Saturday, November 01, 2003

Have a Rant

This is a small one, so you can read it twice if you want.

So Friday night I'm at the semi-regular Poker Game at a comic-book artist's house up in Green Lake, talking with a pleasant robot-builder in the kitchen (Yeah, I live in Seattle). She both works for Nintendo and is currently part of the National Novel Writing Month in a Month project that a lot of people are trying. The idea of NaNoWriMo is that what stops most people from writing novels is that they don't try, so this is a group activity where everybody tries to write a novel at the same time (December is "National Editors Throw Themselves Out Windows Month" - NaEdThroTheOutWind).

Anyway, in explaining the irony that someone with 20 years gaming experience somehow doesn't seem to have enough game experience for an industry that is about 20 years old, she came down hard on the side of the industry - of COURSE you have to have a deep understanding of Computer Games before even THINKING of writing for them.

I raise an eyebrow (though not my voice). So we have hundreds of amateurs plunging into the novel-writing field (which is a much larger and intricate work) like it was the Oklahoma land rush on one hand, but a deep and abiding understanding of nuance is needed to put text boxes in a computer game?

The thing is, I understand where this is coming from. Fiction, despite efforts to the contrary over the years, comes out of the amateur and the home. Where there have been attempts to formalize and restrain it, it always breaks free. Its very big tent, and I agree and support it. Computer games come out the Engineer-side of our universe, where things must be qualified and defined, where precise goals are set and then executed. Prerequisites are important when dealing with High Priest Engineering, and this is just one more example of that.

Not that I think you don’t need some level of understanding to write for computer games. All forms of writing have their requirements, quirks, and patterns. I would not think to sit down and write poetry and be bang-on perfect the first time (though as a writer, I probably have better odds of creating something passable). And in many cases, a knowledge of the tools is needed (a lot of on-line art comes out of a double-handful of programs, which is why they tend to look the same). I just think that its not the ultimate cut-level that some folk make it out to be. I've always railed against the idea of boxes - they always come down to "You've never done this before, therefore you obviously can't do it now." I hit it when moving from game design to fiction, from prose to comics, and now from game design to another flavor of game design. .

That’s my rant. More later,