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