Nebula – Games Writing


by Pete Richmond

There are rumours going around the web of a new award category for the Nebulas next year, that of a Nebula Award for Game Writing.

I haven’t, as yet, seen any confirmation of this from the SFWA themselves but if so this is a fantastic step forward for the SFF literature to embrace new formats.

There are many examples of fantastic story telling in gaming these days, with it becoming more and more important in many major games. Whilst the most successful games in the world are currently, and are likely to remain, competitive multiplayer games the story telling in games is a much bigger part of the culture than many non-gamers realise.

MassEffect.jpgI certainly do not subscribe to the fact that video games are the antithesis of reading and I know that many among the Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiasts are fans of the genre without regard for the medium. Whether the Star Wars films, or the Mass Effect games, there is no doubt that the wonderful ability of Science Fiction and Fantasy to introduce us to new worlds is still a draw across any format.

There are some wonderful examples of story telling at its finest in video games. Modern blockbuster games such as the aforementioned Mass Effect series and the Fantasy based Dragon Age play with branching storytelling in a way that no novel can achieve, putting the players choices at the center of the narrative and revolving the story around, sometimes small, decisions and moral choices the player must make.

My favourite example of story telling withing a game comes from Planescape: Torment. A wonderful journey through a unique and compelling world, the scene is set when the player, as the protagonist, awakens at the start of the game on a slab with no memory of who he is or how he got there. The only clues you have to go on are instructions that you have had tattoed on your own back before entering the mortuary, helpfully read to you by the first character you come across, a disembodied floating skull name Morte.

The game itself is story-based, rather than combat based and the depth of the tale that weaves itself around you was and is incredible. Especially considering that this was released back in 1999.

If nothing else, my hope is that recognising the achievement of such compelling narrative in gaming will encourage more studios to focus on the writing in games.


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