Citizen Game

So the Missus’ sister visited again for the three day weekend, providing me with the much-needed opportunity to get some serious work done on the Wedding Comedy rewrite.  I’m at the Act II break now; hopefully by tomorrow night I’ll have completed this first pass through the revised draft.  With any luck, everything will be more or less in place, and then it’ll just be a matter of tightening it up here and polishing it there before I pass it on to the producers and they shoot it full of holes with a fresh set of notes.  Until then, I can dream that this draft will be the draft that causes them to messenger over giant sackfuls of cash.  But probably not.

ANYWAY, aside from having the chance to write, I’ve also had a little more leisure time than usual, allowing me to fire up the Xbox 360 more often than I normally can.  In addition to working my way through BIOSHOCK, I’ve also come to learn the joys of the original HALO.

I know — I’m about eight years late to this party.  I kind of feel like a guy who’s never seen a film before until now: “Yeah, there’s this totally awesome movie that I saw — it’s called… CASABLANCA!”  But better late than never, right?  At least the keg isn’t completely kicked yet.

As I slowly get sucked into the glorious black hole of modern video gaming, I find myself marveling at not only the ridiculous amounts of money the industry makes, but what an open frontier it is, creatively speaking.  Granted, the field seems to be currently dominated by shoot-’em-ups and monsters and explosions and the sort of things that thrill the souls of nearly every 13-year-old boy who’s ever existed… but is that really so different from a modern multiplex, especially this time of year?

If I really were 13 again, would I still catch the movie bug, or would, say, GEARS OF WAR inspire me to pursue game design as a career instead?  I really don’t know.  Granted, I still believe in the possibilities of the medium of film, and my current fixation on all things pixelated is very similar to new girlfriend energy — all HALO, all the time! — but the idea of writing an interactive narrative has a serious appeal to me at the moment.  God knows I’m all for classical storytelling, but sometimes the “rules” of mainstream screenwriting feel like a straitjacket.  Not that games don’t have their own cliches and conventions… but at least they’re unfamiliar cliches and conventions to me.  Only time will tell if the digital grass continues to look that much greener on the other side.

So — are the gaming advocates right?  Is the linear story an endangered species?  Eh, probably not.  But who’s to say that the gaming equivalent of CITIZEN KANE isn’t around the corner?  As the narratives grow more complex, that possibility seems to grow more and more likely.  Or maybe we’re doomed to a future of more and more meticulously rendered first person shooters… not that that’s SUCH a bad thing, of course.  My inner 13-year-old will always be down for blowing up some alien cyborg beetles who’ve just turned Manhattan into their personal buffet table.  In the meantime, I’ll keep churning out my hopelessly old fashioned, unrepentantly non-interactive screenplays.

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3 Comments on “Citizen Game”

  1. We don’t really get to change the course of gameplay in most games. We’re participants, but the plot will move along a predetermined course. I don’t think we’ve really seen a true example of nonlinear storytelling just yet. When you play all the way through Halo or (especially) Bioshock, tell me if you don’t think the story structure really is exactly what you and I have been preaching and practicing all along. In fact, I think blow-em-ups get better the closer to “conventional” storytelling they get.

  2. Désirée Says:

    Hi, I’m a screenwriting mother trying to keep myself sane. I found your blog at 120-page Monster. I’ll be back. So far I liked yours. I hope you like mine as well.

  3. WriterDad Says:

    Dave — yeah, that’s a very good point. I guess the form — at least as it exists now — isn’t THAT far removed from traditional narrative, but the idea that you can poke around in the universe and maybe alter the ultimate outcome of the story (albeit to a minor degree) definitely feels like a breath of fresh air. Of course, D&D and CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURES were doing that twenty years ago… and yes, I was a great fan of both. 🙂

    Desiree — thanks for stopping by! I’ll be sure to check out your blog. Good luck staying sane. 🙂

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