Writing For Video Games


Do video games need writers as well as programmers?

Traditionally, video games have been a linear experience based on skill and entertainment rather than storytelling. They are  firmly steeped in the realm of fantasy and were once a simple matter of killing gremlins or shooting things before they killed you.

Video games are becoming increasingly more sophisticated ,with complex characters, as the storytelling divide between games and films is narrowing.

There are however key differences in the story structure of games compared to film or TV. Games are an active experience. Players need to do something for it to function. Films are a passive experience designed for the viewer to watch.

Video games genres are more focused on technical matters when they are developed rather than conventional storytelling vital to film.

Game genres are defined by the way a game is played. They could be a first person shooter (player controls the action), third person (player responds to the action), action adventure or role playing.

Genre in films relates to theme and a type of audience emotional response. These include comedy, action, thriller , science fiction and horror.

The video game play story experience is more active than a film viewing experience. The rules and the world  in a game are clearly established early on.

The obstacles in video games are more physical. Typically there are fewer character interactions, arcs and developments than films. It really boils down to survival.

There is only one overall story goal for the characters in video games. There is rarely an inner goal which makes the characters comparatively simplistic.

Since a video game is almost entirely an active experience, the player is always the protagonist and constantly interacts with the other characters. The player controls more of the world and the story fate of the other characters.

Video games are also structured so that if you are killed, you can pause and reset the game to change the outcome. This is not the case in films where the storytelling is fixed.

Films have act breaks which all lead to one overall story goal. Video games have levels rather than act breaks. The goal changes with each level along with the degree of difficulty.

Dialog in video games is largely command based. There are no catchy one liners, subtext or monologues found in films.

As the proliferation of the games industry rises, so too do the opportunities for writers.

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