: Does Good Writing Have A Place In Gaming?

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Does Good Writing Have A Place In Gaming?

I have been an advocate of artistic progression in this industry, and my love of Heavy Rain is well documented. I have also produced several articles asking - in fact, begging - to see better writing and character development in video games. And there are examples of great scripts and great characters in gaming today (and more to come), even though I often wish there were more.

However, I was thinking about this the other day, and I'm starting to second-guess myself. Because of that, I'm turning to the PSXE community, many of whom share my feelings on the good-writing-in-games topic. Let me know what you think about this- maybe interactive video entertainment and the discipline of fiction writing simply don't gel. Maybe they can't gel. I'm really not a good enough scribe to give you a sufficient example, but here's the opening paragraph of a short story I finished a little while ago. It'll suffice for our purposes:

"The raindrops drummed heartily on the air conditioner and I flexed the hand that had fallen asleep. As I lay on my side, contemplating the ashen sky through dusty blinds, I espied a break in the clouds, where a wide ray of sunlight struck the overflowing dumpster. I had just enough time to see a wide rip in a discarded mattress. Sodden, dirty stuffing tried to escape the crack, but it hung, sifting this way and that, contemplating without deciding. When the sun disappeared again, the white fluff appeared despondent; it had missed its chance."

Now, if we really think about it, how would this fit into a video game? I suppose it could be used to describe a setting but in truth, and as much as we don't want to admit it, games are based on action. For the most part, something like gardening or flying a kite wouldn't be considered all that entertaining for a video game concept. Interactive entertainment is - typically - about doing what we can't do in real life; about escaping; about indulging in a fantasy or, at the very least, an alternate reality. Yes, one can describe reading in this fashion, but all that action happens in our heads.

There seems to be a clash between two elements: the fact that gaming is visual and good writing is usually experienced in the mind's eye, and the fact that one has us doing something...in other words, how does one interact with good writing? It can only be a support beam rather than a foundation. On the reverse side, a good story is all about good writing; hence the writing is the foundation. So in the end, do we actually need good writing in games? Some of the best games in history just haven't required any such thing. So maybe we're all asking for something that just doesn't fit. Maybe we should leave the good writing in books...

2/18/2011 Ben Dutka

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Comments (59 posts)

gangan19
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 9:21:43 PM
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Good writing, good story. too much games out there with terrible stories in them...I really wish they'd make a game with a deep emotional story.

Last edited by gangan19 on 2/18/2011 9:22:58 PM

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TheAgingHipster
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 10:21:12 AM

I agree, I would love to see deeper stories, but I think we have to keep in mind that video games and wholly different from books and even movies. There is ample room for emotion and depth, no doubt, but in a different presentation than you would find in literature or cinema. Books are not (typically) interactive, nor are movies. It is the interactive element that provides so much room for development, as Ben has suggested before.

@Ben, I don't think you should be disheartened, as this article seems to suggest. Video games have a number of excellent examples of high quality narratives (e.g., Heavy Rain, Planescape: Torment, Mass Effect, Uncharted...), but I can't see them as comparable to classic literature or the best of modern cinema. The experience is too different; however, that doesn't mean the story must be less poignant.

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LittleBigMidget
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 9:37:57 PM
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Derp.

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Shams
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 11:59:49 PM

Lol! Give yourself more credit!

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BIGRED15
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 9:41:19 PM
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I agree in fact,for me if I hear that the narrative sucks, often times I wont even touch it. Too many games try to skimp on the story and frankly a game, for me is absolutely not about the online element. I haven't even touched dead space 2's online (not really sure if there is a reason to do so)

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GuernicaReborn
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 9:43:21 PM
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I think the main problem with good writing in games is that when you start controlling your character, the story gets interrupted. You run, shoot, climb, fight, hide... whatever you need to do to progress to the next stage, or cutscene, where more of the storyline can develop.

This is why PoP: The Sands of Time was one of my favorite games on the PS2. Prince and Farah almost always had a dialogue going, even while you were controlling him.

Obviously, Heavy Rain is another game that found a way around it. And there are other factors involved in a good story, such as pacing, cinematography, atmosphere, and good voice acting. It doesn't happen often in games when everything can come together, but when it does come together, its amazing.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 11:49:10 PM

A great point. The narrative breaks that are usually required for the gameplay are more than enough to take a person out of the story. Shorter gameplay sequences, in order to give more story progression would probably be the best way to remedy it, but Heavy Rain combined the two factors, which made one essential for the other. A brilliant move by QD.
Peace.

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Highlander
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 9:46:02 PM
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Ben, the sample paragraph you gave us was all description, no dialog, nothing about character development. I do think that good writing is necessary in games, good writing is about the story, the characters and the development of both. A good or great writer can write descriptively in a way that perfectly sets the scene and illustrates for us how things look,feel, taste and smell. In a game though, all of that descriptive prose is converted into the graphics of the game world, the setting, and environment. Had the descriptions not been well written, could the artists have brought them to life?

