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GCG Op-Ed: Writing Off Game Writers

In the latest feature for sister educational site GameCareerGuide.com, writer, designer and Indiana University assistant professor Lee Sheldon says the game industry underval
GameCareerGuide.com has just posted an op-ed that declares the game industry undervalues writers. It’s written by Lee Sheldon, a writer and designer of commercial video games and assistant professor at Indiana University. Writing off game writers, he says, is good for no one. The op-ed is in contrast to Adam Maxwell's controversial article that ran on Gamasutra.com in March this year. It’s not just the industry at fault, Sheldon says. Game development schools take the same limited view, which is effectively suppressing a talent pool that is in dire need of creative nourishment, education, training, and mentorship, as he explains in this excerpt from the article: “I recently learned that with few exceptions, game studios still have a very limited idea of what writing a game means, or how writers can be used in games, and as a result rarely hire writers on staff or utilize contract writers to their fullest potential. Now that I’m in academia and beginning to attend academic conferences, I’ve quickly realized that many programs professing to train students for careers in game development share this mindset; therefore they provide limited to no training in writing for games. At the same time universities and other learning institutions decry the lack of originality and thematic weight of much of what the game industry produces, particularly when it comes to AAA titles. By buying into industry prejudices, they may keep their job placement statistics high, but they are certainly not helping to foster originality or any innovation beyond the technical. If one thing is clear from the discussions I’ve had about game development programs at various schools (as well as company representatives describing their hiring practices), it’s this: The role for writers in the video game industry, between those training new talent and those hiring new talent, is that of contractor (usually one per title) brought in to write dialogue and help ‘flesh out’ a story written by somebody else.” He goes on to name 10 misconceptions about writing for video games, refuting each of them in turn, from “We don’t yet know how to tell stories in games,” to “Stories are linear, games aren’t.” Sheldon, who wrote the piece exclusive for GameCareerGuide.com, is not only a writer and designer of commercial video games, but also assistant professor at Indiana University and author of Character Development and Storytelling for Games. To read his complete opinion-editorial, visit GameCareerGuide.com.

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