It’s good to get out. From behind your laptop. Of your flat. Of your comfort zone. As a writer (or anyone else who enjoys creating stuff), it’s healthy to see other people’s worlds – to see life through other people’s eyes.
Aged ten, I was a bit of a gamer. Consoles. Nintendo – SNES, N64, Gamecube. I liked nothing more than spending hours taking Zelda towards his Ocarina of Time, rolling Mario down ski slopes, and creeping Bond around Russion silos.
I was a gamer, engaged in the worlds created for me.
Today, I play a bit of Fifa. But nothing more. Narrative video games no longer play any part in my life.
So when my flatmate (a graphic designer and fairly avid gamer) asked if I wanted a ticket to BAFTA Games Question Time, I said yes. ‘It’s all about the writer’s role in narrative video games,’ he told me. Memories of Zelda, Mario and Bond came flooding back.
At BAFTA, I learned a lot about these things called ‘writers’.
‘I’ve called myself a narrative paramedic for about eight years,’ said Rhianna, one of four games writers on the panel. ‘Games studios bring me in when they realise a game is lacking a story. It’s not holding together. They ask me to fix it.’
Sound familiar, writers for business?
‘Being a writer in gaming is so much more than writing,’ added William Pugh, big-haired video game designer. ‘You’re no good to me if you just write words. I need you to understand every part of the game.’
Like a writer for business, who understands brand, design, technology, customer habits, web development and more, right?
George chipped in. ‘A writer is a designer, I always think. We create an experience. We take people towards the feeling they want to feel.’
‘The belief has always been that people who play video games don’t really care about story,’ added Jennifer Schneidereit. ‘It’s wrong to think like that.’
Narratives bring people into your universe, the panel agreed. And it’s a writer who’s best placed to craft that narrative. We’re not just here to make sense of all the confusion that’s come before. We should be there at the beginning – so we don’t just write the words, but help create every aspect of the story.
‘If you have a writer in your team, you might just be more lucky than if you don’t,’ concluded Rhianna.
It’s the same for all writers – don’t you think?