Earlier this year (see And the Winner Is), I argued that it was wrong for the Game Developers Choice Awards to lump writing into the Game Design category. A number of others must have made similar arguments, because a few months ago writers were indeed given their own award category. (Nominations will be taken for the 2003 awards beginning 1/03/03. See the Choice Awards page for details.) To those who voted for the new category, and to those taking on the workload of administering the award, belated sincere thanks.
I chose not to comment on the announcement of the new writing award previously because I felt that the inclusion of a writing category simply corrected an oversight. Now, however, I think something more needs to be said. While the importance of the award probably cannot be overstated, both because it raises visibility to the value of writing as a production craft, and gives credibility to the idea that writing can be an important component of the development process, this elevation in development status comes with a price.
Over the past decade or so, there have been several periods in which writers, critics and gurus from other storytelling mediums have forayed into the interactive entertainment market, often with the goal of showing us ‘how it’s done’. In a matter of a year or two these know-it-alls usually fell by the wayside, battered and bruised by the difficulties and complexities of our new form, but the residue of their visits remained.
Chief among the problems created by these people was the impression among industry professionals that storytellers were idiots, and that the gaming business didn’t need writers any more than it needed sleep, exercise or vegetables. As this new writing award attests, times have certainly changed, but the potential for unprepared writers to do damage is still with us, and will only increase as more developers turn to professional storytellers for help. Why? Because as demand increases more writers are going to enter the pipeline, with many (if not most) of them naive to the issues that separate our form from passive storytelling mediums.
If an award for writing is deserved, and I believe it is, such recognition is in large part due to the work of writers and storytellers who proved to be reliable, knowledgeable and professional in their dealings with the interactive industry. As a measure of thanks, and with the intent of improving the writer’s lot in this business over the long haul, I encourage writers to accept individual responsibility for learning the interactive form, and I intend to continue to support those interested in doing so.
— Mark Barrett