With characters and story, a poorly written character or poor story will stick out like a sore thumb. I think you need to stop second guessing yourself. Good writing, good characters and good story are vital to all games, even if it seems that it's all about the action, in games other than the obviously action oriented titles, character and story, and setting are all important.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 12:41:12 AM

Yes, but I used that paragraph for a reason- what if that illustrates the boundary?

No, it doesn't have anything to do with plot or character development; it's just a descriptive paragraph for a setting. But do games need that? When would a game ever need that? Would it be construed as boring?

I guess my point is, WRITING needs that type of thing, but does GAMING? Know what I mean?

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Lawless SXE
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 12:58:35 AM

Of course gaming doesn't NEED it. It's an interactive medium, so all that it really needs is adequate gameplay.

But the story and plot helps to engage a player in the events that they are moving along, and a small piece of cinematography, as you described, prefacing a cutscene which would serve to offer a depressive atmosphere would work wonders.

And would it be boring? It depends who you ask. I certainly wouldn't find it to be so. Perhaps the generally intelligent and intelligence-appreciative PSXE audience is the wrong one to ask. Maybe IGN or Destructoid commenters, the so-called 'twitchers' would give you a clearer view of the mass gamer mentality.

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Highlander
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 3:36:35 AM

Hmmm...

Well, I don't know there. Does a game *need* it? Yes and no. Does it need to be written first in order to be translated into the imagery that might be created in the reader's mind? I'd say yes, it has to be written first. Is it to be presented as a piece of text or dialog to be read or paid attention to in a game? Then I'd say that the majority of gamers wouldn't even get past the first line partly because of literacy issues, partly attention issues, and partly the simple fact that younger people read less today than they probably did in the 18th century.

The fact is that I've read some incredible descriptive prose before, and some incredibly dry descriptive prose. Tolkien for example could write some very dense, and dry descriptive prose. On the other hand, James Clavell can write descriptively in both a way that keeps you reading, and a way that makes you want to throw the book out a window. But in this media of gaming, it's an interactive, visual medium. However, the images we see, the scenes, settings, environment, they all come from somewhere. You can't have these things created by a game programmer or a graphics programmer, an artist can't just dream this stuff up, all the tiny details, all the little touches, like the way that a coffee table has rings from hot cups, or stains on a character's shirt, slight blemishes on their face, or the wrinkles that come from smoking heavily, or the way the rain sounds on teh roof of a car, or the way that the dust get's kicked up by a character's feet, or a thousand other tiny, seemingly trivial details that in a novel are written by the author. We can't get that detail from prose in a game, it's just not suited to the medium. It has to come through the images we see. But the thing is all those images are created in response to the artwork and direction of the designers, writers and artists.

So, although I'd probably agree that the prose has no place, the writing does. Without it, all we would have is sterile environments with cartoonish effects and pointless and predictable characters and dialog. You know, Gears of War blended with Call of Duty. Let's call it Gears of Duty...

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Shadow_Ninja
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 11:11:32 AM

or Call of Gears...ha just saying...

i wouldn't buy a game that doesn't have a good story apart from GT5. i used to be the type that just cared about how good the graphics were and that would decide whether i got the game or not. but slowly but surely my attention to games started transitioning from the graphics to the story. i don't know about you guys, but when i turn off my system and then turn it on again the next day i don't choose a game i want to play because it has the best graphics, i play a game that has a story that had caught my attention and i want to know what happens next. when i got uncharted 2, i was so hooked that i stayed up all night until i finished the game. i was in love with what was happening, the dramatic scenes, the characters, i know ben is like in love with Chloe but i personally like Elena, i suppose i like blondes a little more. and the graphics were just phenomenal, graphics that are still rivaling games being released today.

but i must stick to the fact that games with a great script do contribute to a game being successful, and it is needed? i think so. it more than contributes to reviewers commenting about it to the readers which gives it a better score. it makes the game.

i really hope you guys understood what i tried to say. because both highlander and ben made some valid points in terms of writing.

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Underdog15
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 9:50:13 PM
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Well, Ben, I think the first problem you are encountering with the artistic medium of storytelling in games, is that you are comparing them to books and read literature.

Words and descriptions with fluidity are able to capture our minds eye, and a good author is able to paint an incredible image, and even an experience, in our minds to the point that we can almost physically feel it based on our personal memories. Where books and reading falter, is at the point where the fact that eventually, we run out of words. There are emotions, logics, and even acts of love or hatred, that words simply cannot express. In fact, there are so many varying levels of emotion, I'm convinced there are thousands of feelings we have no words to describe. We come to a crossroads where the author simply relies on metaphor or simile to give us as accurate an idea of the emotion they are portraying, without actually describing it perfectly.

Needless to say, the mind's eye's vision that allows us to take the author's experience in our own versions of his/her world is something games cannot do since it is a very literal interpretation of events. However, books can't fully describe the human condition.

