Thursday, February 19, 2015

Writing in Games: It’s Much More Than Narrative_Why some of the best writing has nothing to do with character or story. By Tim Biggs

22 Jun 2014  Warning: This feature contains a minor spoiler for The Last of Us: Left Behind.

Writing can make or break a game. It takes many forms - from dialogue to in-game literature, voiceovers or even scripted environmental events - but in almost all cases it aims to move the game along, distil complexity into something meaningful, give justifications for gameplay conceits and keep the player attached to the characters and scenarios through story.

When it comes to pointing out ‘good writing’ in games though, we don’t always look to the examples that do these things best. More often than not we associate ‘good writing’ with well-crafted story content and entertaining text or dialogue, and while this obviously isn’t a negative thing in and of itself, it leaves room for the idea that there are games with great, skilful writing that we don’t think of as such because they aren’t literary or don’t tell a gripping story. So is there a problem with the way we evaluate the quality of writing in games?


With the exception of pure narrative, writing in games must be function first; less to do with crafting a story and more to do with non-literary concerns like player retention and awareness.
 
Often when we talk about writing, we refer to the bits between or on top of the gameplay, where the characters talk to one another or you read some text to gain exposition. Yet while that kind of writing is easier for us to identify and analyse (by looking for the indicators of quality we recognise from literature and other media), the more game-specific, more technical (and depending on the game, more vital) form of writing that takes place during and informs the gameplay can often be overlooked.

With the exception of pure narrative (for example in a cutscene), writing in games must be function first, which is to say it’s less to do with crafting a story and more to do with non-literary concerns like player retention and awareness. Concerns like how does a player know the only way to exit the room is through a ladder in the roof? What does an AI character say to alert the player to incoming danger? How will the game explain to the player that a particular area is off-limits?

Whether these concerns are addressed seamlessly depends almost entirely on the quality of the writing which, like most other art in games, is usually there to build part of the scaffolding as much as part of the pretty façade. For example having a character deliver a “no, this doesn’t go here” or a “just three more to go” or heaven forbid a “hey, listen” serves a gameplay purpose rather than a literary one, and so should be judged on whether that purpose is realised.



Ride as fast as you like, you can't get away from Navi...

Ride as fast as you like, you can't get away from Navi...

Even if an offhand character remark gives you exactly the information you need at the right time to have things click into place and make you feel like a genius or a badass, such writing is unlikely to be called out as ‘good’, and I think it boils down to the fact that this kind of functional writing only really exists in video games.

As a baseline, consider Naughty Dog's Uncharted trilogy and The Last of Us, which are generally very well regarded in terms of writing and storytelling. This can be seen most recently in The Last of Us Left Behind DLC, in which the narrative cleverly negotiates our familiarity with coming-of-age stories. 

Although stories of this type tend to be predictable and hard to pull off owing to the sheer number of times they’ve been told, the characterisation and literary restraint in Left Behind allows an experience that feels exciting and surprising while still managing to convey something deeply universal. Had the characters been written more salaciously or more in line with traditional young love stories, the player would surely have anticipated this and the impact of Left Behind would have been undermined.



Such a believable relationship.

Such a believable relationship.

Stories like these show that video games are just as capable of incredible storytelling as film and literature, but it’s plain to see that the cleverness and skill with which the game’s narrative aspects are handled are satisfying to us in all the ways we recognise from those purely narrative forms. We recognise them as hallmarks of good storytelling. So what about the cleverness and writing skills unique to video games as a form? For an example of that I’m going to jump to a game similar to The Last of Us in many ways, but also very different.

 
The Gears of War games, not always regarded as having ‘good writing’ (“Never thought it would end like this, huh Maria!?”) make an interesting example in my argument that the way we measure writing quality in games might center the discussion mostly on the overtly artistic or narrative kind.

Whether or not the story being told in the latest game - Judgment - was of a high quality in the traditional sense, the writing was exceptional. Take the declassified missions for example, which appeared in each chapter and offered an optional set of parameters to the player, increasing the challenge but also the reward.

The parameters obviously had to be fun from a gameplay point of view, but their in-game justification required scenarios that made sense to that exact part of the narrative, could be left out entirely if the player so chose, and delivered a reasonable explanation for why visibility was suddenly limited or the mission had to be accomplished under a certain time constraint. In addition to this, voiceover had to be written that explained these ludicrous happenings from the perspective of one of the main characters, bringing in their own perspective and personality.

In the end the player has an understanding of the option, the consequences and the story, and they’ve stayed immersed in the artifice of the game throughout. It’s a great (if not very subtle) example of games writing acting as the carpenter’s hammer rather than the novelist’s pen. While none of it hit you in the gut, brought a tear to your eye or made you gasp with an unexpected twist, it was good writing nonetheless.



Turns out DudeBros can also be effective communicators!

Turns out DudeBros can also be effective communicators too.

