October 21, 2010

Interview with a Video Game Writer

There's an interview up with video game writer Emilie Poissenaut up at Hayden's Ferry Review Blog. I was excited to see this because, although I write primarily erotica these days, I'm also involved in a text-based video game writing project. I haven't elaborated on it very much here, because it's always difficult to talk about projects so rough and early in their development, but I think I'd like to discuss it obliquely for a bit.

A few months ago, a friend of mine was laid off. Suddenly confronted with extra time on his hands, he decided that this was the time when he was finally going to learn a programming language and write a text-based game. Not being a writer himself, he put up a Facebook status looking for writers. Even though I have hardly enough time to tackle all the projects on my to-write list, I took him up on it. He was a little surprised, as I'd never expressed interest in writing a game before (honestly, I hadn't thought about it before he posted it). But I wanted to try something completely different. So we joined forces.

Things have been going a little slower than expected. He's learning how to program. I'm flat-out learning how to write a video game story - something I'm attempting for the first time in my life. And a week and a half into the project, my friend found another job with a prominent gaming company, and it eats up a lot of his time. We were both grateful that he found paid employment again so quickly, but it has made us struggle to progress with the game. (Not to mention that we've both gone through major breakups within a few months of each other, and both of us struggle with creativity when we grieve). But even so, we continue on.

Writing a game is unlike anything I've written before. I can barely describe it. When I write a story, I typically begin at the beginning and write until I reach the end, and just let my creativity take me where it wants to go (though sometimes using my writing dice if I get stuck). But when writing a video game, I have to consider all possible outcomes/decisions for a character to make, and write out narrative for each of them. I have to figure out which actions are right and which are wrong. I can't just sit down and write out a story. I have to sit down, write a story, but also take into account all the ways a player might deviate from that story.

There are other differences. Writing game dialog and exposition is different. Writing descriptions of places and characters is different. I have to actually plot out directions for my main character to drive around town, because getting from one place to another is part of the challenge and adventure.

I'm glad that I started this challenge, and I look forward to playing the game when we're finally done. I'm glad I took the chance to expand my horizons, and see how video game writers work. This won't be my full career. But it's something that was fun to try, and that I would like to try again eventually.

1 comment:

Hannah Stephenson said...

It's so great to stretch though strange and new projects.