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Gamasutra's 20 Game Writers: The Audience Response

Following Gamasutra's <a href="http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3935/the_gamasutra_20_top_game_writers.php">'Top 20 Writers' feature</a>, a host of industry notables chimed in to suggest other great game writers, from Ragnar Tornquist to Rhianna Prat

February 26, 2009

6 Min Read

Author: by Staff

Gamasutra now follows up on our recent 'Top 20 Writers' feature, which profiled a score of some of the most notable writers working in the game industry, with a look at reader responses. Many industry notables joined the comments to congratulate the winners, which were picked from writers who have active, discussed projects in the past few months. Along the way, these commenters took the opportunity to mention favorite colleagues who they would've liked to have seen included, as follows: Who We Missed Firstly, Michael Kelly noted a Scandinavian creator not included on the list, commenting: "I was always a fan of Ragnar Tornquist's work. The Longest Journey, Dreamfall, etc. Really vivid worlds and incredibly sympathetic characters. A fantastic storyteller all around." BioShock and Gears of War writer Susan O'Connor, herself profiled in the feature, said she was a fan of many of the list's writers, but had another mention to offer: "In addition, I'd like to nominate Rhianna Pratchett... she's doing fantastic work and IMO deserves the recognition." In thanking O'Connor for her mention, Pratchett, writer of Mirror's Edge, Heavenly Sword and Overlord, offered a few recommendations we overlooked: "I'd like to second Ragnar, as well, and also draw attention to the fact that the list is very short on Europeans. Okay, Houser is a Brit (and great) but has lived in the US for over a decade. There's a lot of strong writing talent this side of the pond - Ragnar (of course), Andrew Walsh (PoP), James Swallow (Deus Ex), the Starbreeze guys, Steve Ince (Broken Sword series), Tom Jubert (Prenumbra series), Martin Korda (The Movies, B&W 2), James Leach (Fable, B&W). I'm certainly proud to be not included with these fine fellows, but it would be nice to see more of a world-wide cross section." Commenter Andrew Leeke seconded the mention of Andrew Walsh in some depth: "Andrew Walsh is another name I’d expect to see on a list like this. Prince of Persia is excellent, and is a great example of interactive storytelling that allows the player a high degree of freedom. Personally, facing these challenges of interactivity in a linear story [is] far more impressive than just writing some cut scenes to avoid it. POP is a great example of where storytelling in games can break from tradition." BioWare's Drew Karpyshyn, also included in the feature, wanted to make it known that the credit was not entirely his: "I should point out that BioWare games are written by teams of 4-6 talented men and women. As the lead writer, I tend to be the one who gets the credit, but honestly we have a dozen great writers on staff at BioWare and we couldn't create our great narrative driven games without the contributions of the entire team. So, on behalf of all the writers at BioWare, thank you for this honor." Elsewhere, Quintin Schnehage wrote in with the following worthy suggestion: "I'd like to put in a mention for Michael Kirkbride, the concept designer for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Kirkbride, together with Ken Rolston and Kurt Kuhlmann, brought a unique and incredibly atmospheric world into creation, but in my humble opinion, Kirkbride was the visionary responsible for breathing life into it. His weird and wonderful concepts, knowledge of myths, religions and philosophies, and his incredibly writing skill gave the Elder Scrolls universe a charm and a depth that I have never seen in another video game world." Finally, Karim Anani wrote in to add another interesting video game writer to the nomination list: "What about Dave Grossman? He was the colleague of Tim Schafer, worked on Monkey Island 1+2, Day of the Tentacle, the new Sam and Max games and Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People. The guy isn't just good, he's astounding. These are all worthy writers, but you _are_ missing half the Day of the Tentacle writing staff, you know." The Winners Debate Alongside the discussion of talented writers who weren't included in the list came often-heated debate about those who were. Commenter Rob Lazenby criticized the narrative of Gears of War, a title better known for its gameplay than its story -- which he said "[sets] our industry back 10 years." O'Connor responded to Lazenby's questioning: "Well I'm probably not being nominated for the Gears work, but for my body of work as a whole. Each project makes distinct demands on the writer. In the case of Gears, the story was not striving for gritty realism, but escapist fantasy, and on that level it delivered. I don't know if you're calling out the cinematics (which I wrote, based on Epic's story) or the in-game barks (which were written by other people on the team), but in either case, you're definitely entitled to your opinion. I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to work with the guys at Epic, they're an incredible group of guys. Like I said, different projects have different priorities." Michael Webb offered a different point of view: "It was especially refreshing to see in a game where the focus is not on narrative. By putting quality scenes in games that are not normally story driven is in my opinion helping the industry, not setting it back." Amid discussion on Destroy All Humans writer Tom Abernathy's work on Pandemic's as yet unreleased Saboteur, Abernathy arrived to clarify: "I was the lead writer on "Saboteur" for three years, and in that capacity worked with some brilliant people to create what we all believe is a fantastic original IP, its characters, a fleshed-out world, a tone, an extensive game structure, dozens of missions, etc. (Those comprise a big part of a writer's job, especially when the writer is involved early in the process.) I also did a couple of drafts of a cinematic script, many drafts of mission dialogue, and some in-game chatter, as well as helping to mold many of the presentations and materials that got the project repeatedly (and successfully) greenlighted at various stages. (A significant amount of dialogue, it should be noted, was also written by Armand Constantine, a terrific writer who could also easily have appeared on this list.) It's quite true that the cinematic script is no longer the one I wrote; it couldn't possibly be. As far as the in-game chatter, I'm not sure that's totally true, but regardless I know Armand continued to do fine work for them, ably picking up the torch I had passed to him. Regardless, I am not the writer of record on "Saboteur" -- at this point that would be Brad Santos -- and have not taken, nor would take, credit for being so. I am proud and pleased, however, to have played a role in its creation and development, and I hope it rocks. The team deserves every success." If readers would like to discuss things further, you can now revisit the full 'Top 20 Writers' feature, view the complete comments discussion, and add your own point of view.

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