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#1 Posted by coaxmetal (1577 posts) -

I've always been surprised with the lack of attention generally terrible writing gets in video games, since in general, with surprisingly few exceptions, the writing is indeed terrible. In this article by some guy he uses the whole tomb raider thing to make some good points about why game writing is really bad, and I thought it was cool.

http://thegodofgames.tumblr.com/post/25020578964/tomb-raider-on-writing

The vast majority of these idiots who make these games can’t write. They can’t tell stories. They can’t construct proper narrative arcs or realistically flesh out a character. They can’t write meaningful dialogue. They are not writers, but they think they are. The reason why they think they are is that no-one challenges the quality of their work. They are only writing games. They’re allowed to turn out shit and call it a job well done.

Gotta tell it like it is.

#2 Posted by SexyToad (2760 posts) -

Gotta tell it like it is.

#3 Posted by coaxmetal (1577 posts) -

Yup. Lay it out, don't pull your punches, shit on your enemies, etc

#4 Posted by wjb (1637 posts) -

Gotta tell it like it is.

#5 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4676 posts) -

A baby's gotta do what a baby's gotta do.

#6 Posted by Soapy86 (2620 posts) -

I know I can't possibly be the only who really doesn't care that video game writing is "terrible". I mean what the hell are you comparing game writing to that is so great? And why are you expecting video games to live up to that?

Gotta tell it like it is.

#7 Posted by believer258 (11633 posts) -

@Soapy86 said:

I know I can't possibly be the only who really doesn't care that video game writing is "terrible". I mean what the hell are you comparing game writing to that is so great? And why are you expecting video games to live up to that?

Gotta tell it like it is.

Well, I would like my RPG's with their so-called great stories to have better written dialog. Bioware is - or, until recently, was - often held up as the pinnacle of video game writing. That's kind of sad.

It doesn't bother me a whole lot but we really do need a game with well-written dialog. I can name a few here and there, but nothing comes close to the dialog given in great films or books.

#8 Posted by benspyda (2030 posts) -

"A man chooses, a slave obeys"

#9 Posted by TentPole (1858 posts) -

Rockstar has great writing and that is about it.

#10 Posted by killacam (1284 posts) -

generalizations are really bad.

#11 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

Deadly Premonition proves otherwise. BUDDY.

#12 Posted by coaxmetal (1577 posts) -

@Soapy86 said:

I know I can't possibly be the only who really doesn't care that video game writing is "terrible". I mean what the hell are you comparing game writing to that is so great? And why are you expecting video games to live up to that?

Gotta tell it like it is.

Bad writing doesn't necessarily make a bad game, which was sort of the point of the article -- writers can poop out steaming piles and if the rest of the game is good it usually doesn't matter. I did recently get kinda pissed at how atrocious the writing in Diablo 3 was though. That said, it didn't stop me from playing a ton of it. I just turned the voice volume all the way down and didn't pay attention to any text.

#13 Posted by Raven10 (1726 posts) -

Part of the problem is that very often the designers of a game and the writers are not working in the same location, and the writers don't have a lot of design experience and vise versa. The best written games are ones where the creative director of the game is also the lead writer as is the case with Amy Henning at Naughty Dog, Erik Wolpaw at Valve, or Ken Levine at Irrational. Designers design game progression to make a fun game, not to tell a great story in most cases. The best do both but in that case you need a writer who deeply understands gaming and designers who understand narratives. Both of these people are hard to come by hence games often have weak narratives. That said, game writing has improved dramatically since designers first tried telling stories in games in the late 70's. Compare modern game writing with game writing of even 10 years ago and you can easily see that it is getting better albeit not as quickly as some may like. Remember at this point in the life of film they were just coming out with talking movies. It takes decades for a medium to evolve. We'll get there eventually. It just takes time.

#14 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

Writing video games is very hard and people are getting better at it. It would help if writers were brought in earlier in the development process, as they say almost constantly. It's only recently that writing was even acknowledged as a separate skillset.

