Some musings on Videogame Writing - Destructoid

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(So I'm really getting back into the groove of my writting. I know this isn't much but It's something I kind of wanted to get out. So here I guess. :P)

When it comes to writing a game or an interactive piece of media, there are three key components I consider when judging how well the script of a game holds up. If a game doesn’t possess a solid plot, backstory, and dialogue through the entirety of it, I don’t really see much worth in it’s writing. Sure it’s one thing for games to excel in one thing, such as titles like The Last of Us possessing a very strong selection of dialogue, but when it falls flat on it’s back-story and plot (which TLoU did—it didn’t motivate the player enough to learn more of what had happened to the world compared to how much the game wants you to invest in the cast.) I can’t really appreciate the writing.

Focusing on theme, my thoughts on it are rather straightforward; what kind of message are you, the writer, pushing towards the gamer for him to learn? What is that glowing moral that is hovering over you that you’re addressing. This is something that I think that games really struggle in. Not that they have difficulties pushing out the theme but they cement their theme ideas in tropes or traditional archetypes. For example, a lot of Japanese titles have that ‘coming of age’ theme that is targeted towards the male pre-teen/teenage demographic. It’s not exactly a bad thing but it’s a matter of time before that theme is constantly recycled and the only thing the gamer can think of the game subject is ‘good triumphing over evil.’ Then again a theme can be altered by the actions the characters perform so I guess it boils down to a matter of how you conduct your character in the game.

(Games with great themes include: Persona 3/4, Dark Souls, Spec Ops: The Line, Prince of Persia ‘08, Max Payne)

Backstory/Lore is simple. Explain your world! How the hell did these things that are happening before you started your playthrough happen? Is it coherent through this singular entry/entirety of the series? Does the game do a good job at introducing you to the world, instead of forcing you to learn artificially by picking up collectibles. Not saying that note collectibles are bad, it just seems like a factor of lazy game design for the devs to ‘enhance gameplay time’ by adding optional collectibles. Backstory shouldn’t be devoted to being a ‘checkmark’ to write off on a list. With a lot of modern games being released today however, that’s all that backstory really boils down to.

(Games with great backstory: Pokemon, Max Payne, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy Tactics, Alan Wake, Metal Gear Solid 3)

Dialogue is something I’m glad to see a lot of games hit really well. Dialogue needs more than just two characters interacting by talking. Dialogue can be heavily influenced by setting, past actions you’ve performed in a game (a lot of games that feature silent protagonists and binary choice options are examples), etc. But it also boils down to the actors performing the dialogue of a character. I know that we shouldn’t’ really have to worry about poor voice acting in 2014 like gaming had to in the 90s/early 00s, but it really does play a factor if a VA is feeling their character.

(Games with great dialogue: The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, Bastion, Max Payne)

A game can excel in one part of a game’s script, but it can also fail miserably in the other two sections. There are very few games that I can think of that can really nail the three. Maybe in the future I can add what I think about which games fall under these.

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