For today's in-depth Gamasutra feature
, we present a transcript of our recent Gamasutra Podcast
, with host Tom Kim talking to scriptwriter Susan O'Connor (Bioshock, Gears of War
) about her influences, aspects of her creative process both practical and intuitive, as well as the difference between writing for games and other media.
In this excerpt, O'Connor, who also acts as a founding member of the Writer's Game Conference, who also has scripted games like Star Wars Galaxies, Dungeon Siege II
, and Act of War
, explains the challenges of games writing as opposed to other forms:
”Let's see, the ones that are specific to game writing, the first one that comes to mind, of course is agency. So the fact that the player is in charge, not you. You've got the player looking at the game and then, over to the side, you've got the story tellers, everyone on the team really, including the writer, sort of looking at the playing looking at the game.
It's a strange triangle. It is important to keep in mind, because I think a lot of times, especially the development team, can get so wrapped up in the story and everyone knows it and forgets that the player will be coming to it fresh. And they will have their set of assumptions, and their knowledge base, or lack thereof, and how do you handle that? Also how do you handle it when you have a thousand players, all of whom have different personalities and who want to assert those personalities on your game? How do you accommodate that, and tell a good story at the same time?
In fact I was thinking about this just the other day. I was reading some interview with Quentin Tarantino, and he was talking about how much he enjoys, and this is going to sound a little funny, I am going to have to paraphrase it, but basically he considers himself sort of a 'film sadist'. He really loves torturing the audience. And you can see it in his movies, they are incredibly fun to watch, but it's kind of excruciating to watch. You know Michael Madsen cut off that guy's ear! They sort of do these horrible things and you really are a captive audience, literally. I mean, if you want to see his movies you have to sit through these difficult things. But there is no doubt that he is in charge and that we are along for the ride. And I think that power dynamic is completely inverted with games.
Players are completely in control at all times. And at any moment they realize they are not in control their frustration level goes up. So the challenge for game writing is to really create a story that the player feels is his own or her own. So how do you do that? I think it involves a lot of context creation and it involves a lot of, you know, who knows what it involves? I think that in 50 years or 15 years people will be able to articulate it a lot better than we can now. But what it involves, at the most fundamental level, is thinking about the player, all the time. What is the player feeling? What is the player wanting? Have we, in this game, inspired some fears in the player, or some desires in that player? And how can we play on that? No pun intended!”
You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject
, including much more from O'Connor on the dialogue recording process, and specific examples about games writing from her experience on Gears of War
(no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).