Tag Archives: reading

Should computer and video game writing be taken seriously?

Should computer and video game writing be taken seriously?

After my previous babbling about Sci-Fi I thought I’d keep my nerd gene rolling and delve into the world of computer gaming. More specifically writing in computer gaming. As the title suggests I’m asking if it should be taken seriously. And as I’m the one writing this thing, I’ll also answer the question. Yes it absolutely should be taken seriously. The issue in
our society is that gaming in its entirety is not looked upon as equal to other hobbies, or indeed other forms of media. It’s considered “sad” by many, or a pursuit the should be left behind when we leave adolescence. In Germany, Nazi imagery is not permitted in games because the law considers a video game to be a toy, not a form of media alongside books and films.   People will often ask if a game can be considered art. Of course it can, if beauty truly is the eye of the beholder then certainly art resided in the same place. The reality is that the kids who were gaming back in the 80s grew up with their hobby and are now the adult gamers of the present. Gaming has grown up with them as much as they grew up with gaming. In contrast the Germany situation, during Obama’s state visit to Poland in 2011 the Polish government presented him with a copy of The Witcher 2. It’s all about perception and the illusion of reality.

As with all art, not all games are equal. Neither in intent or in execution. The developers of many games never expect the writing to be taken seriously, that’s not the experience they’re intending to deliver. However some games are there to deliver a story and some games succeed.

 

In 1999 Planescape Torment hit the shelves, it did not sell well, largely due to its dreadful box art. It received lukewarm reviews, however over years it became one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time. It stood head and shoulder above its contemporaries in one very important area. That area was story. The game drew on some heavyweight vocal talent, from Sheena Easton to The Simpson’s Dan Castellaneta, but that was just the icing on the cake. The guts of the game were its deep story and expansive and descriptive text. Every character had a back story, every location a history and every plot line a twist or at least the odd turn. The protagonist was a hulking grey skinned mammoth of a man with a past even he had forgotten. In your journey across the game you forged the next chapter of his life, from his moral choices to his personality. At one point I recall him holding a large yellow sphere, I know how that thing looked, felt and smelled. I also know how it made the protagonist feel. I know because the writers took the time to craft it.

The 1998 adventure game Grim Fandango chronicled the story of Manny Calavera and his 600full-grim-fandango-coverjourney across the Land of the Dead. The game was set in Mexican folklore’s Land of the Dead with a distinctly film noir spin. The final scene sees Manny forced to say a final goodbye to his closet friend. The writing along with the excellent animation and vocal performances conjures an emotional scene rivalling that of any Hollywood movie. I still remember being moved in a way that few films or even books have managed.

To give a more recent example, the 2007 game Mass Effect is a Sci-Fi Role Playing Game that puts the player in the shoes of Commander Shepard in his (or her depending on plyer choice) quest to save the universe from an ancient and mysterious alien race. Two things always struck me about the writing in this game. Firstly the sheer complexity. Due to the interactive nature of a game, characters can die, and the story can take multiple paths depending on player choice. By the start of the games second sequel, just envisioning the number of different story permutations is difficult, let alone writing a cohesive story that takes all these into account. Secondly the level to which the player identifies with the protagonist. The game by its nature allows the player to make countless choices, from more simple conversation options to quite lefty moral decisions. This game threw something at me which no non-interactive medium ever could. Towards the story’s climax you are forced to make a command decision. Either decision will result in the almost certain death of one of two crew members. These crew members are established characters, fully realised with backstories that had been revealed through my interactions with them in the game. From a story point of view I had an emotional investment in both of them, yet I was being forced to essentially sacrifice one to save the other. It was a genuinely difficult decision. This is something that cannot be rivalled in a non-interactive medium.

All in all, games are a largely misunderstood medium in UK society at least, the patronising nature of any gaming related BBC news story brings this home on a semi regular basis. Does this mean that game writing has less value than any other type? I say no and I believe that the most well know games writer Drew Karpyshyn would agree. As I said earlier. It’s all about perception and the illusion of reality. Writing is writing and always takes skill and imagination.

Morgan

Website: www.thehalcyonorder.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/halcyonorder

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/halcyonrebirth

I’d love to hear any communication via twitter.  Comments here tend to get lost in my inbox.

Why is sci-fi frowned upon?

