Who writes the game?

Yesterday we mentioned how teamwork imposes limitations on the videogame writer. Today we’ll explore the topic.

We can understand the issue by looking at how movies are made. A script needs many pairs of hands to make a writer’s ideas become real settings, costumes, sounds, colours, performances, camera angles, cuts, soundtrack and so on and so forth. Along that path, depending on time and budget costraints and the wishes of the director and producers, the result may largely depart from the original script. In fact, as we said yesterday, quite often a movie’s production is decided upon marketing reasons (remakes, franchises, etc.) and then the script is not so much the spark of the project anymore as just a cog in the machine. Do you remember that story about Kevin Smith being forced to include a giant spider in his script for Superman Returns? The video is long but worth every second.

Something similar happens with videogames, only worse, because the writer often works in parallel to the development team, or even joins the project in its later stages. There were cases when an author was approached with a fully-finished game (level 1 takes place in a mine and the final boss is a zombie, level 2 is on the moon and the final boss is a yellow octopus…) and then asked to write a story that brought it all together.

We must take into account that the game industry is so young that the figure of the writer didn’t even exist until rather recently. Stories and texts were written by the (small) development teams themselves. As the teams grow, tasks get specialized but still today, a small indie developer, say 3 to 8 people programming for iPhone or Wiiware, won’t have a writer in their ranks. The bigger the project, the more likely they’ll have some people devoted only to writing, but also the more tensions they’ll suffer regarding budget, schedule and even intentions. On the top of the scale you have the latest issues of sagas like Metroid, GTA, Metal Gear Solid or ScarCraft, which will have their big creative star on top and a small team of writers to fill in the gaps at his orders.

So if I want to write videogames, where do I fit in all of this? Let’s talk about it tomorrow.

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