Writing a Video game, the right approach + Other musings.
Straight off the bat my up-to-date impressions on writing a video game is that it’s an incredible experience, and so full of inspiring moments – it’s a long road ahead, and a journey that I go on with the most dedicated group of individuals – Mark Gregory, Nathan Winfield, Adelson Tavares, Callum Donaldson, Jeffrey Zwaans, Joseph Marin, Adam face, Eddy Kassabian, Allison Summers, Rachel Alderson – sounds like a great band line-up.
I can’t express how fun and inspiring it has been, and continues to be at the moment. Having conversations that everyone’s involved in, getting the team on the same wavelength and discussing story ideas, how something should look/sound, and generally having a good time working on Tether has been the overall vibe so far.
This is the part where I hope that the future for the game is fruitful, that people just like us will take a chance on it and take a dive in the game that we are incredibly passionate about making.
I digress from that to talk about what I think of the challenge of writing a video game (my first and hopefully not last) and comparing it to Writing/Directing Film/TV.
For intents and purposes I’m not a fully fledged TV & Film Writer/Director; not yet anyway. The formats are completely separate (obviously), but as it’s creating a story and characters it’s really just the same in both industries. For TV & Film characters are, in pre-production written as to be acted/lived out for a viewers eyes & ears but not to interact with. On social media/in-discussion anything that involves interaction is a response to the medium but their’s no direct contact in the moment, more reaction than anything (not a bad thing, just the beginning of my comparison here).
As for a game, there’s all that plus the fact that the player is in control. The player dictates where the character goes, what they choose to interact with and if they choose to interact. This being the case it is an incredible task to formulate a story to then pepper in valuable context and expository elements to flesh out the world that is in the hands of the player. That each written element has to serve a purpose and connect/run parallel to telling a compelling story – in whatever way that may be – to not act as filler, to serve the story going forward and the world being established.
A lot of the time, I’ve written out of necessity. To have nothing to work from causes a block in thought process, if you don’t write anything down you can’t change or add anything. So that dissection of the content is the time when you find out what works and what doesn’t. This creates the foundation for events to unfold, the structure is being set.
On another note it’s a philosophy of mine not to write exposition for the sake of it, the content has to serve some purpose, to back up the narrative and theme of the story being told.
To give an example I could say something completely for the sake of it, to increase play time, or to make it look like I’m generating story in the bucket loads – but this is unnecessary. When it comes to what should be incorporated it should always have relevance. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece in writing or something to connect completely with the narrative, just as long as it fits and belongs to what story is being told.
The time spent writing valuable story and content surrounding it takes not just a second, but a monumental amount of time to process and develop an idea into a connection. For a game there’s much more to the script than the main text. There’s the Collectables for a start, and as long as they fit they’re worth including.
Audio logs and Transcripts serve a means to developing the world, hints at the mental state of character or their surroundings. Their use is of exposition on a level that has to be mixed right. Too much information and it’s overdone, too little and it will read as pointless. It’s about filtering information, snippets of context that add another piece of the puzzle onto the board to fill out the picture of the narrative.
In addition, the inclusion of those Audio Logs and Written Transcripts create the task of when do I use them? Where should they be found? What do they say and if I have to what shall Change about them? Is this one needed? All these things add up to so much writing and time spent doing so.
Like I said before, it’s not how much you write it’s what you write, and that can take time; and it does take time. When writing for film I thought it was a tough to process, the complexities of script writing (which I don’t want to shrug off as easy compared to game writing) it’s just another beast that needs to be tackled. But with a film you don’t have to consider the audiences physical interaction.
In a video game the player is taking up the mantle of the character you’re having them spend all their time with. That there needs to be connection, some empathy or even apathy felt for them to be engaging for the player. The elements in producing written work is incredibly complex and time consuming, and for me this is a learning curve, a different avenue for story that I’m going to be telling in a completely new format.
Film writing has and will always be my baby, my passion. Video game writing is going to be an interesting addition to my portfolio of stories I’ve told. As long as I can engage with the audience through the game and because of the game, then that’s a worthy payoff for the incredible amount of effort and time spent diving into the world being created.