Now, I prefer to compare gaming stories more to the theatre. While it does lack the ability to use the minds eye to give us the physical feelings books can draw from our memories (raindrops on our skin, the warmth of the sun, the cold touch of a recently departed loved one), it is able to establish a broad array of characters in an action/reaction setting.

This is done well in good productions, not only due to writing, but also good direction. The theatre lets us into the human condition as characters and events unfold in front of us. I believe a narrative lacks the ability to fully explore more than a couple characters, but a theatrical representation gives us more room for interpretation into the people we see.

Setting is often created less colorfully, however, we are able to almost -interact- with the characters themselves. Since the theatre is all about exploring the human condition, and we, as humans, are relational beings, there are emotions created out of theatre through interactions, that books cannot quite match. Sure, you can argue that you can become immersed in a story, but the theatre forces you to physically react to people.

Gaming has the potential to do much the same thing, although I feel it's become less of a focus. But games has the ability to take theatre away from the observation and relational aspect into a deeper interactive form that combines both what literary and theatrical pieces combined might look like. I wish devs would realize this potential, but unfortunately, it rarely happens.

So if I was to conclude anything by this, Ben, I would not compare gaming to BOOKS. I would compare it to theatre. Then I would explore that option a little deeper. As opposed to observing human condition, games COULD make us apart of that condition we are observing. With more options and choices, we can create our own world, to an extent.

Lastly, I do relent the fact that relational art forms are less frequent in gaming. I believe a big part of this is due to the increasing focus in technology over experience. Games have the potential to create the setting, music, characters, plot, story (story and plot are NOT the same thing), and other minor artistic forms. That's a whole lot of artistic potential. It's why the theatre has been so incredibly popular for millenniums! Now with gaming, we are given the opportunity to actually be a part of the art. It has the potential to be a rich and rewarding experience, and I'm sure we can all think of examples in gaming where it has already happened.

Unfortunately, with instances like CoD topping charts (whether it's a AAA game or not is not my point), technology will continue to hold precedence over art. The potential is there, but I doubt it will ever be fully realized in a culture of quick and easy self-gratification.

A picture has been... and should be... worth a thousand words. Is it possible someone will put their minds eye into a picture through our consoles? I'd like to think so.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 2/18/2011 9:52:19 PM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 12:44:23 AM

Well, yes, I think it makes perfect sense to compare a game to a stage play. And the rest of your comments are thoughtful as well...I just keep thinking there's some sort of schism between literary artistry and the artistry inherent in gaming.

It's just bugging me, that's all.

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Underdog15
Monday, February 21, 2011 @ 8:11:16 PM

(Thought I replied? Guess I forgot to submit... lol. Don't know why you got downvotes either... huh...)

But yeah, I don't think it's your imagination. There's definitely a schism between literary artistry and that found in gaming. I don't believe there SHOULD be, or that innately, gaming must have this absence in that extra artistic push. I think it's because of the difference in focus between the two.

Gaming SHOULD, in my opinion, have just as much, if not more, artistry than the theatre. Theatre is remarkably literary, if you've studied it at all, and that schism is absent from good productions. And that is why I don't believe gaming MUST have that schism.

Rather, I think it's the same schism that would form on the literary world if it too became obsessed with technological advancements. Of course, I have a hard time believing this could ever happen, but nevertheless, it's a good contrast example.

But no: gaming has become, I would say, 90% about technology and gameplay. Artistry is rarely a priority. There may be artistic pieces, but it is not a wholly committed piece of art as literature is. Should gaming become more 80% art, 20% gameplay, I believe you would see much less of a schism.


As a SIDE NOTE: I am willing to be games could benefit 10-fold from better dialogue writing. There are some great stories out there with poor writing. FF7 is a great example. To pull in one of your favorites, FFT could have been just... wow... with better dialogue. It was good as is, but they could have explored the characters just a -little- bit deeper, and they definitely could have put more artistry into their dialogue. Story, though... excellent.

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Dancemachine55
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 9:55:24 PM
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I think the industry can survive quite well with both.

You need great engaging stories for games to keep the player interested or guessing as to what might happen next.

Then you have your over the top fun games with little to no story at all, eg. Bulletstorm, CoD, Rock Band, racing games, you know, games that are simple fun and distract you from reality.

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A2K78
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 10:07:27 PM
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Does good writing have a place in gaming? in a word No.

I tell people this all of the time, but if they care about storylines and things of that nature then there are plenty of books out there for that. Other than that what developers ought to be paying exclusive attension to is gameplay and nothing else.

In the end I would love to see developers go back to a time when gameplay was the only focal point because developers these seem have abandoned gameplay in favor of storylines.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 10:15:50 PM

But some of us like good stories over everything else.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 11:58:21 PM

Honestly, in order to keep my attention in a game, I need to have a motivation to play it, and that means a plotline. It may be that I wasn't brought up with Space Invaders, Tetris and Mario, but I respect great gameplay, and it's why I'm willing to give anything a chance. But as I say, if there's no incentive to continue to play it outside of kill this thing, jump on this platform, move from point A to point B, then I'll tire of it quickly and find something that can engage me. Case in point: I love GT5, but the only incentive to keep playing is completion, and that doesn't interest me so much, so it's sitting with not even half of the events done until I run out of games that can hold my interest.
Peace.

