I Want to Do More. I Want to Do Better.

April 3rd, 2013video games

I spent last week at the largest gathering of video game developers in the world: the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California.

It was amazing. It was five intense days of lectures, networking, and learning. I met a wide array of folks in the business from journalists to fellow game writers. I had a blast, and more than any other time in my life I realized that square in the video games industry is exactly where I want to be.

I was inspired, not only to push my own contribution to games but to push games in general.

I want to do more. I want to do better.

I listened to Walt D. Williams, Lead Writer at 2K Games, talk about constructing Sgt. Walker’s arc in Spec Ops: The Line. He spoke about crafting player dialogue and NPC responses to the place in the story, about the difference between actions justified by circumstance and actions rationalized by characters.

I listened to Jay Posey, from Red Storm, talk about real experiences versus authentic experiences, how perception deceives us and how gamemakers must play toward that, even when it veers away from reality, to deliver a more convincing experience.

I listened to Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio, from the studio behind Dishonored, talk about abstracting causality into interrelated systems rather than scripted events.

I listened to Tom Abernathy from Microsoft talk about wanting games in which his biracial daughter can see herself as the hero of the story.

I listed to Elizabeth Sampat, Brenda Romero, Leigh Alexander, and other women from within and around the games industry talk about their experiences getting into and working in the industry, how women are portrayed in games and the show floor, and what they want for future generations of women at the #1ReasonToBe panel.

I listened to all these amazing people, and more, and came away inspired as never before.

I want to do more. I want to do better.

I want to work on games that have something to say beyond “Press RT to Shoot.”

I want to write for characters other than the blandly handsome 30-year old white guy that marketing approved.

I want to explore motivations beyond revenge.

I want to explore emotions beyond anger.

I want to play AAA video games where more time is spent on creating authentic characters than crafting realistic gun sounds.

I want to spend time exploring the vast array of stories that relate to all of us as well as those that shine light into areas I would have otherwise never seen.

I want to do more than justify murder for a living.

Because, as a game writer, that’s what I do.

“Here’s why it’s okay for you to go here and kill these people.”

“Here’s why it’s okay for you to go here and kill these people.”

“Here’s why it’s okay for you to go here and kill these other people.”

It’s lazy. And it’s shallow.

And, yes, it can be fun. But surely we as an industry have more to say than “Nazis/aliens/robots/zombies/thugs are bad.”

I want to do more. I want to do better.

We will always have our summer blockbusters. But we need games that address more. Backed with solid mechanics, yes. Backed with engaging gameplay, yes. Presenting a challenge for the core gamer, yes. That takes advantage of the current social media paradigm, yes. We can have all those things and still do more than tell Major John Dragonwolf to Press RT to Shoot all the Bad Guys. All of this already exists in the indie scene, in the downloadable scene, in the tablet scene, but the Face of Video Games—the midnight openings, the eight-figure marketing budgets, the exclusive magazine covers—are almost entirely the same old thing.

We are an industry of incredibly smart people, each with a unique history and perspective. We’re puzzlemakers. And this is our challenge: Do more. Do better.

We can. If enough of us want to.

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I’m Speaking at GDC 2013

February 11th, 2013news, video games

Ever since joining the video game industry, I’ve wanted to attend two events: E3 and the Game Developers Conference. This year, not only am I attending the latter but I’m speaking on a panel there! I’m crazy excited to hang out with some peers, including long-time friend and supersmart guy Ed Lima, and talk shop in front of an audience of industry folks. I think about story in games a lot, especially the areas in which it fails, and I look forward to discussing that at length. The panel, Dialogue: When, Who, and Why, focuses on the the cheapest and easiest way to convey story—and we as an industry can do a lot better. But I won’t stand on my soapbox now; I’ll wait until next month.

You can read about the panel, and my fellow panelists, here. GDC 2013 runs March 27-29th in San Francisco, CA. If you’re able to make it out, swing by the panel or look me up at the convention!

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