Why is sci-fi frowned upon?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how Sci-fi and fantasy works of fiction are viewed by UK and US society. The genre is often dismissed as geeky, nerdy, for anoraks, or more politely as: “Not for me.” Halcyon Rebirth took me a long time to write, during that time I’d often be asked “What’s it about then?” I’d give a brief synopsis of the plot and the stock reply was “Oh, that sounds a bit Sci-fi for me.” The bloody thing isn’t even Sci-Fi. If I had to pigeon hole it I’d probably go with Supernatural Contemporary Fantasy. It sure as hell ain’t Science Fiction. Similarly I was reading a mini-review of Battlestar Galactic in the Radio Times. I forget the exact wording but the argument made, and tone portrayed was basically “I know it’s nerdy sci-fi but it actually good in spite of that.”b51

So my question is simple. Why is sci-fi frowned upon? I’m going to focus on TV programs here. Look at US TV, with the exception of the newer Star Treks, most Sci-Fi lives on the brink of cancelation due to poor ratings. The program Firefly only lasted fourteen Episodes despite critical acclaim. Whereas NCIS is up to eleven seasons despite the fact that almost every episode has the same basic story construction, copy and pasted week in week out.. Sci-Fi simply does not get the ratings.

Is it reasonably and logical to discount a work of fiction based solely on its genre? I think it depends on the genre. With a romantic comedy, horror or murder mystery the genre is informed at least in part by the plot. So it’s reasonable to draw at least some conclusions based on your individual taste. However if the genre is Sci-Fi, Fantasy, period or western, etc. then only the setting is defined with no hard and fast rules as to the characters or story. A lot of fuss has been made over the years about how the newer Battlestar Galactic was ground-breaking because it focused on people with relatable problems. One article even claimed that “Sci-Fi had grown up.” The thing is that BSG didn’t really do anything special. Personally I didn’t like that show because I felt the characters simply had no depth or individuality. BSG did nothing that Babylon 5 didn’t do far better back in the mid 90s, it just made things a lot more depressing and got noticed as something different to the perceived paradigm.

Why is sci-fi frowned upon? Personally I think there’s no good reason. I think it’s an inverted version of the Emperor’s new clothes. The herd say it’s not the sort of thing “normal” people like so “normal” people don’t like it. My challenge to any of the Sci-Fi sceptics is to get hold of a copy of Firefly and give it a go, then branch out form there. Avoid Farscape though, at least at first, that is nerdy.

Morgan

Website: www.thehalcyonorder.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/halcyonorder

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/halcyonrebirth

I’d love to hear any communication via twitter.  Comments here tend to get lost in my inbox.

How I Started Writing

So, this is my first blog post. I suppose I should tell you about how I started writing.   I had a character, the character Gabriel and the start of a book in my head since I was seventeen. Over the years, ideas would pop in and out of my head. Even to the point where I had an end to the story and a couple of plot points.  However I had nowhere near enough for a short story let along a novel.

One fine summer’s day, a friend and I were sat in the beer garden of my local pub, slowly approaching drunkenness.  My friend, name of Stafford, was telling me about a book he had started writing. (check out @StaffordADavid on twitter for his latest project, I’ve read a bit of an early draft and it’s damn good)  We talked about his work for a while then I mentioned that I’d always fancied it but only had bits of a book.  His advice was “Just stagarden.jpg-largert writing and see where it takes you.”   So that’s what I did.  The next day I dragged my laptop out to a shady corner of the garden and gave it a go.  I got quit far before hitting my first brick wall. Took a break from writing for a few weeks while I thought about it and wrote some more, hit another brick wall, did the same thing.  Then work got quite stressful and I couldn’t concentrate enough to write properly for a two years.  The book was never out of my head completely though.

To be honest I never expected to get it finished, let alone published, even as an ebook.   I wrote for fun and I wrote as an artistic outlet. I’d recommend anyone who gets the urge gives it a go. To be honest I don’t know if the book’s any good. I like it, and my proofreaders like it.  I guess I’ll find out after it hits Amazon and I dare to look at the customer reviews.

Morgan

Website: www.thehalcyonorder.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/halcyonorder

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/halcyonrebirth

I’d love to hear any communication via twitter.  Comments here tend to get lost in my inbox.