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Temjin001
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 10:18:29 PM
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I've always thought that literature would always have the best writing because that's exactly what good literature is about, writing. Everything from words to sentence structure to a writer's style is all inclusive in only words. There is no replacement for that.

I've read Will Eisner's book and Scott McCloud's book on sequential art. Two books about telling stories with pictures.
No written book can tell a story quite like pictures, nor can pictures tell a story like words.

As for gaming, I'm just not on the PSXe bandwagon that stories are so important to games; some games depend on strong stories, but not all games. And my top 3 fav games of all time have crap stories that don't mean much of anything. I primarily play games to enjoy the interactivity. If I didn't care for the interactivity, I'd watch movies instead, or read more books.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 10:28:34 PM

Don't forget what sets this generation apart. The interactivity can now allow us to control the story and where it goes. No quality book or movie can accomplish this.

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Temjin001
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 10:32:36 PM

Aye, World. And that's exactly what I love so much about Mass Effect and Bioware. Their games convincingly sell me on role playing in a fictional world. I'm feeling things I've never felt before in games like ME.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 2/18/2011 10:32:51 PM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 10:44:14 PM

That's why I think writing has an important place. If the scenes and words were poorly written in ME2 I wouldn't feel so strongly about my decisions. On the flip side, I still think it needs some better concept design because of the many cliches used. A good writer can guide the player through that sort of thing.

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Shams
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 12:11:26 AM

I'm with you, Sensei Temjin. Itagaki-san isn't going to win any Pulitzer's anytime, soon, nor is he planning on it, but he fashioned a franchise that is a favorite of your's and mine, both!

And, yet, both of us found so much to enjoy in the polar-opposite of NG in Ray Muzayka's Milestone space-opera. To be perfectly honest, if I had to pick between the two (which thankfully we don't), I'd stick to Ryu Hayabusa for my fleeting hours of gaming, and leave the drama for the silver screen or written letter. Thankfully gaming being the multifaceted entertainment media that it is, there's a whole spectrum of gaming genres to enjoy.

Ah, it's gonna be a great year!

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Temjin001
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 10:49:09 AM

Yeah, Master Shams, The NG franchise is on my top 3 fav of all time.

Tekken, NG and Halo are my all time favorite series.
This is largely based on how much time I've logged in and enjoyed playing them. They compel me to play them even long after I've played them.
Tekken's time spent seems countless.
I played Ninja Gaiden on NES a ton and over 10x through for the current/last gen game.
And right now now I count about 7x for NG2.
I played the original Halo over 10x.
I nearly finished Reach twice within my rental time. And when I eventually buy it I'll play it a few more times I'm sure.

I also have to give credit to Final Fantasy. FF4(partial), 6,7 (x2),8,9,10,even about 20 hours of 11, and 12, and 13

That's a lot of time when each of those games clock in at the 60-70 hour range.

Oh, and Mass Effect is a rising star right now. It may penetrate the top.


Last edited by Temjin001 on 2/19/2011 10:49:54 AM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 10:26:36 PM
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It certainly isn't necessary, Flower is a simple concept that probably involved very little writing. Does it have a place? Of course. With a good storyline in a game, immersion is the way to go. The goal doesn't have to be realism, it simply needs to be put together in such a way to begin the basic process of suspension of disbelief. From there poor writing or thoughtless cliches actually take us out of the game where things like plausible dialogue keep us involved.

There are different standards for every game, but even in the lower forms such as FPS anybody who played KZ2 will agree that the dialogue and poorly placed swearing grated the nerves and tested patience.

To me this is kind of like asking if good graphics have a place. Are they needed? No because gaming was big even when no character resembled a human, but they are very much welcomed and most games are better for it. It is the same with writing, whether it is good dialogue, a proper script, or notes given to developers, there is never a drawback to good writing being involved at any point in the game development process.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 12:42:43 AM

Graphics are needed because it's a visual medium. I'm not so sure about the writing part...

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 1:41:08 PM

Writing is needed because it is a mental medium.

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Kiryu
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 10:38:00 PM
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Uncharted,Yakuza,Heavy Rain,Infamous,Rachet and Clank,Ico,Shadow of the Colossus,God of war 1
all these games have Excellent writing better than any hollywood movie!

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BIGRED15
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 11:38:41 PM
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there are always games that need story and games that dont. Obviously games like GT5 dont need a story yet it remains relevent for its surplus of content and photorealistic graphics. But with a games like uncharted or MGS4, These games wouldn't last without the attention to detail that kojima or ND put into it. Wether people care or not, narratives in games do matter

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Lawless SXE
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 11:45:14 PM
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Sorry if I'm basically copying anyone else here, I skipped the other comments.

