The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is a great place to hear about what is happening in the gaming industry. As a writer, I was most interested in the narrative track, and I sat in on 7 different talks about Narrative in Games. I’ve listed my favorite highlights from three of them below.
Video Game Rx: Narrative as Therapy
Kim Shashoua (Researcher, Therapist (MsWi))
I came into this talk not sure what to expect, but Ms. Shashoua was a great speaker, and had some very interesting things to say about therapy in games. Ms. Shashoua discussed games as both active and passive therapy to players. I really enjoyed her discussion on how game companies can be more active by understanding how their games affect those who might have a mental illness. She broke it down into Virtual Narrative Therapy (education on dealing with emotional and mental problems), Passive Narrative Effects (see description below), and Active Skill Acquisition (purposely giving the player tasks that can be used in life).
One of the topics I found the most interesting was:
“Passive Narrative Effects:
Repetition leads to learning. The more you see something the more you expect it in everyday life.
Minorities are not the only ones who benefits from seeing different types of characters in games. Games can cause problems when expectations don’t match reality.”
When someone only sees a subgroup of people in a stereotyped fashion, when they interact in life they will fall back on the stereotype when dealing with people. If they see people in various different roles and attitudes, they are more likely to be opened minded about the new type of person that they meet. One example the speaker gave was a young man who only sees a specific type of helpless female in games, will become ingrained with the idea that all women are helpless.
Mobile Game Storytelling Lessons
Erik Marcisak, Sr. (Narrative Design - Eidos Montreal) http://www.marcisak.com/index.htm
This talk went over lessons learned in mobile game play that could also be used for all video games. Mr. Marcisak discussed that in mobile it was imperative to keep everything concise, and how that now makes him a better writer for all games. There were three things to keep in mind when writing dialogue.
“When writing dialogue for Mobile it’s good to keep in mind three things:
1. Clicks: How often a player needs to click to get through the dialogue (Lower is better).
2. Meat: The important stuff that the player must know.
3. Fat: Words around the important information.”
Knowing how to strip the fat to fit dialogue to a tiny screen can really improve a writer’s ability to find the important parts of every conversation.
Love/Hate Relationships: New Approaches to Romantic Relationships
Chris Dahlen http://savetherobot.com/
Mr. Dahlen discussed how to change up the way we deal with relationships in video games. Right now, in many games there is a single scale that will go up and down, but doesn’t allow for different types of interaction.
He wanted to use Romantic Comedies as the basis for a multiscale chart for dealing with relationships in games. The player is allowed to mess up the relationship, but they can still end up with the other person as long as they are trying. The characters can be flawed, and the relationship will still work.
The Other Talks:
User Responses to Narrative-Driven Games
Fasih Sayin, PhD (Producer/Game Systems Designer, Crytek)
It's Not in the Writer's Manual: A Q&A Session for New Writers
Chris Avellone (Creative Director, Obsidian Entertainment), Vander Caballero (Creative Director, Minority Media), Toiya Kristen Finley (Narrative Designer/Game Writer and Consultant, Schnoodle Media, LLC), Elizabeth LaPensee (Game Designer and Researcher, Independent), Jill Murray (Director of Narrative Design, Ubisoft), Jonathon Myers (CEO & Creative Director, Reactive Studios)
Making Storytelling a Fundamental part of the Gameplay Experience
Thomas Grip - Creative Director, Fictional Games
Fewer Tifas and More Sephiroths? Male Sexualization in Games
Michelle Clough http://michelle-clough.com/
- Trisha Huang
Game Writer, Kiwi, Inc.