#15 Posted by nivi (121 posts) -
#16 Edited by Yummylee (21250 posts) -

I think video game writers deserve a little slack. I imagine writing for video games is significantly harder than it is for say writing a script for a movie; there's so much to account for, and otherwise the writing is primarily there just add some context to the gameplay. It's like for Uncharted 3 where Amy had to cook up stories after the set-pieces were built. His examples of Gears of War and Halo having 'terrible' writing is also fruitless because they're not there to tell compelling stories that'll stick with you and act as a momentous occasion; they're video games that aim to first and foremost give you great gameplay.

If he were to list games like Heavy Rain, then it would be more understandable. Now I don't think it has terrible writing either (though it does falter in some key areas of course), but it is one such game that is actually trying to tell a narrative within the conventions of a video game. Point is, sure video games in general could do with a bit of a quality bump concerning they're writing, but the overall medium still needs time to grow.

EDIT: Also as others have said, his entire argument barely goes anywhere and it's all largely just a sensationalist generalisation.

#17 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10472 posts) -

I disagree.

#18 Posted by coaxmetal (1577 posts) -

@nivi said:

@TentPole: Valve? Supergiant? Irrational? Christine Love? This whole thing is an absurd generalisation.

so thats like 8 ish games there that have decent writing, and one of them is nothing but writing. I'd say it's still a pretty fair generalization, that's not a lot of games. I could even name a few more, but the point still stands that the majority of games, esp mainstream ones, are very poorly written and nobody notices. No reviews docked diablo (or anything else, really) a star because it was really poorly written, people usually just don't care if the focus of the game isn't the story (and ofc story focused games can easily have bad writing too -- most do).

For the most part that's fine, I come to games to enjoy then and if I can do that despite the writing, and I usually can, that no harm right? but, what if it had been better? what if the baseline wasn't so far down? I think we could see generally better stuff.

#19 Posted by Cloudenvy (5891 posts) -
#20 Posted by Jay444111 (2441 posts) -

This thought is dumb and always has been dumb since the DAWN OF TIME.

Fuck, this thought process was moronic even in the early adventure game on older as fuck PC's. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream anyone?

This is just generalizing from someone who has never played a video game in their entire life. Much like most people who say this dumb trite. When video game writing has currently been better than even the most well made movies. What does that make movies then? Less than dirt?

Prometheas was a plot holed filled mess of a movie. Even ME3 had a better idea on how to make a story!

Also the sane fact that it is always western games in this equation only pisses me off as well. What about Infinite Space? 999? Xenoblade? FRAGILE FUCKING DREAMS!?

Yeah, exactly, only say this if you truly want to be branded as an idiot for the rest of time.

#21 Posted by spankingaddict (2659 posts) -

Not all are . Gotta tell it like it is .

#22 Posted by YI_Orange (1128 posts) -

I never got the people who shit all over videogames and then go on to say "nowhere near films or television". Yeah, as people have said, writing takes a back seat, but I still don't find it all that bad. Maybe I just have an easy time getting immersed. Maybe I'm too busy enjoying things to sit there and go "That dialogue is so shitty. What the fuck are these people doing?! They should pull their heads out of their asses and learn how words work". Now, I'm not saying it's amazing or anything, I know games have issues with their stories and dialogue, but given the circumstances I don't feel a lot of movies or TV shows are written significantly better than video games. They don't have gameplay to break up the pacing, they have real actors(for the most part) to help convey the writing better, and they don't have to have throwaway NPCs spouting "Sure is chilly today!".

Also, whenever people compare the two, they love to take the worst written games and compare them to the best written movies. It's always "excluding all the good games", but then using the good movies as examples. I just don't get it.

#23 Posted by tourgen (4427 posts) -

Oh look, an out of work butt hurt writer with a blog and no critical reasoning skills.

#24 Edited by Jay444111 (2441 posts) -

@tourgen said:

Oh look, an out of work butt hurt writer with a blog and no critical reasoning skills.

I know. That makes me laugh. Any writer that does this should really be banned from that medium he makes fun of. They sure as hell don't need him. That is for certain.