What you wrote there wasn't half-bad, may I say. But it was a scene-setter rather than a scene in and of itself. It would form the underlying cinematography of what the developers wanted to portray in the game. Here's how I see it: The story of a game carries itself along by the action that you play. Heavy Rain joins the two areas, while something like Uncharted keeps a sensible balance.

This is why FPSes rarely have a strong story. How can you write something exceptionally powerful if all you are doing throughout the entire game is dropping people into kill corridors? It's why Homefront is sounding interesting to me. They've created the entire theatre of war and then placed a character inside it. I have no doubt that the player character will end up saving the 'States', which is wrong, but the idea behind it is fantastic. A good war story in gaming is Valkyria Chronicles. It sets you with this entire war, and tasks you with playing through the key battles in order to progress the story.

Some genres lend themselves better to stories, as you are able to expand on the number of things that your character is able to do, like GTA. With the driving, shooting, combat and platforming elements, you could create a life simulator. And adding in detective mechanics, as we will soon see in L.A. Noire further expands the possibilities.

However, as you say, games are about action. If the focus is too heavy on titillating the player through action, then the narrative will suffer as a result. A balance must be struck, and there are surprisingly many games that nail it. It's simply that the stories being portrayed are lacking. And cinematography is key to evoking emotions. The cutscenes have to be able to set the scene, so rather than just using them to progress the action, they should include some off-to-the-side shots that help to create a mood.

In conclusion, the answer is yes. There is most definitely a place for good writing in video games, but it doesn't come through the descriptors. It is similar to movies in that way. It relies on the narrative structure, the story, and its background, as well as dialogue. Everything else has to come through visual cues.
Peace.

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Lawless SXE
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 3:18:53 AM

Another thought: perhaps this is the wrong place for it, but it seems to fit. There is a rather large gap in the delivery of literature and that of video games/films (For this, I'm going to lump them together as VGF, just to make it easier for myself).

For example, a novel can be ultra-descriptive. Say for example there is a child hiding in a closet while two men are outside the door, rooting around the house. They know the kid is in there, but ignore him for the time being. When they're finished, they come to the door, and swing it open. From there the writer goes into a two page description of the men, and the feelings of the child. That sort of thing simply can't be captured in VGF. You can get some semblance, but not the same intensity.

For example, it might show you from the POV of the child, looking out through a crack... Actually, just think of that scene in the first Pirates of the Carribean when the two are searching for Elizabeth, and that's about as close as I can imagine VGF getting to the same thing.

But then, VGF is good at other things, primarily 'jump moments'. Think the dogs breaking through the window in Resident Evil, or the giant tentacles of Dead Space. Or the sight of the Leviathan striding through the water-filled streets in Resistance 2. A novel doesn't really have the same sudden impact as those moments.

The mediums are really too different to compare.
Peace.

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Shams
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 11:59:04 PM
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How's this for a gedanken, Ben? Take the opening of MGS4, or LoS, imagery and lines and all, and transliterate it into words. Perhaps you would have something not too different from the opening passage you quoted. Of course, as you were saying, this is but the creme of the crop.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 12:42:04 AM

Actually, I think it's quite different. They're still target plot, character, history, etc. The painting of scene/setting in a game has to be at least somewhat visual. We don't need our minds to envision it, so maybe we don't need a paragraph like mine...?

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Lawless SXE
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 2:29:22 AM

Ben, perhaps I'm simply missing a key part of your argument but I don't understand. If the opening of a game were transcripted to capture all of the minutiae of the developer's intent, then it too would be reliant on the human imagination, would it not? Similarly, if your paragraph were transferred onto the screen, it would take only a few seconds of camera work, and would translate into a purely visual experience. So, how is it that they are so different?

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Shams
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 3:41:43 AM

Oops, I meant SoC, not LoS.


Seems to me intros to both games like MGS4 and SoC (polar opposites, one being a confounding compendium of characters and intertwining storylines, the other being threadbare, minimalistic) and the intro of the story you quoted both primarily serve to set the scene and mood, more than anything else, even before characters and plots are imparted upon us.

If you mean, that we use are minds soley for word-exercise, I guess I see what you mean. But, as Lawless said, even after you've drawn the picture in your head, the ultimate thing one processes, as one would while watching a scene in a movie or game, is discovering what the author's intent is. And perhaps, that is the highest level of mental processing.

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SmokeyPSD
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 12:44:56 AM
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Great character emotion and development is needed in interactive media. Gaming is a sister medium to film, it's a no brainer for me that visual storytelling and a finer approach can be taken with it. If things don't stop developing, I seize being a gamer. I'm already ignoring most mainstream games as it is. Majority of games, even the so called "great" games pale in comparison to the best films and literature out there.

There are even unique opportunities for great storytelling and the medium to interrelate and inform one another as well. It's not just about dialog and descriptions, it's about visual storytelling, and us the audience, an actual interacting participant cause it's a game shaping it ontop of that.

