Monday, March 30, 2009

Game Developers Can’t Write

Yes, I know. That headline is simultaneously entirely unfair and entirely untrue. But still, what other conclusion can you draw from this:

Fallout 3 took top honors at the Game Developers Choice Awards last night. It was selected for game of the year and best writing. (emphasis mine)

Game Developers gave Fallout 3 best writing. Not fans. Not the Obama Administration. Other game developers. I am, as usual, beside myself. Hey, my picture’s not in the dictionary under “writing” either. There’s a reason I’m an editor of books. Not even fiction books, or cool nature books, or stuff read at the upper echelons of university study, but f’ing books on Windows and iLife. So when I criticize, I do so with full knowledge of the fact that –as a writer… and most other things- I am nothing. That does not mean, however, that the writing in Fallout 3 was not, largely, ass.

Look, Fallout 3 has a lot of merit. I can buy developers awarding it game of the year. I didn’t think that highly of it, but different strokes and all that. The game did a lot of things very, very well. But the writing? If there was one single thing that held this game back from being truly great, it was the writing. And you know, maybe that’s not all lead writer Emil Pagliarulo’s fault. Maybe it’s Todd Howard’s or some other dude who remains nameless.

So, Emil, if you’re somehow reading this I apologize if it offends or hurts feelings.  To be fair, there were times you did your job in Fallout 3 exceedingly well. But seriously. Your game had a radiation immune mutant unwilling to enter a radiated room because it wasn’t his destiny. You had the bizarre sequence in Vault 101 in which the overseer goes absolutely bonkers and everybody goes along with it, evidently, just cuz. You had the clumsy ass schism in the Enclave in which they end up fighting each other and no matter whose side you’re on, Eden still likes you and that colonel guy still hates you. And what the hell was with the colonel guy, anyway? Did I have to kill him twice with no explanation or was that just a trick of the pixels? Oh yeah, and the completely f$#%tard way in which the player convinces Eden to remove himself from the equation. Me: “Hey, I think you’re wrong and you should go away.” Eden: “Okey-dokey.”

Seriously? That earns you a best writing award from your fellow developers?

You have to love his quote about winning, though:

I was a nerd growing up in South Boston. To all the nerds growing up in South Boston, don't play hockey. Don't join Little League. Stay in your room, read your Lloyd Alexander and play 'Dungeons and Dragons.' It all works out in the end.

A Lloyd Alexander reference in that context makes up for a lot of Fallout 3 pitfalls. That’s just money. And hey, you do have an award and I don’t so you’re clearly a lot smarter and better at this than I am. That or you just know people. I don’t know anybody. Well, I know Bill. And thus this blog’s entire readership and my freelance gig at Gameshark.

I know the wrong people.

Regardless, kudos to you, sir! An award that’s well deserv… well, you won it, anyway. So, here’s to you! If we ever should meet face-to-face and you don’t slug me in the nose first, I will buy you many beers and toast your success! (Sincerely.)