@YI_Orange said:

I never got the people who shit all over videogames and then go on to say "nowhere near films or television". Yeah, as people have said, writing takes a back seat, but I still don't find it all that bad. Maybe I just have an easy time getting immersed. Maybe I'm too busy enjoying things to sit there and go "That dialogue is so shitty. What the fuck are these people doing?! They should pull their heads out of their asses and learn how words work". Now, I'm not saying it's amazing or anything, I know games have issues with their stories and dialogue, but given the circumstances I don't feel a lot of movies or TV shows are written significantly better than video games. They don't have gameplay to break up the pacing, they have real actors(for the most part) to help convey the writing better, and they don't have to have throwaway NPCs spouting "Sure is chilly today!".

Also, whenever people compare the two, they love to take the worst written games and compare them to the best written movies. It's always "excluding all the good games", but then using the good movies as examples. I just don't get it.

THIS! EXACTLY! (except for the back seat thing. If anything. Gameplay is starting to take a backseat nowadays.)

Also the final paragraph is a complete and utter winner. Whiners who say video game writing is bad ALWAYS do this. They compare the very worst to the best of another medium instead of looking for the best of both! (Maybe because they would know not to fuck with the one they are making a jab at maybe?)

#25 Edited by artgarcrunkle (970 posts) -

They're selling to a demographic that thinks Rockstar games have good writing. Why would you find and pay high quality talent when mediocrity sells.

P.S. Anyone who is critical of a thing I like is Butthurt or a Hater. Videogames, bitch.

#26 Posted by TentPole (1858 posts) -

@nivi said:

@TentPole: Valve? Supergiant? Irrational? Christine Love? This whole thing is an absurd generalisation.

I have not played any Christine Love games but the rest of those have good writing in that it is well written but fail to actually write stories with the substance to be worth telling. I consider Portal more of a success because it is less ambitious in that it only goal is to be silly and amusing and it accomplishes that goal with flying colors.

Bioshock went halfway developing themes and proceeding to do nothing interesting with them outside of a pretty good commentary on the act of playing games itself.

For the record I think Uncharted, Half-Life, Portal, Bastion, Bioshock, Freedom Force, and System Shock 2 are Fantastic games. But there stories are only good in comparison to the trash that is the videogame writing norm. Take them out of that context and those narratives on their own would not be able to stand with their contemporaries in other genres.

I am not talking classic works wither. But modern contemporaries in other mediums. I am talking The Road, No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man, Black Swan, The Wrestler, Tree of Life or even From Hell(the Comic) and Watchmen. That is before bringing up the Shakespeares and Steinbecks and Coppolas of the world.

Rockstar however does tell stories of substance. I think GTA 4, and Red Dead Redemption though not necessarily as good can at least stand with those books and those films.

#27 Posted by wewantsthering (1551 posts) -

If you take a look at the top grossing movies and TV shows, there is plenty of terrible writing there as well. Good writing is mostly dedicated to entertainment that isn't the super big blockbuster type, although some break this pattern. That's why reviews are helpful when choosing a game and the GB guys always talk about games with good stories/writing. Psychonauts, Uncharted, etc a excellently crafted works of writing. They're out there. You just have to look harder.

#28 Edited by coaxmetal (1577 posts) -

@artgarcrunkle said:

They're selling to a demographic that thinks Rockstar games have good writing. Why would you find and pay high quality talent when mediocrity sells.

P.S. Anyone who is critical of a thing I like is Butthurt or a Hater. Videogames, bitch.

@wewantsthering said:

If you take a look at the top grossing movies and TV shows, there is plenty of terrible writing there as well. Good writing is mostly dedicated to entertainment that isn't the super big blockbuster type, although some break this pattern. That's why reviews are helpful when choosing a game and the GB guys always talk about games with good stories/writing. Psychonauts, Uncharted, etc a excellently crafted works of writing. They're out there. You just have to look harder.

I don't really watch TV, but yea, I believe it. I think there are a lot of popular TV shows with good writing though, and most of the popular video games don't have it. I would also take issue with calling Uncharted "excellently crafted works of writing". The writing is decent, but it's not outstanding by any means, it only looks outstanding in the context of games.

Also, maybe whoever wrote that blog I linked is indeed a "butthurt out of work writer" as some have suggested. Idk, someone just posted it elsewhere and I liked it. I'm a programmer though. So I write I guess. Just not fiction, or english.

