The Writer Will Do Something
As someone with the naive and foolish aspiration to one day write the stories for video games (Seriously, indie devs needing a hand, call me) I’m always on the look out to find out more about this line of work. Needless to say, I’ve read my way through the works of Steven Ince, Flint Dille and John Suur Platten and they’re rather decent books on game and narrative design. Sadly though these books act as somewhat as a time capsule of when the period they were written, that of the mid-00s so I’m still always looking for the new piece on the matter.
Last night I was aimlessly scrolling twitter when I found some people talking about a new Twine game, by Mathew S. Burns called The Writer Will Do Something. The short game (Maybe about twenty to thirty minutes long) is about the design process of a game from the writers point of view. Set during an important meeting of game designers, the player has to negotiate their way through the other designers passing the blame to one another. Tensions are high and the writer as the least technical of the team leaders gets a lot of the blame for their work.
The game is well written with believable characters, all drawing I’m sure from the writers life working in the industry. The guys are game-loving geeks who all fawn over Dark Souls, they quote memes (Yes there is a ‘The cake is a lie’ reference) there guys who work in an industry they love but are all under unimaginable pressure to fix an issue. When it comes to the women developers there is the unshakable feeling that they’re being talked down to. The head of the sound design team is a woman and would be needed to rerecord lines and such, but she is left out. When she comes to complain, you get the idea that she was left out because she was a woman and that they’d never treat a male in her position the same way.
As I’ve talked about before I’ve always had my misgivings about how the writer is treated in the triple-A development space, and the ‘Writer Will do Something’ has somewhat confirmed these feelings. People respect the creative ideas of the writer in the early stages but when it comes to crunch time they’re the first things to be examined and you’ll be raked over the coals for others ideas.
I like to think I’m being too negative and simplistic in my assumptions about the practice of writing for games, that the repressed writers are in the minority and many find it a wonderful and fulfilling process. But for as long as there are still stories like these coming out I’ll still be wary.
P.S If there are any game stories you really like, find the writer on twitter and thank them, don’t make it a thankless task.