Why Writing is Important in Video Games?

Oct 20, 2019 | 0 Votes by jose - rate Your vote
Writing has been in one way or another a part of video games. Whether used heavily in the development or simply as a support to and for the game, the importance of the written word cannot be stressed enough. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this. WWGDB - Why Writing is Important in Video Games?

Ever since video games or even slot machine arcade games came out, the written word has always been a part of it. Before the era of the microcomputer and home video game consoles, the writing was used to introduce and expound on the benefits one could get by playing a certain electro-mechanical contraption. These placards which would contain instructions and/or other pertinent information were placed either beside or on the machine itself. When the game consoles moved into the electronic world, this written info was usually displayed on the screen.

Enter the microcomputer revolution in the late 1970’s all the way to the ’80s. With the ability of desktop computers to display text and make intricate decisions by running a program, it was no surprise that the most popular form of gaming became the all-text adventure game where written prose was combined with innovative programming to deliver an experience like no other to the masses during the time. Not much looking from today’s standpoint but a huge step back then.

The computer game industry then found out that they could turn great novels and works of literature into games. However, not all games relied that much on a story to deliver an experience, a good example which was the arcade games as one didn’t have to write about PacMan going left or right or getting chomp chomped. Still, even the simplest of arcade games needed some instructions or introductions for the player to read. Besides, games were really written in one way or the other in the code as one could still consider programming a form of writing.

Finally, as time went on, the games started to merge. All the text, story, action arcade, graphics and sounds where mixed and used to some degree in the development of the different video game genres. If you’ve played the WarCraft series, you, of course, know how important the story, plot and setting of the game practically held the game together. The story of the kingdom of Lordaeron, the great lands beyond the sea, the Orcs, the Scourge, the Humans and the Elves all combined together into one cohesive plot. Even the reason for the champion of the realm Prince Arthas turning into the dreaded Death Knight is most important to the game.

WOW: Death Knight

WarCraft was not the only one to rely on a good story. Adventure gaming prior to the popularity of the RTS genre brought out such classics from Kings Quest to Gabriel Knight. And who could forget the kingdom of Zork whose plot twisted around into several different directions. This is when a skill in writing would be required to create or modify a given story line to fit into and be presented as a game where the narrative branches all over depending on the player as a game is interactive as opposed to a novel or movie. Similarly, RPG games border on the same if not similar methods to get their game story through. Regardless, it is important for the writing to be able to deliver a good and immersive game experience to its target audience.

Gabriel Knight

The scope of writing for video games is huge. Writing in the games industry is different from the other media like Movies, Television, Radio or print. Several things have to be taken into account in lieu of the complex process of designing and producing the game. Depending on the game (as there will be games that would rely more on the gameplay than the plot), the degree of the importance of writing will depend on this. There are three major areas where writing will come in during game design and development. First is the Plot or Story, the reason for the game and why the gamer is playing it. The second is Character development. Who are the characters involved, what are they like and why are they there in the first place. Finally, the Lore, setting, environment has to be developed as well. Again, depending on what game is being made and the extent of the players' involvement into a central narrative as opposed to an individual branching experience, the writer will then have to focus on the proper area to bring out the games full gameplay experience.

An example again is WarCraft where the player though has the ability to alter the end results of the game via ones gameplay decisions will have to adhere to the still ongoing central plot and setting of the game. The characters have to be well made as well and good written scripts and interactions between the player controlled hero and the denizens of the game will be required. Another would be Gabriel Knight which is based on an actual Novel and thus the player will have to make choices that will affect the outcome which still would be within the general lore or setting of the central plot. Likewise, a simulation game where the player ends up creating ones own adventure and results depending on one's gameplay actions (like in an open-ended MMORPG or a sandbox type game) may not require much writing on a central plot and would focus rather on the involved characters, their interactive scripts and possibilities and events happening to the setting at large.

Legend of Lagia

Again, depending on the game genre, the design writers involvement may vary from just writing scripts here and there to getting fully involved with the project. It will depend on the game’s design whether the writing will be needed to simply help support the playability of the game or the other way around where the entire development will have to cater to bringing the central story and it’s branching possibilities into a good and immersive playable experience. However, the writing will have to be created in a way that the development team can possibly turn it into a realistically functional game.

Finally, out of the development process, writing in the game industry would probably have to do with Marketing, Game review or a mixture of both. Marketing will involve the starting sales pitch for the game for publishers to go through to other areas such as advertising and copywriting as well as post-production work for the game. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, computer and game magazines where so popular as they provided the first line of an introduction to available games through articles and reviews. This has driven the video game industry to what it is today and continues (albeit online) to do so. Being a game reviewer gives a writer the responsibility of introducing the game to its target audience whether in a positive, negative or balanced way.

Regardless of the different aspects of the game industry where writing is involved, it cannot be stressed so much that it has to be done well. Even for localization purposes where a game has to be translated into different languages for the intended target market, the prose and proper grammar are important. It is quite frustrating to read translated games with all the wrong English as even a simple thing like this could bring down the entire gaming experience. As the saying goes, if you are going to do something, do it well or not at all.

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