#29 Posted by coaxmetal (1577 posts) -

For the record, my standards of good writing are books, not films or television. Sorry if there was any confusion there.

#30 Posted by TentPole (1858 posts) -

@Riboflavin said:

For the record, my standards of good writing are books, not films or television. Sorry if there was any confusion there.

There are some really great films out there.

#31 Posted by TheHumanDove (2523 posts) -

Gonna tell it like it is

#32 Edited by TentPole (1858 posts) -

To be clear I think there is good writing in games but I also think that the medium is virtually void of any truly fantastic writing.

#33 Posted by Saethir (353 posts) -

@TentPole said:

@Riboflavin said:

For the record, my standards of good writing are books, not films or television. Sorry if there was any confusion there.

There are some really great films out there.

And there are definitely some really terrible books.

#34 Posted by coaxmetal (1577 posts) -

@Saethir said:

@TentPole said:

@Riboflavin said:

For the record, my standards of good writing are books, not films or television. Sorry if there was any confusion there.

There are some really great films out there.

And there are definitely some really terrible books.

Both of those things are true, confirmed.

#35 Posted by TentPole (1858 posts) -

@Riboflavin said:

@Saethir said:

@TentPole said:

@Riboflavin said:

For the record, my standards of good writing are books, not films or television. Sorry if there was any confusion there.

There are some really great films out there.

And there are definitely some really terrible books.

Both of those things are true, confirmed.

That makes your silly assessment that books are good writing while film and television are not, even more perplexing.

#36 Posted by Legxend (124 posts) -

When writing for games a lot more needs to be taken into account of what the player is actually doing or the type of experience they are trying to convey. Seeing as atmosphere and the players surrounding and interactions can enhance the story greatly outside of any dialogue, Bioshock is a perfect example of this. The main problem why writing falls short in many games is because the writing is in a constant battle with age old game mechanics that define what the game should be in the eyes of many instead of what a game could be. Games that are wanting to tell a great story are usually held back by the game mechanics, because it comes down to we are making an RPG so we must have this, this and this to call it a game.

The best stories in games are when gameplay and the story work in unison with the least amount of conflict, look at Naughty Dog, they are doing things in the right way. They are moving the medium forward ,taking into account the principles that go together to make a game when writing and developing the story.

#37 Posted by Animasta (14648 posts) -

I think the only writing I would consider to be great book quality is Nier personally. Books have also been around since... at least greek times, right? Games have been around for 40-50 years at this point.

#38 Posted by coaxmetal (1577 posts) -

@TentPole said:

@Riboflavin said:

@Saethir said:

@TentPole said:

@Riboflavin said:

For the record, my standards of good writing are books, not films or television. Sorry if there was any confusion there.

There are some really great films out there.

And there are definitely some really terrible books.

Both of those things are true, confirmed.

That makes your silly assessment that books are good writing while film and television are not, even more perplexing.

I didn't say anything like that, please read the really faint thing at the center of this quote monstrosity. I was just tired of people bringing up film and television as the point of comparison.

#39 Posted by coaxmetal (1577 posts) -

@Animasta said:

I think the only writing I would consider to be great book quality is Nier personally. Books have also been around since... at least greek times, right? Games have been around for 40-50 years at this point.

it's not like when people started writing for games they forgot everything people had ever learned about writing though. Moment to moment writing for games is different from other media, for sure, but, especially with linear games, the overall story beats don't have to be different from those of a book.

#40 Posted by MikkaQ (10268 posts) -

@believer258 said:

@Soapy86 said:

I know I can't possibly be the only who really doesn't care that video game writing is "terrible". I mean what the hell are you comparing game writing to that is so great? And why are you expecting video games to live up to that?

Gotta tell it like it is.

Well, I would like my RPG's with their so-called great stories to have better written dialog. Bioware is - or, until recently, was - often held up as the pinnacle of video game writing. That's kind of sad.

It doesn't bother me a whole lot but we really do need a game with well-written dialog. I can name a few here and there, but nothing comes close to the dialog given in great films or books.

Yeah I pine for the day when characters talk like normal people. I really like Uncharted's dialogue, across the series. The acting and dialogue feel a lot more natural than most games. At the end of the day it's written like a bad movie, but still it's better than nothing.

