– Or Emily Links You to Many Videos, Part One

I am going to talk about bad writing in video games. And by me, I actually mean the awesome people at Extra Credits. And by talk, I actually mean respond to.

I direct your attention to the video below:


The argument in this video, (in case you didn’t watch it, in which case you are missing out on some quality stuff. Please watch it. I’ll wait. Done? Good) is that writing in video games is considered separate from the entire process. I think of this as something akin to writing a script for a movie – you write this script, and then the game gets made and everything is great. Right? Well, not exactly.

For the sake of this blog post (and, let’s be honest, the rest of this series), I will be talking about two games and how they convey their stories: Deus Ex and Journey. Both of these games, in my opinion, have excellent stories. The narrative is handled differently, of course (duh, Emily, jeeze) but over all, they have excellent writing.

“But Journey doesn’t have dialogue!!!” Yes, intelligent reader in the back, but I guarantee a writer was involved. “BUT WRITING NEEDS WORDS.”  Okay, Caps-lock Guy, calm down. Writing does not need words in the world of video games.

Video games are interactive, which means that the story is told through cut scenes, dialogue options, music, codexes, and game mechanics. Journey is a story told entirely through silent, pre-rendered cut scenes and the mechanics of your little clothite’s journey, which are incredibly simple. Yet, there is undoubtably an incredibly moving story in those mechanics.

Let’s look at Deus Ex: Human Revolution, though, because that game does have dialogue. The story in this game is delivered through dialogue options and cutscenes, and less through the mechanics at first glance. Except you have so many valid ways of game play, and so many options that also affect the story – you can read every single email and ebook, for instance. But Deus Ex does something else that really makes its story interesting- it plays really heavily on your emotions. Seriously, there is a section at then end that feels terrifying and dangerous simply because of the music (also, the twist that come out of left field).

The point I’m trying to make here (and really, the point is made much better in the video, so watch it) is that writing for video games involves all of the dialogue and codex entries, but also all of the game mechanics and play options as well. Writers are considered late in development, or considered complet individuals who don’t need to work with the dev team, and I think that’s where writing goes wrong. The writer needs to account for all of the factors that go into something – like camera directions in movie scripts, or the mechanics of a game. And the writer needs to work with the dev team, because they’ll know how everything works.

Essentially, work together, writers/dev teams, and you’ll tell a better story.

tl;dr: Emilly rambles about video games and you should really watch Extra Credits