I attended a panel discussion about storytelling in the gaming industry in Montreal on Wednesday night. I’m hoping for a video/podcast (something happened with the camera…so we will see). The host was Alex Epstein, and the panelists were (with an additional producer from Funcom):
Mary DeMarle is the lead writer for Eidos’s new RPG, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. A former animation writer for Hanna-Barbera in Hollywood, DeMarle also created the story for Myst III and IV.
Richard Rouse III is the Narrative Director of an action/combat game at Ubisoft Montreal. He created, designed and wrote The Suffering action/horror video game franchise. Rouse has lectured about games on five continents. His Game Design: Theory & Practice is one of the most popular books on game development.
Nina L. Sund has spent the past two years writing lore and backstory for Secret World, an upcoming MMO. She began as a hardcore Anarchy Online player, moving into Funcom’s story development team. Sund also wrote dialogue for Age of Conan, trying to recreate the narrative voice of Robert E. Howard.
Stephen Wark began as a board game enthusiast, but his skill as a technial writer brought him into the game industry. Now a game designer at Ludia, Wark creates game concepts, mechanics, scripts and concepts for a range of games from casual puzzles to online education RPGs.
Since I am not a “gamer” by any stretch of the imagination (although I was great at shooting things in Doom during my college occupation), I find it fascinating that there is an entire world of adventure that people seek and obtain emotional experiences in outside of the “real” world. What captures imaginations like this? I think it has something to do with the ultimate feeling of control over one’s environment. You can assume the role of a character, and you can BECOME what you can’t be in real life. I saw a news broadcast about this whereby someone in a wheelchair no longer had the wheelchair as a detriment in the game world, and he felt that he could be himself without judgment. Taking this a step further, you are also allowed to conduct yourself in any way imaginable (based on how the developers have crafted the game, hoping to give you enough fun to amuse you), and can do things that go against the normal civility of the day. Like, for instance, shooting someone when they won’t hand you a briefcase (like one of the panelists told us she did).
I believe the next several evolutions of gaming will stretch into 3D, holographic and VR, AI, etc….even more so than they do today. How can they not?
Nevertheless, people are hungry for good storytelling and compelling characters. Maybe it speaks to our need for mythology, to be a part of something more interesting that what normal life provides, or to simply blow off steam. I would love to see some academic research into the psychology of gaming. I think it would be a fascinating topic.