I’d like to think that most writers get to where they are because of cold, hard experience. Nobody employs morons. At least nobody sets out to employ morons. The average writer would at least be a reader, that should be a given.
A reader would have a more than passable vocabulary and quite possibly, the imagination to keep dreaming up world after world. The skill to string the right words together is what makes them a writer.
So why the shitty writing in video games? Or perhaps, why do some games have such a shitty story?
This Bad Writing video from Extra Credits clearly demonstrate why.
This hits especially hard for writers who have never written a story for a game before. They are most likely one of those gamers endlessly disappointed by shitty writing in video games that they believe they can shake the industry and make something special.
One does not simply shake the industry.
It is important to note that when I say ‘writing’ or ‘story’ I mean it as a process that fits all the elements together. From the words that come out of the NPC’s mouths, to how a house looks like, to the appearance (or nonexistence) of man-eating rats. It’s the living and breathing thing that writhes underneath all the button punching. You cannot see it but without it, your experience is meaningless.
Most of the time, writers are treated like an afterthought. Worse, like gods. People ask for a story as if it’s something tangible. That’s the first mistake. You can’t quantify story.
Why are there tons of Call of Duty clones? Because Call of Duty sells. A writer who wants to shake the industry with a totally different kind of FPS would get his ass handed to him. Or fired.
Surprise, surprise. Writers don’t call the shots. Unless of course you’re making a game out of your own money. The decisions are already made and as writers, all they’re expected to do is to draw the line from Point A to Point B. And even that line is already decided for them. “Not too short” “Not too dark” “Dragons” “Moral Alignment” “Boobs”
Next time you complain about bad writing in video games, remember that most writers are just slaves to the industry they write for; Shackled by the same limitations in technology and statistical evidence. Nobody wants to fund a crazy idea because we all need money.
In the same light, next time you play a game with good writing, praise it. Give all your money to it. Good writing in a game means that the studio thinks story is important. That a good narrative is important. That they are willing to invest time, effort and resources to give you a believable world to get lost in.
And to all the writers out there of any medium, I know that feel bro.