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Ludicrous_Liam
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 2:19:20 AM
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(FU** sake these comments annoy me ben. I write something, click submit, nothing happens and I gotta re-write it ARGH!)

(fack...forgot what the hell I said now lol.)
While that is a good desrciptive piece of text, I find that any book with complicated words like that, I wouldn't think about them in my head- they'res no room for imagination. I think the best books (E.g stephen king) leave alot to the imagination..(that's why the movies sucked also :P) I feel this would be the same in games, plus it wouldn't work because the games want you to believe THEIR worlds, not your own made up one. Am I making sense? I'm basing this off memory lol..

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 2/19/2011 10:29:32 AM

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Lawless SXE
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 2:40:26 AM

A lot of the time I get disconnected without realising it and press Submit. What I do to get around it is, after I've finished typing my piece, select it all and copy it, just to make sure there is a back up. If it doesn't submit for whatever reason, you just paste it back into the box. Works for me.

Now as for your comment, I personally think that leaving too much to the imagination is the sign of a lazy author. Yes, there is a certain point when descriptiveness can get overbearing, but I prefer that to just having dialogue and descriptions of actions. The scene also needs to be set so that you get an idea of where the characters are.

As for what you say about the worlds: a writer should try to craft a world that the reader is easily transported to. They should try to cram as much detail into it as they can so that the reader has a base to expand on. So, no matter how 'in control' the reader thinks they are, they are still held in thrall by the words of the author. The reader thinks that they've created the world when they really haven't. That element of reader environmental creation is largely non-existent in film and games because you are given all of the visual information. You can imagine further outside the boundaries of what you're shown, but unless the project asks you to, you're not likely to.

But you did make sense, and it's a feasible argument. Just one that I can't agree with.
Peace.

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Highlander
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 3:46:13 AM

Liam,

Please stop swearing. I know for a fact that the site filters various curse words, but that sometimes they get through because they don't exactly match the word filter. I know you probably weren't trying to avoid that filter, but even though the majority of commenters (and probably readers) are older, there are younger readers too.

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Ludicrous_Liam
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 9:04:29 AM

Okay :P
Sorry I get angry easily. That & I have no patience.

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Scarecrow
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 2:52:34 AM
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It plays a part but it's not the only part.

I call v-games the "Super art" of all arts.
It has music, it has graphics/visual art, it has storytelling (cut-scenes), acting, etc.

It encompasses all the art mediums perfectly.

Yes, literature does have and does play a part in v-games but not to the extent where it's the overruling factor.
---

Some genres just emphasize one art more than the other.

Music games for example, like Parappa the Rapper. It has visual art, but we know the music plays the biggest role.

The only genre which I see not really fitting into the art equation are the sports/racing games.

Oh yes, but even those have presentation (movie-like atmosphere). Tell me replays aren't like watching FMVs or hitting a home-run something of the sort. But yeah with sports is very minimal.

Last edited by Scarecrow on 2/19/2011 2:56:10 AM

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Mog
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 6:58:21 AM
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I suppose to have what a book has and place it in a game would be strange and boring. though, the same idea applies with a placing what a game has, in a book.
for example, in dead space 2, you cannot write about 50 times "the necromorph (monster) came form the vent behind issac and attacked-" it would be repetitive and boring.
somebody reading this comment may probably now think, 'well the writer of the book can just write about the story more then the necromorphs attacking issac' but if this was the case, then the story of the game would not of seemed as intense and epic as it truly is.
think about my comment and apply it to MGS4, final fantasy series, uncharted, well anything really.
the point im trying to make is that games and books are both different and unique in their own ways.
i hope ive made at least vague sense

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LightShow
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 7:50:13 AM
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ive always thought the hard part in games was presenting 1) a player character that players would relate to enough that there is this comraderie (sp?) that develops between the player and the player character and 2) presenting a world that looks, sounds and generally /feels/ like a place the player would want to enter in to, even for a few minutes.

theres a similar paradigm with literary works, excepting one thing; in a book or short story the author is telling a story and theres no doubt who's the boss. in the best video games, you feel like you are telling the story (or at least uncovering it). Its /your/ story for that small amount of time that youre in the game. thats where the REAL artistry lies in game development.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 8:39:23 AM
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Good writing will have a place in gaming as soon as I'm tapped to write the scripts :)

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Abidan13
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 9:10:56 AM
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Good writing certainly does have a place in video games, just like with film. However, where most games fail on this is with the development of the story. Most stories are written then adapted to meet a screenplay format. So many things need to be edited, rewritten, and expanded upon.

If a story is written, from the ground up, for a video game it can be very good, just like with Heavy Rain.

One problem though is that so many people are desperate to sell a script that they will let any developer twist their story into something to try to boost sales. Writers tend to lose their integrity in this business.

There is one way to get past that. If a writer is also a game designer, the writer can create a story and world that is already adapted for screen, be it film or game. The writer already knows what tweaks are going to be needed to give more replay value and for presentation.

