We have recently been putting a lot of thought into how we best engage with games in our educational programs. As a media school it’s overdue that we make a more serious engagement with a form of media that is becoming more potent every day. But should our post graduate courses train game artists to fill the many empty seats in games development studios or should we aim at other areas? Writing has always seemed a fertile area to develop in emerging media industries that are often over dominated by technologists. This is the direction we are about to take training media writers and producers in developing their skills for the emerging areas of virtual worlds, games and machinima. There is a brilliant article on N’Gai Croal’s blog Level Up examining the craft of games writing on ‘God of War II’ where the writers compare the process of writing for linear TV and games. Writer Marianne Krawczyk says she approaches writing for games in much the same way as writing for TV. However the medium of games has some fundamental differences, most notably that everything (including the story) must serve the gameplay. Her collaborator JM Barlog, the father of the ‘Gods of War I’ creator Cory Barlog, talks here about negotiating story through judicious use of cut scenes:
Barlog: The first question we always asked when dealing with cutscenes is: Can we somehow show this or reveal that in game play? Only when there was no other alternative did you resort to a cutscene. To make a cutscene meaningful, you make your protagonist look at himself and his actions. Succeed at that and you enrich the depth of your story. A video game poses special challenges over a book or movie, since you only get a few seconds to accomplish it. You start by writing those short little cutscenes ten different ways until you find one that delivers the goods. At each step we wanted God of War II to be about a meaningful journey. In video games, this proves particularly challenging because each second the player is away from the game play is a second you risk losing his/her interest
The second part of this interview is well worth reading and includes some great comments on emotional engagement with characters in games.