Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Writing and video games

I am a self-declared sci-fi geek. I have no problem living with that label. In a society where etiquette and labels are important (sadly), this is one I even wear proudly. My hometown of Montréal is the home of many brilliant companies, some of which are extremely popular in the gaming industry. Sure, we have Céline Dion and the Cirque du Soleil (which are all amazing), but Ubisoft Montréal and Eidos Montréal have forged their reputations as the leaders in the video game development industry.

Where am I going with this? Yesterday, I watched the trailer for an upcoming 2011 game. Deus Ex 3, the third (duh!) game in the popular Deus Ex franchise, which is a hybrid of FPS/RPG like Mass Effect. I've never played any Deus Ex games, they are however hailed as classics, especially the first (which came out in 1998).

Deus Ex 3 is being developed by Eidos Montréal, and at the popular E3 Game Convention, they revealed a brand new CG trailer. ANY video game addict will drool, but what really captivated me was the music.

Composed by Michael McCann (Montréal based composer! I told you we have a lot of talent here!), the cue used in the trailer is phenomenal. I've already dedicated a page to music and explained how vital it was to my writing process. ESPECIALLY trailer music. Before I go any further, you need to listen to the trailer. Then a second time, but only concentrate on the beautiful music, and how it creates a dramatic atmosphere that would be entirely different was it not there.

Isn't it amazing? I've found video games have been the subject of terrific storytelling and writing. Sadly, the misconception that video games are usually deprived of content and only deliver bloody violence has shed a dark cloud over the gaming world.

Games like The Witcher (PC, based on a novel), Zelda:Ocarina of Time (N64) or Knights of the Old Republic (PC) have won countless and prestigious awards for a reason: the immersion they provide is absolutely complete. It is like reading a novel IN WHICH YOU ARE THE PROTAGONIST! They provide experiences that are unlike any novel can provide, and this is especially true of Role-Playing Games (RPG) like Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect or the ever popular World of Warcraft (which I never played because I can't stand it).

Blizzard, the company that continuously develops World of Warcraft (WoW), has hired hundreds of fantasy writers to fulfill the storytelling needs of their game. Stories that hundreds of millions of people have explored in their gaming sessions. For the past five years, epic fantasy writers have had better luck getting hired by Blizzard than finding an agent through the query process (I'm making this up, but the opinion is shared by many).

Even simulation games like The Sims have spawned legions of fanatic followers. The Sims is probably one of the most successful gaming franchise in history (ask @hannahmosk why!), and a true money printing machine for Electronic Arts. Why is that?


I hear a lot of criticism towards gaming, especially when E3 is underway. There are as many bad games as there are bad novels, but there are as many classics and gems as well. Writing for a game, a screenplay or a novel isn't all that different when you're creating a setting.

I approached TRINITY in the same way. I needed to create a world in which readers could immerse themselves, somewhere entirely knew they could explore and get to know as they turned the pages. Toturia became that place for me. Then, the fidemeles and Olaf were born, I took an entire week to design the anicus as I wanted it, and so on... to the smallest details, like video game developers do.

In a very real way, gaming has changed my life on more than one occasion. When I watch and listen to trailers like the Deus Ex 3 teaser, I remember why. Can you look me in the eye and tell me you did not find the music uplifting?

What games DO YOU play? What's your opinion about gaming? Did you ever play a game that influenced your writing?

1 comment:

Jaimie said...

The only game that has influenced my writing is World of Warcraft. Mostly the flying/nature stuff. Not the gameplay.

(Saw you on Rachelle Gardner's page -- saw you were reading The Magicians. I LOVE that book.)