If a writer is going to write for games, that person should study the industry. He or she needs to know the essentials of the process from pre-production through to marketing and it wouldn't hurt to have some 3D modeling experience to. A writer should be a designer first, a writer second, in my opinion. This is how games can keep the stories that were originally intended.

A great example that I can use is Nomura with the Kingdom Hearts series. He is a designer before he is a writer. He knows everything I mentioned above and used it to help develop a story designed for video games. There simply cannot be another media option for these stories; they need to be developed solely for the video game industry and nothing else. It's also why sooooo many games adapted from film fail.



[Haha. Can you guess what I'm studying to become?]

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kraygen
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 9:12:52 AM
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Ben your question is purely subjective and would depend solely on the type of game being played and the person playing the game.

It's clear that some people desire good writing in their video games and others could care less. Some only see gaming as online competition, while others see it as a way to be immersed in another world as beautiful and distant as the lands we enjoy from a good book.

If you're asking specifically would something like what you have written be needed in text form in a game, it would once again come down to what type of game was being made. Nier utilized script only portions that revolved around some kind of dream state and you simply read that part of game, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

However that doesn't mean it is a necessity. Many games don't do this and lots of people are fine with it. If your question is more about the spirit of what you've written being introduced into a game in a way that is visual yet still leaves you feeling the world and imagining it in it's whole, then that too I think is possible.

Look at Heavy Rain, many scenes in that game were short looks at a very dreary world. Scenes of broken down neighborhoods, gray skies, rain lightly falling. It didn't show you everything, but gave you the melancholy feelings, the emotion of the environment. The difference between it being put on screen and in text is that on screen you need it to first be written well and then you need good artists and a good game director who can portray it properly.

I can't say that anything is really necessary specifically as games reach a very broad audience. Technically books don't need good writing, look at how well trashy novels sell or Stephen King novels.

Like I said not sure which way you intended the question, but that is how I see it. I personally would love a game that had it done well in either format, but once again, it's subjective.

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nogoat23
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 9:46:46 AM
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Good writing always helps a good game. I present to you: NBA Jam.

"Boomshakalaka!!"

That's good writing right there.

On a more serious note: I haven't read through the comments, so maybe someone said this, but most games have dialogue. You need good writers to write good dialogue.

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dante_zero
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 10:45:08 AM
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i can only really think of a few games where the combined writing and interactivity and graphics comes together to get an amazing experience. I'm not sure most games do need good writing because of the variety of different genres out there.Having good writing in a game is great but only if it helps give a complete package other wise no matter how well its written if it doesnt come across well in the game the writing becomes irrelvant. i 'm not sure gaming needs good writing at the moment but i think it will do eventually if it wants to evolve the experiences games can provide.
Hope that made sense?lol

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RebelJD
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 12:33:34 PM
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Of course good writing has a place in gaming. Just like good writing has a place in all other form of art and entertainment.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 1:41:23 PM

That's all I'm sayin.

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Eld
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 3:26:57 PM
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poor writing + good gameplay = pointless grind

Without good writing RPG/Adventure genre would die instantly. Even quite a few titles from action/FPS genre would not achieve success without good writing.

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Vivi_Gamer
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 3:40:52 PM
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Most of the games i play tend to have a strong focus on story, i rarely play arcad-ish games, The Mini series on the PSN does not interest me at all. That said some games i do play for the gameplay like Tekken 6, that story has sunk since Tekken 4, funnily enough when the started adding more detail to the story.

But take Ressonace of Fate for example, A game which seems to have an ok story, but the gameplay is horrible, The battle system, is just flawed and its world map is a poor excuse for a current gen console. So it is a balance of gameplay and story, about getting both to a standard to where the player will want to progress with the product.

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Alienange
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 4:31:39 PM
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I guarantee you that the next dev to use the word "sodden" in their game is the next dev to go out of business.

That, and good writing, as seen in games like Red Dead Redemption, often gets dismissed because of silly gamers saying "westerns aren't my style" or "it's GTA on a horse."

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BIGRED15
Saturday, February 19, 2011 @ 9:42:03 PM
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hah "gran theft horse." Lets takee a look at the games we cant forget because of the narrative. Resistance FOM, uncharted series, metal gear series, dead space, red dead, mass effect, Halo (not 3), final fantasy. Can anyone of us honestly say that we would play these if there was no narrative at all?

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ChronowerX_GT
Sunday, February 20, 2011 @ 11:04:55 AM
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Metal Gear Solid. Action and great script! In fact most probibly the best script I've played. Just because some games focus more on the action rather than story doesn't mean all of them do. There is a place for good stories in video games, but really not every game needs to have one.

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H8WL3R
Sunday, February 20, 2011 @ 6:09:27 PM
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I'm usually one to add to someone's comment in agreement, slight disagreement or a little something to add (thus far). They're usually also posted a little too long after the fact perhaps that many may have gone unnoticed. I thought this time rahter, I'd add my two cents in a seperate post. Here goes...

