Advice for Writers: Play Video Games!

So I’m on record as saying that every novelist should write at least one play in his or her life (and hopefully see it performed in front of an audience). The act of structuring a play — and plays, more than any writing medium except maybe screenplays, are ALL about structure — will teach you lots of wonderful things about plotting and narrative that every novelist should know.

Plus, once you see your own play bomb, as every playwright does at least once, you’ll do anything to make sure it NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN. (And failure in playwriting is almost always about being self-indulgent. Or in assuming your audience is stupid. Basically, it’s just like failing in writing a novel, except it’s somehow a lot more obvious with the audience sitting all around you).

But you know what else a writer of fiction should be doing in 2014? Playing video games.

I’ve been playing some new games that I got for Christmas — LA Noire, Lara Croft, and BioShock Infinite. And I’m reminded again that we’re living in an era where storytelling is being revolutionized.

First, let’s get one thing clear: the storytelling in video games is now easily as good as the best storytelling in movies and books. If you’re still looking down your nose at video games, it’s only because you’ve never played them. Granted, most video games are “genre,” so they’re less about characterization than plot, but even the characterization is often fantastic.

But video games have something that movies and books don’t have: inter-activity. And every year that goes by, the interactivity gets better and more comprehensive.

Like I said, it’s a true revolution — akin to the birth of film as a storytelling medium, and maybe even as profound as the rise of the written word.

Seriously, I think it’s just that big.

If you’re a modern-day storyteller, you simply have to be aware of this ongoing revolution. Even if you never choose to work on the creation of a video game (and at this point, I doubt I ever will), you still need to be aware of what’s going on. As with writing a play, it will help you see your own storytelling in important new ways. (I defy you to play Alan Wake and not learn anything about the creation of tension.)

Plus, hey, the people who play video games are your readers! You need to be aware of the ways in which your audience is changing — frankly, becoming much more sophisticated.

If you want to be a writer of fiction and you play video games, don’t feel guilty (assuming they haven’t taken over your life, and you also still read books). And if you don’t play video games, you totally should!

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2 Responses to “Advice for Writers: Play Video Games!”

  1. Tim O'Leary 9 February 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    Could not agree more. I defy anyone to play Heavy Rain and not feel, well, heavy emotions: fear, sorrow, tension. Much more visceral than any movie I've seen recently.

  2. look at here 23 September 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    Good post. In the final scene of Mists of Pandaria, Garrosh Hellscream is overthrown as Warchief of the Horde by a combined Alliance-Horde force and taken into custody by the Pandaren.

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