More links of interest for your weekend reading pleasure:
- Video Games Writing: Where We Are and What We Need
Craig Stern updates the perennial question: why isn’t game writing better than it is? A good overview, and less needy than the usual game-writing rant. That nothing much has changed in the past decade says less about what’s possible than it does about calcification of the industry around a working business model. Buggy whips indeed.
- A Long, Detailed Look at Distribution Windows
Kassia Kroszer fills a hole in the old data bank, and does so in comprehensive fashion. The internet is wreaking havoc with all content industries as it destroys traditional distribution channels, but solutions for each industry will not be the same because industry products are not all the same. (See also Part One: Response to Nat Sobel.)
- Study: 58% Of Users Buy Goods From Free-To-Play Games
The title pretty much covers the subject matter, but this is another clear reminder that solutions to the problem of internet distribution necessarily vary for each content industry. Unless readers prove willing to plop down money for bonus adjectives, the book industry is not going to get a lot of utility out of the free-to-play games model.
- Death and Taxes
April L. Hamilton takes a look at tax time. Worth a read if you’re really thinking about writing professionally, or if you’ve never heard of a 1099 before.
A reader gift from Lou in the comments section. The user interface takes a bit of getting used to, but after that it’s joy. (Tip: to make a cut, center the scissors over an edge and click, then move the scissors to mark the first line of your cut.)
If you want to try making snowflakes with your own scissors and paper, origami paper works best because it’s very thin. You should be able to find it at any craft store.
— Mark Barrett
April L. Hamilton says
Thanks for the shout-out, Mark. =’)
Appreciative of the link to Video Games Writing: Where we are and what we need. I’ve been looking for an article that addresses story in video games for a while – I would love to write one myself but cannot afford the time – because, as noted in the piece, games writing is not taken seriously. Which is strange, given that it’s a more profitable industry now than film (or does that make it inevitable that games writing would be bad?).
“I’ve been looking for an article that addresses story in video games for a while…”
Read through the documents under the ‘Docs’ menu above. (Not any easy road, but it will move you ahead faster than any other course of action.) There is a lot to learn in the space, but if you can grasp the basics you will have separated yourself from the crowd — including some people who are actually working in the interactive industry.
“I would love to write one myself but cannot afford the time…”
The thing to remember about interactive is that it’s A) almost inherently collaborative, which means you’ll need the help of others to realize your vision, and B) not an industry built on ‘scripts’ — the way Hollywood (sometimes) is. I.e., you shouldn’t expect to be able to write a game story/script and then sell it: it just doesn’t work that way.
“given that it’s a more profitable industry now than film (or does that make it inevitable that games writing would be bad?)”
The profitability number is debatable, depending how you tally the counts. But yes, interactive entertainment is no longer a weak sister to other entertainment mediums. The inevitability of bad writing in games springs first and foremost from a lack of data that good writing makes games sell better. Publishers and producers see no direct return on investment so they go merrily along with their heads in the sand, blathering about about eye candy.
See also this older yet still-relevant post:
‘The Producers’ was a great, in-depth essay on the issues preventing growth in computer games. Very happy to have read it.
Improvements to graphics and, to a lesser degree, interactivity with one’s surroundings, which I suppose is very much a design element, seems to be where the innovation is in today’s games. And although your essay is several years old (making this year’s Madden the 21st incarnation), I don’t think the problem with story has changed. In fact, older games seemed to make no apologies for lack of story, whereas many of today’s games use their stories more or less as a selling point despite them being as loose as ever.
And I must clarify, I meant that had I the time I would write a feature on story in games from a purely critical perspective – not a story for a game. However, the issues you raise in your essay would make writing an article that uses theory to analyse the literary merit of game story writing a bit like judging shanty towns on their architectural merits.
“We’ve yet to try the most obvious solution: putting that task in the hands of people who are qualified to do it.” The obvious solution then is, no doubt, still the obvious solution now.
Glad you liked the piece. I apologize for my confusion about the word ‘story’. It doesn’t happen a lot, but every once in a while someone falls in love with a linear game and comes out the other end determined to write the next great gaming script. Except there is no such thing.
Games deserve more critical analysis from a narrative perspective, but as you point out much of it would be akin to shooting ducks in a barrel. Having said that, I did a bit of work on an interesting game out of Russia called The Void, which might pique your interest. (I intend to write about it in the near future.)
Check out the following links for reviews and context:
(In that second link there should be a link to an earlier game called Pathologic from the same developer. It’s worth reading up on if you’re taken by the novelty of their approach.)