#41 Posted by Alkaiser (358 posts) -

@MikkaQ said:


Yeah I pine for the day when characters talk like normal people.

I don't know about you, but I constantly shout "I should've been the one to fill your world with li-EEEEGGHHT!" That's how normal people sound, right?

#42 Posted by mandude (2669 posts) -

If you don't like the writing in games, you're playing the wrong ones.

90% of all media is pretty shitty. Movies, music, books, comics. Why do people act like gaming is some unique genre that never grew up?

#43 Posted by Jay444111 (2441 posts) -

@mandude said:

If you don't like the writing in games, you're playing the wrong ones.

90% of all media is pretty shitty. Movies, music, books, comics. Why do people act like gaming is some unique genre that never grew up?

I would say that a good 50% of everything is terrible, 25% average and 15% being good while 10% is FUCKING AMAZING... IMO at least...

#44 Posted by ImaTreee (209 posts) -

@mandude said:

If you don't like the writing in games, you're playing the wrong ones.

90% of all media is pretty shitty. Movies, music, books, comics. Why do people act like gaming is some unique genre that never grew up?

i agree with this

#45 Posted by DonutFever (3550 posts) -

It's a shame most people who write for video games aren't as skilled as the eloquent group of poets that this gentlemen is a part of who write about videogames.  

Gotta tell it like it is.

#46 Posted by TentPole (1858 posts) -

@Riboflavin said:

I didn't say anything like that, please read the really faint thing at the center of this quote monstrosity. I was just tired of people bringing up film and television as the point of comparison.

You are really bad at expressing yourself for someone who is going to complain about bad writing. But way to turn one of the few people in this thread on your side against you.

#47 Posted by TheHumanDove (2523 posts) -

@TentPole said:

@Riboflavin said:

I didn't say anything like that, please read the really faint thing at the center of this quote monstrosity. I was just tired of people bringing up film and television as the point of comparison.

You are really bad at expressing yourself for someone who is going to complain about bad writing. But way to turn one of the few people in this thread on your side against you.

telling it like it is

#48 Edited by YI_Orange (1128 posts) -

Oh, you're comparing games to books? Well, I find books pretty boring so I guess I'm not the guy to talk about this, but I bet the ratio of good books to bad books vs. good games to bad games(writing) is closer than you think. Yeah, there's a lot of good writers I'm sure, but there's A LOT of books out there.

Edit - Also, just wanna say, that I often feel like a lot of Movie and TV characters don't feel much like real people. In this regard I think Uncharted is leagues ahead of most Movies and TV shows.

#49 Posted by Alkaiser (358 posts) -

@mandude said:

If you don't like the writing in games, you're playing the wrong ones.

90% of all media is pretty shitty. Movies, music, books, comics. Why do people act like gaming is some unique genre that never grew up?

Because you criticize and point out the flaws in the stuff you like because you want it to get better. Also, because gaming (more specifically mainstream gaming) is an egregious offender of bad storytelling being acceptable as long as the game itself plays competently.

That doesn't mean there aren't games that can do both well, or that I'm saying that games are less than books or some bullshit because honestly I love videogames and I appreciate the impact they've had on my life and the people they've introduced me to. But I have to admit, when I say that a game has a good story usually I'm lowering my expectations severely. Its kind of like when someone says that a game looks good 'you know, for a Wii game.' Something like that. They're tempering their expectations relative to what surrounds it.

#50 Edited by TentPole (1858 posts) -

@YI_Orange said:

Oh, you're comparing games to books? Well, I find books pretty boring so I guess I'm not the guy to talk about this, but I bet the ratio of good books to bad books vs. good games to bad games(writing) is closer than you think. Yeah, there's a lot of good writers I'm sure, but there's A LOT of books out there.

Edit - Also, just wanna say, that I often feel like a lot of Movie and TV characters don't feel much like real people. In this regard I think Uncharted is leagues ahead of most Movies and TV shows.

I bet the ratio is far in favor of videogames actually, but it is when you ditch ratios and just take the top offerings of both mediums that videogames begin to suffer in comparison.