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Game Writer O'Connor Expresses Her "Ongoing Dissatisfaction"

Sometimes, it can be frustrating to be part of an entertainment medium that doesn't always embrace great stories.

One of the writers that helped bring you great games like Far Cry 2, Bioshock and Tomb Raider has called for the video game industry to produce more "thoughtful and complex stories." You know, rather than just pumping out another narrative that tasks the player with going to go shoot someone.

During a new Gameological interview, O'Connor says she has grown tired of not being allowed to stretch her creative wings. So if gaming ever does push forward in the realm of quality plot construction and character development, she may not be around:

"I donít want to put up with this sh** anymore. I'm grateful for the success I've had, but Iím never going to be able to do work that can come anywhere close to the kind of emotional impact that stories in other media have, at least not in the next five to 10 years. I love stories, and I just happened to fall into games. I've learned who I am as a writer, and I think my talents and skills are much better used in other places."

The problem is that although she has helped pen some of the better stories in the industry, they're still nowhere close to where they could be. She finds this increasingly frustrating as a writer-

"It's been an ongoing dissatisfaction thatís always been there. But the more savvy I got--and I've been working on these great projects that are arguably the best ever made--it's like, 'This is the mountaintop, and this still isn't cutting it.'"

This has been my biggest issue with video games over the past generation. While technology has increased at a ridiculous rate, and various forms of gaming artistry has also gotten much better, we're still lacking in the story department. Compared to other storytelling mediums, we're not even close. And we could be...I think.

Tags: susan oconnor, game stories, video game story, gaming industry

5/28/2013 9:14:38 PM Ben Dutka

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Legacy Comment System (12 posts)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 @ 11:23:26 PM

I think we could be too, but we seem to be getting a mix of whatever market-tested well and the original vision of the devs. Now don't get me wrong we have visionary devs but I can't help but notice when they get a script together it hangs out in cliche territory really hard.

She should beg for a job at Quantic Dream, or just write a better game and get it made.

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Metal Head
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 1:34:13 AM

Video games are meant to be fun and not stressful with complex stories. If I want great writing with visionary ideas I'd rather grab a book thank you.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 3:25:40 AM

I think there's room with such a varied audience for both simple and complex stories.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 11:34:32 AM

Maybe not everyone feels that way.

And sadly, very few people "grab a book" these days, anyway.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 12:50:43 PM

Books ????? What are those ?

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 5:17:02 AM

What's stopping her? Obviously you've got to negotiate with the rest of the developer team to make sure the gamer is engaded in gameplay, and that gameplay needs to take precedence sometimes. But that doesn't mean she needs to be held back because of it. You just have to look at Uncharted to see how that can work.

So yeah, I'm not really sure I see her reason for being dissatisfied?

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 12:44:37 PM

Uncharted is a really bad example. I enjoy its well crafted gameplay as much as anyone, but the plot is extremely cliché. There were parts of the story that I was literally laughing-out-loud at because of how ham-fisted they were. Besides that, it goes back to O'Connor's point: Everything revolves around "Here’s a guy. Go shoot him." There ARE other ways of playing a video game, and other ways of telling a story.

The problem in the gaming industry is the Publisher-Developer model. Publishers will only pay for things that they are convinced will sell, because something exactly like it sold before, and won't put up for anything new. Developers can't makes their games without the money the publishers provide, so no matter how talented they may be, they can't stretch their creativity. Hell, we can't even get an original female lead in games, these days, without the devs putting their jobs on the line! It has to be a man--a white man--with a shotgun slung over his shoulder.

I really do think that this is one of the main reasons we've seen a decline in consoles and a rise in PC gaming, lately. Nothing new is happening on consoles. It's all the same junk with newer graphics. The indie dev scene and Kickstarter stuff happening on PC are really exciting! Just this past month, with the "Among the Sleep" Kickstarter and alpha demo, I was totally hyped up and ready to throw money at those guys! I can't remember the last time a console game announcement got me excited. Oh, another violent shooter with online multiplayer...yay(?).

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 5:22:31 PM

I was saying Uncharted as an example of how to intertwine gameplay with the narrative without either being watered down because of it. Y'know, rather than the quality of the story/writing itself.

Buuuut...since you care to mention it....(:P)

Action-Adventure by it's very name is ham-fisted, and apart from the main exposition, I don't think Uncharted is as overtly cliche as you say so. Most of the writing is expressed through the characters, and the writers just nail it with each character. Like the scene in Cartagena with Young Sully and Nate, it was so well done - I felt like I was watching a film by Speilberg. The way you see how Nate is developing the subtle mannerisms that he grows into. Like when he's about to explain something, he does that paralinguistic 'shoulder relaxtion', like he's getting impatient, as he later often does when explaining things to Sully.

But just, overall, when playing the game, to me it all felt natural. And that's the sign of quality writing is it not? I feel like each place was beliveable and that the characters were. So what I'm meaning to say is, if Uncharted can do the whole narrative intermingling with the gameplay naturally, what can possibly be holding her back in this medium? What would movies have over it?

I'm honestly interested in what you laughed-out-loud at, the scenes in particular?

Last edited by Ludicrous_Liam on 5/29/2013 5:25:49 PM

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Friday, May 31, 2013 @ 8:06:47 PM

"I'm honestly interested in what you laughed-out-loud at, the scenes in particular?"

Yep, me too. I have played all Uncharted games, and at no point did I "laugh-out-loud" because of some story-cliché, I would say the story & characters in Uncharted compare well with high-budget action movies, and in fact beat most of them in those regards.

Just to take a similar example, I felt all three Uncharted games were more interesting story & character wise than the last Indiana Jones movie.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 5:54:10 AM

yes, BUT you have to do it properly.
one thing that made the story in infamous so compelling and interesting, not only was it a well thought out complex story but it was also so brilliantly told and it drip fed you information and clues all throughout the game.
and if you collected the tapes off the satellites it gave you even more info.
one thing that hurt bioshock infinite, it was the complete opposite!
it had such a complex story, but it was so poorly told, left ALL the details to the last 10 minutes of the game, and the collectibles really had nothing to do with the story and there was no background story or information.
plus it just assumed you knew what it was talking about, which was just frustrating and made things even more confusing!
thats why infamous story left you contemplating and talking about the meanings and why things happened, infinite has such a better story, but leaves those questions at the door, you dont see people wondering about them because there just so confused and have so many questions they just dont care anymore!
its one thing to have a great complex story, but whats the point when you tell it so poorly, and make people do so much work, just to get 10% of it?
infamous made you dig, infinite makes you create flux capacitors and invent time travel!

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 12:56:32 PM

Dude, every gaming website on the interwebs had a editorial or video discussing the ending of Bioshock Infinite. I dont know what you mean by saying people werent talking about Infinite.

Last edited by wackazoa on 5/29/2013 12:56:56 PM

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 12:54:11 PM

Just wait until digital distribution is more popular. Then it will be easier to make your thoughtful story driven games. Look at PC.

However this woman is either a.) Refusing to take a possible paycut to work at a indie game company that makes the story driven games or b.) Being told one thing by her bosses the not allowed to do what she is being told. I hope she finds what she is looking for.

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