The Value of a Good Writer
Recently, a bit of a spark was lit under the debate over the place of writers in the games industry. Adam Maxwell, a game designer, wrote a piece that was run on Gamasutra which proclaimed that writers don’t have a place in this business, and that they’re essentially an obstacle in the path to creating a good game. I vehemently defended writers, pointing to examples of cases where writers had a dramatically positive impact on a game and Portal, BioShock, and so on.
A new analysis of the value of a good writer by developer James Portnow dives into the subject of how he believes videogame writing should be done. He starts off bluntly enough, as he asserts: “I’ll be blunt. Videogames are terrible at making statements. You want to tell a person what they should think? Go write a book or appear on daytime TV or compose an epic poem…don’t make a videogame.”
One of the subjects he discusses is the problem of binary choices in games. I’ve written before about how it’s this sort of thing that really detracts from the overall experience of a game like BioShock or Mass Effect, and there’s no doubt that Portnow agrees that binary choices need to go.
EPIC FAIL! Binary choice is one of the worst things in gaming. It keeps us from being an art and, more importantly, it takes away “fun” from any game it is in. This one ridiculous cop-out has sabotaged more masterpieces than I can name. What is it? Glad you asked…
A binary choice is a choice between two extremes. Do you want to be Mahatma Gandhi or the lovechild of Satan and Hitler? Do you want to save the world or blow it up for all eternity? Do you want to get laid or not (always a stupid question)?
HUMANS SIMPLY DON’T INTERACT THIS WAY! In case you didn’t get the emphasis on that previous sentence, please take a moment to go into a quiet room and shout it as loud as you can. Done? Good, now maybe you’ve got it.
For the full read, head over to Next Gen.