Jordan Mechner has a pair of articles looking at videogame writers. David Footman starts off with a look at how writing games is different than writing movies:
Writing for games is different from any other genre. The interactive nature of the story demands that the writer fully understand the term “Gamer Experience.” In the last five years, I’ve heard this term come up in game story discussions more and more. It’s a powerful concept, and once understood, it not only changes the way a writer approaches narrative, but the gamer experience can change depending on the genre of game you’re working on.
RPGs are the extreme example of how a game story can be unique to each player, but even on RPGs we don’t have the money or time to build more than three or four splines for the story. In a linear action adventure game, the degree of “unique experience” is much less. Still, every player wants to feel like they’ve had a unique experience. We don’t just provide an illusion of this -— we now have systems in place that make this a reality, like systemic scripts, dynamic dialogue systems, and perhaps most importantly, user-created experiences that abound in multiplayer, co-op and social games.
A good writer must be focused on creating narrative systems that tell the player’s story, not their own. It’s an important distinction.
Richard Dansky follows up with what he’s looking for when he hires a game writer:
A good game writer understands that the game isn’t about them, or their story, or their witty dialog. The rest of the team isn’t there to realize their vision, and the player isn’t there to admire their brilliance. The game writer I want to work with wants to collaborate with the team to create the best player experience possible. That means crafting a story that shows off the features that the game is built around — no setting key plot moments on the featureless Siberian tundra for a stealth game, thanks.
Game writing is an odd form. Instead of a single script at the end, you often deliver a patchwork of moments that add up to a story.
Given the tremendous overlap with screenwriting, Craig and I have argued that the WGA needs to step up its efforts to represent videogame writers.