Zooming in from the overarching scenario-type writing to the minute-to-minute experience kind, you can also see a vital role that’s easy to overlook. We’ve all had experiences where the entirety of what’s happening in a game fails to be communicated to us coherently, either because we haven’t grasped an important mechanic or are just not looking at it the intended way.

Often in fast-paced action-heavy games where that doesn’t happen a lot (like Gears), it’s because your focus and understanding of the scenario is being shaped by mission directives or context-specific character speech. For all its malignment, “RAZOR HAIL” is a pretty stunningly effective thing for a character to scream at you if you need to be told “keep yourself covered from above at all times or you’ll be ripped to shreds”.

Whether a particular game is built around mechanics or a story at its core (or both), the function of this seemingly incidental writing is to connect the player in their limited perspective to their place in the immediate scenario and the wider game world.

A poorly written or communicated aspect of the game will break the player’s ability to experience the game as intended, even as the disruptive and unpredictable tendencies of the player will break any writer’s attempt to focus attention too absolutely or tell a story too linearly. Yet for all this, if the writing of a game is absolutely nailed the player will hardly even notice it’s there while they’re playing.

It’s this unique relationship between players and game designers - each affecting the way the other creates and experiences - that makes the supporting writing in games so largely unlike the writing in any other media, and it’s why that writing is just as worthy and just as deserving of our analysis and attention as the more literary kind we tend to focus on. 
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Tim is a freelance writer based in Sydney. You can catch up with him on Twitter and why not join the whole IGN Australia team on Facebook?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Neale Sourna ebooks at GoHastings.com

Neale Sourna ebooks at GoHastings.com

Professor Teaches the Tight End (MFM)

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$1.97

Professor Teaches the Tight End (MMM)

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$1.97

Grant's Boone - Initial Interview

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$3.50

Tenure [M/F/M]

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$2.97

Tenure [M/M/M]

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$2.97

Dez at the Silver Pole

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$1.97

Dia's Team Bang (3)

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$5.97

Hesitation

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$1.97

Three - By Invitation Only

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$2.99

Hobble [An Adult Fiction]

