren’t as important as designers in games–

First off, let me say kudos to Anne Toole of the Writers Cabal Blog, who wrote a very good rebuttal article herself.  I especially liked this:

“I met with our writer [. . .] it was also a 3-4 hour event [. . .] During that time, I was not balancing weapons [etc. . . .] which was what my job description actually called for.” 
Translation: “I don’t like managing writers, but I don’t actually want to write the script myself because I’d rather balance weapons.”
Remember the top five excuses for not hiring a writer?  If there had been no writer, poor Adam would not have had time to balance even one weapon, since he would have spent all his time getting the script ready.  Hiring a writer allows designers, programmers, producers to focus on what they do best.  Professional writers save time by working faster than someone for whom writing is not a main skill. 

as well as…

“What do you do with the writer when the story is done?”
Translation: I live in a fantasy world where games aren’t an iterative process.
Okay, now I’m just being mean ;)

Gamasutra itself has also published a rebuttal of their own, from the IDGA Game Writers Special Interest Group (gee, I like the name guys, but it’s a bit short–think we can add a few more words?).  Anyway, the article is excellent as well, and points out some of the flaws in Maxwell’s argument:

His worst mistake is that he implies that designers are the only people required to make a good game:
 

“Designers give us puzzles to solve, worlds to explore, new ways to interact and above all, new games to play…Even in a linear single player experience where story is king — say an old school RPG, writers alone can’t get your game done; you will need designers to implement game play.”

False. Game development teams give us new games to play. You can’t have a game without programmers. A game without artists is going to look terrible. A game without designers won’t have good mechanics. A game without sound designers is going to sound cheesy. A game without writers (or someone acting as the writer, even if they’re called a designer or narrative designer or scribbler-in-chief) will probably be full of clichés. Just like movies, games require a lot of different disciplines to come together and make something fantastic.

Writers are not game designers. Nor are they merely dialogue-generation-machines. Writers use story—character, setting, and plot—to enhance the experience of players, just as sound designers use music and sound effects to improve the player’s experience.

There are many tools in the writer’s toolbox for conveying a game’s story. Story can be expressed through dialogue, or the graffiti on a cement wall, or the name of a character. This is the writer’s unique role, their place on a team of talented people with different skills.

Can you make a game without a writer? Yes. But, like a game without sound, their absence can be felt. Development teams need writers to help them craft the best stories they can for their games.

Better stories lead to better games. And that’s good for everyone.

Check out the full article over at Gamasutra.

–WG

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