Significance of Writing in Games

When Nick first asked me to come aboard Verus Games, he told me to make music and sounds for the current project, Spell Bound. Naturally, I was flattered that my musical talents were desired. As my time with the project matured, I saw the final product everyone envisioned clearly in my mind. Yet, one thing was lacking: there was no non player character interaction. So I talked to Nick, and I asked him, and I reasoned with him, "can't there be dialogue for the game too?" The best he promised was, "time permitting." Fortunately, I was able to convince him to make it a priority--mostly by going ahead and writing the whole script for him.

Writing is a very powerful tool in video games. Writing can set the tone, it can breathe life into a game's denizens. Therefore, it is important for one to consider the contents of their writing, to examine it in thorough detail. What does writing mean for the game? How does it accentuate (or not) the gameplay? What message are you trying to convey to your audience? These questions matter, and their answers can be the difference between a good game, and a great game. 

Writing as Art

Everyone can agree: the most important aspect of any game is the gameplay itself. After that, most people may agree that art, or graphics is the second most important aspect. Obviously, this makes sense, because it is our mode of interacting with the game space. I would argue, however, that writing in a game is just as important. Art elicits an immediate reaction; an entire scene can be survey and processed within only a few seconds, much faster than hearing music play (you may get a few notes in before you've thought about the view), and even more so for writing. After all, human beings are very visual creatures, so this is to be expected.

Because art is so quick to convey meaning, its design must be carefully considered as well, but in the end a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Yet, text within a game allows players to experience the game on a new level of interaction: text allows players to think about the content of a game. Text allows the game makers to connect to the player on a higher level than mere sensory input, indeed, it allows the the game maker to connect to the player in meaning. This is no attempt to belittle art, or music at all, rather, it is an attempt to explain that games can convey more than a simple mechanism for pleasurable mental experiences.

That Which We Call a Rose, By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

The title of this section is a reference to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet , but its point applies equally to games. In this case, I'm referring to the practice of successfully sending a message. Does your game have a theme? Does it have a point you want to make to the player?

Games are often powerful engines of delivery when it comes to messages. But, one must insure that the message is bequeathed to the players in a manner that it will reach them. Another way of saying this is, "know thy audience." Your audience must be able to understand what you are trying to say, and that means it is up to you to be sure to write in a way that will reach them! Imagine a World War II first-person-shooter in which every character spoke in haiku--Not only is this inaccurate for the war, but it totally ruins any immersion for the player. Now, that was a completely ridiculous example, but the point I'm trying to make is: the writing should match the setting, and the setting partially consists of the writing. World War II was a recent, very real event that occurred in history; a game that features it should be very realistic in its writing. 

Writing is an essential tool for any game. Even if a game features largely no text or dialogue, behind the scenes  writing is still necessary, especially working with teams. You may even be sending nothing but a correspondence email, yet your writing colors you as a person. Your peers will judge you on your writing, especially if there is limited face to face interaction. Writing in a way your players can relate to can cause a powerful experience for them, and remember overwriting is just as harmful as bad writing. The key is to write just enough to allow the player's imagination take over.

I'm no expert writer by any means, but these are all aspects I consider in my writing. There are a multitude more out there, but this post has gone long enough. So for now I'm signing off, and thank you for reading!