Video game writing is … different. I’ve been playing around with it, and with an idea I have for it, and it’s just very different.
Writing is making decisions. And it can be really exhausting. Every decision that we make from the moment we wake up saps a bit of our energy. We have to decide to get up. We have to decide what to eat. We have to decide what to wear, what to watch, what to read, whether to drive or take the bus, is it raining? No, it’s cloudy, you should bring an umbrella.
Writing presents it’s own collection of decisions. Would this character do this? How would that character respond to what the character just did? What is the larger context for the character’s behaviour? Where are they? What is the history of that place? If the place is made up, there are even more decisions to be made.
What’s interesting and strange about writing for video games is that you still have to make choices but, if you’re operating with a storyline/gameplay model that privileges in-game decision-making on the part of the player, there is an expectation for multiple options to be given which all gradually add up to different endings. The depth and subtlety of the variations offered is another decision to make.
There’s also not a standardized form for writing video game scripts. Which in a sense is great, because it gives a great deal of freedom, but adds it’s own kinds of difficulties. I’ve been playing around on a site called Inklewriter, which is a free and open way of writing interactive stories. It is still in its beta phase, and has some good utility to it, but also has some notable limitations. Or, possibly, there are some gaps in my knowledge when it comes to using this system. Maybe I should email the developer. It is in the beta phase, maybe it would be helpful…
At the very least, I’ll tell you that one of the problems that I’m having with this program is that it won’t let me set up nodes, our blank table outlines to work my way up to. I can create unassociated links, keep them in the sidebar, and move them over when the time comes, but I’d love to have the ability to draw a line down from one part of the story to a point that I’m planning for that story to lead towards. It also doesn’t lend itself intuitively to script conventions, which is how I’d prefer to write this story.
It’s also interesting to think about the user experience, though I won’t claim that it’s something that I’ve thought about too extensively. It’s not something I know enough about for consideration of it to do anything other than impede me in terms of story-telling. And I’m facing enough challenges with this form without throwing another wrench in the works.
I should note that I’ve played a bit with other programs (all free ones, some of which I found through references made in the InkleWriter comments), and that my go-to program for novel and short story writing is Scrivener. Which is an awesome program, by the way, but not free, and it while it offers numerous formats for writing, it doesn’t really lend itself to the kind of mental map, serial killer’s wall of a story. Maybe I just need to get a really bit bulletin board and just do it. Bite the bullet and become the crazy person.