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - EPUB

$6.00

No Wedding Night

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$0.99

Hobble

Sourna, Neale
Available in: eBook - PDF

$6.00

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Sunday, February 08, 2015

Neale Sourna aus eBook.de NET GmbH

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Tenure [M/M/M]
Tenure [M/M/M]
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Are Best Seller 
A bisexual, male Professor, newly tenured and bored at his college's Student / Faculty mixer, discovers two young Freshmen openly having sex--a gorgeous, brown-skinned classic Greek "godling" and a beautiful, gold-skinned mixed race male. Professor's enormous "Clydesdale-Shire" of a "horse cock" more...
All Along the Watchtower: Submerged (A Novel Excerpt)
All Along the Watchtower: Submerged (A Novel Excerpt)
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
In ancient times, a legendary half Egyptian general's rage and jealousy may be his downfall, when he seeks to break a sacred alliance between his Amazon shaman / sorceress mate and her allies. [erotica novel excerpt, over 10,000 wds!] Ancient Warrior Romantic Erotica, Egyptians, Amazons, Shamanic So more...
Dez at the Silver Pole
Dez at the Silver Pole
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Dez is a willful, stubborn hottie, the bisexual top stripper and erotic dancer [exotic dancer] at Max's club; independent to the bone, she won't be controlled. But, enter Mr. Dark, a powerful, dangerous, wealthy player, a corporate gangsta with an eye only for sexy Ms. Dez. He's certain he can t more...
Dia's Coach (1)
Dia's Coach (1)
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Young Dia is a naughty cheerleader, who prefers older men, well, one particular older man. She wants everyone's favorite team coach and teacher, Mr. Dean. He's been good and strong, resisting her; but, he's weakening.... And lovely Dia always gets what she wants. So, when she enters Mr. Dean's h more...
Dia's Team Bang (3)
Dia's Team Bang (3)
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Dia's the only cheerleader on the team bus filled with excited, champion ball players, managers, a middle-aged co-coach, and Mr. Dean, the one teacher / coach Dia'd open her lovely thighs wide for, anytime and anywhere, and secretly already has. Dia would do ANYTHING for her man's pleasure. So, Mr. more...
Grant's Boone - Initial Interview
Grant's Boone - Initial Interview
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
A lawyer makes a pilgrimage to a corporate titan in order to get his help with freeing her client from a death sentence. She knows he's ... "interested" in her. But, her appeal to his sense of justice won't be enough; she'll have to curry and satisfy his lust for her in order to save her client's li more...
Hesitation
Hesitation
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything SoftFocus
A businesswoman's emotional conflict between overthinking versus her erotic needs is tested when she's caught in the rain with the man who keeps her mind and emotions distracted. But, will she overthink a playful shower together, too? _3218 words Erotic Romance short story [a shorter version publis more...
Hobble
Hobble
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Native American medical professional BENNET GILLESPIE'S "off track" life dangerously spirals, as his compulsive and sexual, love entanglement with DAY, a beautiful, "knife-happy" African American "innocent", and her overbearing, elderly British "guardian" threatens to cost Benn more than his life. - more...
Hobble [An Adult Fiction]
Hobble [An Adult Fiction]
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Half Native American medical professional BENNET GILLESPIE'S "off track" life dangerously spirals, as his compulsive and sexual, love entanglement with DAY, a "knife-happy" African American "innocent", and her overbearing, elderly British "guardian" threatens to cost Benn more than his life. Is Ben more...
Libidinous 1: Short Stories, Poems, and Novel Excerpts
Libidinous 1: Short Stories, Poems, and Novel Excerpts
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Erotic short stories, poems, and novel excerpts. http://libidinous.neale-sourna.com/ more...
NCADv4n1--North Coast Academies' Diary, Vol 4 #1--Tad: The Switch-hitter, His Twink, and His Teacher--A Lust Novella (M/M/M)
Gorgeous, biracial, bisexual rich kid, Tad, gets whoever he wants, male or female, and he has a relentless hard on for his English professor, Dr. Hupper, whose magnificent black cock Tad's stuffed down his eager, tan-white throat and given hand jobs; but, youngster Tad wants serious, naked alone tim more...
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 1, #1--Laila: Cozy with Daddy
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 1, #1--Laila: Cozy with Daddy
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Brainy, multiracial, private school virgin, Laila Mariah Deever, chooses to seduce her handsome, middle aged stepfather, Ross, for her first incestuous sexual encounter. NCAD Vol 1 #1 Laila: Cozy With Daddy Neale Sourna's NCAD is Adult Erotic Fetish Fiction, usually one short story per issue [i.e., more...
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 1, #2--Yune: Suck My _ _ _ _
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 1, #2--Yune: Suck My _ _ _ _
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Basketball jock Yune gets his stone hard, young Korean American cock sucked by a first time knob munching, K.A. church virgin, while his favorite, bespectacled, brown-skinned teen goddess secretly watches, and then later he's sucked off by a classmate's red-haired, society MILF mom. What a great bir more...
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 2, #1--Ross: Daddy's Little Whore, uh, Seductress
Sexy middle-aged stepdad, Ross Deever, wakes naked beside his newly deflowered, multiracial stepdaughter, Laila; then vainly tries abstaining from hitting it again. And again. With a vengeance. Kitchen table spread, incestuous doggy bang on kitchen floor, and an extensive private lesson in proper fi more...
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 3, #1--3 Sex Views: Ross, Laila, Sascha
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 3, #1--3 Sex Views: Ross, Laila, Sascha
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Three (3) HUGE stories, priced as ONE (1)!! (1.) Sascha: Laila's Classmate-Public Parking, Sex Squared [8289 words] Studious, male teen virgin, Sascha, watches hottie valedictorian schoolmate Laila steam up her glasses, public sexin' her lucky stepdad, then nerdy Sasch "gets lucky," too, twice. ( more...
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 3, #1. 2--Laila: Daddy's Willing Little Slut
Laila; Smarty Schoolgirl--Daddy's Willing Little Slut. Teen Laila's rape-punished by stepdaddy, Ross, for playing the skanking stepdaughter, and she loves it. Laila's first incestuous father-daughter rape (willing), including first bare cock in vulnerable bare teen pussy. 3711 words more...
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 3, #1. 3--Ross: My Daughter's Anal Cherry
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 3, #1. 3--Ross: My Daughter's Anal Cherry
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything
Ross; Laila's Stepdad--My Daughter's Anal [Asshole] Cherry. Daddy Ross regrets his criminal-rough treatment, until randy little Laila begs for more, in her pristine asshole. And gets it. A volunteer cock suck thank you, before she begs her daddy for her first anal. And gets it, with a simultaneous b more...
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 3, #1.1--Sascha: Public Parking, Sex Squared
Sascha: Laila's Classmate--Public Parking, Sex Squared. Studious, male teen virgin, Sascha, watches hottie valedictorian schoolmate Laila steam up her glasses, public sexin' her lucky stepdad, then nerdy Sasch "gets lucky," too, twice. Graphic public sex and exhibitionism; voyeurism, teen male mastu more...
Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Journal 1, Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Diary Vol. 1-3 Compiled
Are Best Seller 
Journal compilation of six (6) hardcore, sexual short stories previously published individually, as "Neale Sourna's North Coast Diary" entries. Laila: Cozy With Daddy [7857 words]; Yune: Suck My - - - - [3677 words]; Ross: Daddy's Little Whore, uh, Seductress [8401 words]; 3 Sex Views: Ross, Laila, more...
No Wedding Night
No Wedding Night
By: Neale Sourna
Published by: PIE: Perception Is Everything SoftFocus
A wedding, a reception brawl, and the bride and groom's wedding night will be in jail. Or will it? _866 words Romance more...
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