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The Future of Interactive Storytelling

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The Game Writers Special Interest group, a community organized through the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), met for a group gathering at the Figueroa Hotel after the day’s events at E3. The group is composed of over fifty writers who specialize in interactive storytelling and are dedicated to bringing greater recognition to the largely unknown role of the writer during the development cycle of today’s videogames. Although the meeting was informal and lacked a structured agenda, its unregulated nature mirrored the profession’s decentralized spirit, a development that Game Writers SIG executive member Chris Bateman, noted for his work in the Discworld series, is determined to change.

Chris Klug, writer of EA’s massively multiplayer space title Earth and Beyond and professor of game design at Carnegie Mellon University, discussed the craft with Richard Dansky from Red Storm Entertainment, the man responsible for the majority of the story content in Tom Clancy games such as the Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon series as well as a few unannounced titles. Jennifer and Chris Helper exchanged viewpoints about writing for various media with their collegues, drawing on their experience writing for TV series The Agency, their just-completed initial run of the Top Cow comic M.Y.T.H. (due out in July), and work on an unspecified Bioware project and a mobile game for Tomo Software.

Writers Guild of America members Heather Szerlas and Sybil Grant reviewed progress made in achieving respectable benefits for game writers, bringing the prominent “Quality of Life” issue into the forefront of thought. For those filling conventional occupations such as programmer or artist in the games industry, the standard of living in a game development company is noticeably punishing—as evidenced by the recent EA Spouse scandal. Game writers, who typically receive even less benefits due to their largely transient status as contract employees, are beginning to address the QoL issue as it applies to them.

Overall, the event was an interesting glimpse into the unknown world of the individuals who create the narratives that drive games today, and also provided an intriguing snapshot of this often overlooked position within the profession.

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