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Considering Medium Strengths

When you write for a range of media you begin to realise that some things are easier to achieve in one medium than in others. A novelist can describe things in paragraph that would take hundreds of man hours to render in a film, and films can tell stories with a quirk of an actor’s eyebrow that would required a day in an expensive motion capture studio to achieve in a videogame.

Artists and writers in any medium want their works to be relatable. That’s probably pretty obvious, but what might not be obvious is that a creator cannot use the same techniques across all media to achieve this.

I’m primarily a novelist (look, here’s proof!) but I’ve also written scripts for the screen, designed videogames and, in a particularly enlightening experience, adapted a novel for film. You know how so many book-to-film adaptations end up being awful? Yeah, turns out there’s a reason for that.

Books and films are very different beasts, and while it might seem that all you’d really have to do is make the stuff that happens in the book show up on the screen, the process isn’t nearly that simple. There’s an economy of assets to consider. It’s certainly not the only thing that makes book-to-film adaptions hard to get right, but it’s what I want to discuss today, because it’s also applicable to games. Continue reading

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Times and Places – Childhood, Videogames & You

When was the first time you can remember playing a videogame? My first gaming memory comes courtesy of Virgin Atlantic; I was on a flight from London to New York, and there was a SNES built into the back of the seat in front (more specifically, it was a Nintendo Gateway System). I think I managed to play Super Mario World for the entire of the 8-hour flight, and I don’t think I managed to beat the first level. I was 7 years old.

I remember my childhood in fragments; snatches of times and places arranged into a haphazard narrative of things I did when I was little. I’m not sure if I remember more or less of my childhood than most people; I have friends who remember their early years with storybook accuracy and others who remember next to nothing, so my patchy recollections are probably about average.

What I know for sure is that the memories that are most vivid for me are the ones that involved strong emotions. Lots of things trigger strong emotions when you’re a child. Getting an awesome Bugs Bunny cake when I was maybe three, then being distraught to see it cut up into chunks. Playing a particularly great tag/swordfighting hybrid with friends in some nondescript play park. Getting so impatient with my mum not paying attention to me that I bit her hand, hard, and immediately feeling overwhelming remorse.

Media triggers strong emotions when you’re a child. I vividly remember the room at my grandparents’ house where I sequestered myself and finished Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass for the first time. I can remember the exact smell of the room as I put the book down and spent the next ten minutes just trying to digest what I was feeling.

Videogames feature heavily in my memories of childhood. Perhaps it’s something in the interactivity of the medium that let me get more invested in my childhood games than in books or films. When I was really young I would conscript videogame stories and elements into my real-life play; in that way my game life and my real life became intertwined. Continue reading

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When you say you don’t want story in games…

As a writer and a gamer, I tend to devote a fair amount of my online blathering to discussions of writing in games. It’s the point where my two main interests overlap, and also something I’m interested in as a writer and developer myself.

Of course whenever I talk about story and writing in games, I always encounter at least one person who will argue that story and writing have no place in games. Their argument is that games are primarily a mechanical medium and adding story just gets in the way of their mechanical purity.

To those people: when you say you don’t want story in games, I don’t think you mean that at all. I think what you mean is that you don’t want loads of text or dialogue in games, which is a completely valid desire but also a totally different one. Continue reading

Fields of Glass

Fields of Glass

Fields of Glass is an interactive love story set against the backdrop of the great Martian collapse.

This is my first foray into writing interactive fiction – a story that unfolds differently according to your choices and actions. It was put together using Twine, an open source tool for telling nonlinear interactive stories.

Click here to check it out.

You should be able to load it on just about any internet-enabled device, from PC to tablet to telephone – just open the link in your browser of choice.

One thing I discovered during the writing process is that it’s incredibly hard to error-check and edit something this sprawling, so there are about to be a few errors as of now. If you find anything out of place, please let me know, and I’ll get it updated!

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Diversity, Censorship and Artistic Criticism

There’s a lot of debate right now about diversity and inclusivity in games. The fact that there is a lot of debate is good, the nature of a lot of the debate less so. Today I want to talk about a specific facet of one argument; the idea that feminism, or more broadly the general diversity movement, is out to ‘censor the artistic creativity‘ of games designers.

The idea is that by criticising sexist or exclusionist elements in videogames, proponents of diversity are actually seeking to control and censor the work of the artists designing these videogames by forcing them to adopt more inclusive, more ‘PC’ elements.

Now a lot of this argument can be boiled down to ‘actually I like chainmail bikinis, so everyone else should shut up’ which is simple enough to write off, but then I remembered the debate around the game Dragon’s Crown and thought that it might actually be worth having a discussion about artistic freedom, criticism, censorship, and the difference between those last two words. Continue reading