Monday, April 6, 2009

Vampires, Game Writing and Kitchen Sinks

I’m a strong believer that there is no such thing as a good pun, but I was going to achieve fame and immortality by titling this post, “Interview with a Vampire Writer.” Okay, that sucks too, but I like it anyway because I made it up and therefore -awesome. Then I went back and re-read the title of the post to which I was going to link, “Interview Without a Vampire.”

So much for that.

Moving on. Rock, Paper, Shotgun has an interview up this morning with Brian Mitsoda, a writer for the shoulda-been-a-classic PC RPG: Vampire: Bloodlines. I still need to track down a copy of this game and play it. I like vampire stories (Twilight excepted). I like PC RPGs. The only reason I never made time for it was its rep for being unforgivably buggy. Another one for the wasted potential Scott & Jean file, I suppose. –sigh- I’m digressing again. 

Anyway, the point of all this (hey, that only took four paragraphs to get to) -in addition to being an interesting read overall- is that Mitsoda has a great, great quote about the game industry’s failure to separate good writing from good gameplay. (Cue my rant about Fallout 3 winning a writing award.)  Here’s the quote, but be sure to check out the whole interview:

I think if critics are going to focus on a game’s writing, they should analyze not only the marriage of the narrative to the gameplay, but set some higher standards for what they expect from characters, plot, and dialogue.

A good scene, a good line, and/or a decent character do not make a game’s story great. Bad writing is bad writing – it might not matter if the game is fun, but don’t score the story higher because the game mechanics were tight or the setting was novel. Ultimately, the writing really isn’t that key to a fantastic game, but for those that do make it a crucial part of their game and hype it as such, those are the games the gaming press should be a lot more critical of. And for those that identify themselves as game writers, critics and fans should absolutely hold feet to flames ad infinitum, myself included.