In film, the screenplay is often thought of as the blueprint for the production. Very often, the screenwriter has nothing to do with the actual production. The director will comb through the script, thinking about different angles and shots. The producers may say sadly: We can’t afford that helicopter shot or those special effects. All the while, the script gets changed according to budget, time, and circumstances.
Sometimes, it’s more collaborative. The director is also writing and producing or they’re a team that has worked together before. They already know the limitations of the budget and time. The screenplay is written with forethought of these issues.
While the first scenario may bring to mind the way a game design document functions in game development, it certainly isn’t the standard for game writing. Much as it might delight me to see the story document reign supreme in game development, I would have to say the second scenario, while not an exact match, is closest to how writing is used in games.
Naturally, we hope that the writing will support the gameplay and that the gameplay will support the story. A game writer should understand interactivity just like we’d expect a screenwriter to understand the visual language of film. And since cinematics are in games, a game writer should have those screenwriting skills as well. If I were to pick the ideal situation, I’d want a writer who knew not to write beyond the limitations of the engine, i.e. I’d want a writer who understood game design issues. I’d want a writer with foresight to think about production in its entirety, about issues like localization and staying true to IP.
Only then will we make strides towards a game vernacular.
What do you think?