I think it ALL has a time and place regarding the technical aspects, plot, story, etc. I think some typically have a bigger bearing than others given the game's context, era of release and genre they are being used for. Take for example older games such as Mario which I played as a kid on the original Nintendo. I adored those games then and still have some appreciation for them. When I had a played a bit of Super Mario Galaxy I thought it was fun. I actually even wished I had a Wii for a few of the exclusives. I don't think it's a rational investment for me personally though, given that extra bit of space it'd take up, the few games I'd like in my collection and the time I'd probably play it. The SMG games are quite popular and good sellers, as are others on that platform that may not boast a complex plot with a very deep story. The retro games being repackaged and resold as well as many of the currenty PSN/Xbox Live/WiiWare/iPhone/iPad etc titles being offered, if I am not mistaken aren't very heavy on plot or story and can be quite fun. I ask you, the PSXE community, doesn't this all add up to a pretty good represenation of story not often being necessary? Of course I don't believe it's whole picture and would be a misrepresentation for such a thing. Games such as Heavy Rain and others across all platforms can have a very deep, thought provoking, mentally stimulating and emotional story with tremendous impact. This is surely welcome by me, but some of the most popular titles may not have half of that depth. These titles however may reign in the sales department nonetheless.

Personally the writing that probably has the most importance above all else though is THE CODE. Having a game with graphics and sound on the cuttine edge, along with featuring a very deeply engagin story (perhaps with a medium-high degree of complexity) would not mean much beyond that if it is unplayable. It would be oh woooow that's got the "perfect picture and purest digital sound available", BUT I can't play it. If the game is broken from the get go (or becomes so) with a staggering amount of bugs/glitches, broken beyond any semblence of amusement, would you play it? So I suppose writing may be vital, but maybe most significantly to the engine. On the flip side I suppose a great game deeper than any other, with outstanding controls, but sporting sub-par video and audio would likely not be as popular. Would many find DA:O a good example of the latter (well from what I've read, maybe not with "oustanding controls" but perhaps very well implemented)?

So to summarize I guess it's all a part of the puzzle, writing included, however depending on the game in question, some pieces are bigger, therefor being more crucial than others? The code though, I think, may still be the most important writing in the process.

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Lairfan
Sunday, February 20, 2011 @ 9:55:05 PM
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Its not a requirement for all games (case in point, Bulletstorm), but good writing should have a place in gaming (case in point, Heavy Rain). I'd not enjoy some games out there if they didn't have a story to pull me in. Hell, most of my immersion in games comes from caring about the characters and the events that they participate in and shape. Sure, some are better than others, but stories usually keep me engrossed in a game longer than, say, Mario Galaxy 2 did.

The real question is, can devs expand the narrative so that it develops as you are playing? That to me is the next step, to kind of eliminate the cutscene (although we may never fully get rid of it, and that's not a bad thing) and have the player perform the entire narrative. From there, devs could attempt to make a mind's eye-like experience. I don't know how well the first games like that would go, but its entirely possible to fully develop the concept eventually even if it would be hard as hell to accomplish.

And personally, I would find that paragraph from your short story an interesting lead-in to a game. Very few games have that kind of slow start to get you oriented into it, the only one I can think of at this point in time being Heavy Rain (there are several others, but I'm too tired right now to think of them). So don't second guess yourself Ben, that would be a good lead-in for sure.

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Jotun
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 @ 4:55:41 AM
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Yes it most certainly does. As one of the initial posters noted, games like PoP(and more recently Enslaved) have the correct idea how to go about instituting progressive storytelling that develops characters without interrupting gameplay.

For one, there is the rpg genre. No one who is going to play an rpg will complain about better stories. Mass Effect is the perfect example. It is foretold that Bioware spent 2+ years building a literal Mass Effect "bible" that documents the history of the universe, its cultures, its worlds, and the things that bring the universe to life so well. That game is well established as one of the leaders of the videogame medium in terms of story because they put all this work into it.

Now that said about Mass Effect, people still complain about how much reading there is via Bioware's traditional question/answer format. Perhaps not so much that game, but Dragon Age: Origins gets this complaint a lot. There needs to exist a medium-ground where one takes a hand in the dialogue but also experiences story progression through gameplay as well as cutscenes. To me, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and Heavy Rain are two of the only games to have ever done it the right way, or at least they were headed in the right direction.

I read a book on this very topic, narrative writing in videogames, I wish I could find it to list the title, but it was very well done and basicly was alluding to this same point. I love MGS and I love FF, so I'm not complaining about cutscenes at all, but for the vast majority of gamers whose attention spans dwindle after peopel talk for more than 2 minutes(hello MW fans!), good writing would be put to better use with a story-telling mechanism more along the lines of PoP, Enslaved, or Heavy than than that of MGS or Xenogears.

Last edited by Jotun on 2/22/2011 5:01:04 AM

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