Going to keep this one fairly brief. Seems one of BioWare’s writers got into hot water for an alleged short interview she gave in 2006. Many gamers have since forced her to seek to delete her Twitter account with all the hate she’s been getting, such as “Cancer on gaming!”.
Seriously? Boys and girls, she’s a WRITER. And I’ll tell you this much – as a writer, your actual input on the whole project is… well. Minimal at best. We writers rarely get to actually say anything we want. I’ve been debating over my archive of work with some gusto with some potential publishers, and here’s the interesting part – although it documents my life for the past 16 years, the uglier stuff about my grandparents (legal guardians) dying, my suicide attempts, my tormented relationship with Rachel – they’d rather not use. In fact, their main criticism is “You’re very dark. Perhaps too dark to be commercially viable.”
That is the reality. Writers often end up having to give up control of their works to overzealous editors and typographers who will rewrite or edit parts to me more “commercial”. Being a writer for a game means you write as you are told. Or within the confines of what is being made. And if it isn’t good enough, you have to redo it. Over. And over. Until someone thinks its good enough to use.
Jennifer Hepler seems to have stated that in some cases, she’s simply love to skip some of the more inane and forced combat sequences padding a game out so the story skips along better. You know what? She’s right.
She’s not hating on games. Forcing combat where it isn’t needed or necessary is just as bad as forcing a game to slow down just so you can tell a story. It’s something the industry is very bad at, pacing. Something it can definitely use more practice on, that’s for sure. I find running into an arbitrary boss fight for the sake of it as annoying as walking into a town and being forced to watch a five minute cutscene. I find being forced to fight a plethora of dragons whilst I’m out escorting someone from vampires annoying – one thing at a sodding time please – and yet, when that person at the end of it traps me in several minutes of dialogue I just have no interest in, that annoys me too.
Pacing a game correctly is bloody hard. Pacing any story together is hard – especially short stories, where you have to convey so much in so little. In a game, the same rules apply. You don’t get long to make an impression – so a writer is invariably forced to dumb it down to bullet points.
Which brings me neatly back to this accusation of “Cancer on gaming”. Jennifer Hepler isn’t. The millions of gamers who constantly buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (and then moan about it afterwards), who complain about the finer points of games and don’t actually buy the really good ones when they come out (Beyond Good and Evil, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Okami, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and hundreds more can be inserted here). We buy, all too often, really bloody average games in our millions, and the better ones in a minority.
The cancer on gaming, oddly, is the gaming community. Who simply don’t know who they should be targeting, and instead take one writers comments out of context and give her authority and blame over departments she has no control over. We attack the good guys. The people who are TRYING to make things better. The people who want to make things better – be that Satoru Iwata for his speech last year about how quality sells and people should strive to make the best games they can, or Dr Tim Langdell making games again (which I maintain is a good thing, keeps him out of trouble!).
And we buy often average and awful games and encourage more of that, rather than good games that come out. We buy into hype. And we’re shocked that despite how average it was – wow, a new one! With more advertising! It MUST be better! No way could all our misspent money only be used on big-budget advertising…
The reason games are getting shorter, dumbed down and lacking things is those are the games that sell in their bucketloads. And millions of you are buying them.
Who is the real cancer on gaming? The writer who does her job? Or the millions of people who buy a really shit game based on ads and hype?
I am not immune. But perhaps the best way to improve games is, at least, to acknowledge that we’re easily duped, and better educate ourselves in how things work and why things are the way they are. Then we can be better informed, buy selectively and try to discourage others from the same path.
It isn’t rocket science. Buy shit games, they keep making shit games. Don’t buy good games, they make less of those good games.
Pattern recognition. This really is very simple. Wake up.
edit; And whilst I certainly don’t condone her tweeted response, I must say it did make me laugh a lot. She’s kind of right. Everyone skipped right past her point and went straight for the hate.
BioWare are guilty of many things of late. But focus the hate where it is necessary – if it’s Dragon Age 2, explain why it sucked for you. Just don’t burn all the bridges, you may need to get supplies in at some point and that can be really hard if you just raze everything to the ground…