Apart from the thrill of working on something tremendously cool and with someone whose work I admire, I’m really appreciating being a part of the writing team on this video game project. Put that way, as my contract does, it makes me sound much more involved than I actually am, doesn’t it? (My contract also stipulates that I must be available for promotion, interviews, conferences, and anything else they deem necessary for marketing purposes… at which point I snickered a lot, because who is going to want the copy editor’s point of view around game launch time? “Tell us, how does the insertion of a comma here or the use of a proper em dash instead of a double hyphen subtly affect gameplay? How is that experience deepened and made more impactful for the player?”)
What I particularly appreciate about this, however, is reading the story.
I suck at video games. My brain doesn’t seem to work the way games expect a player’s brain to work, and it makes for a very frustrating experience. So all this time I’ve been perceiving video games as these horrendous blocks of weird puzzle-solving or monster-slaying, of fighting with the controller to try to get it to do with what I think it wants me to do, and ending up just walking away. I have several friends who are writers within the video game industry and who talk about the storylines and dialogue, and while I have known that logically, this is what makes a player care enough to move on to the next challenge and advance the story, I have not experienced it personally.
So working on this script, even peripherally, has given me a wonderful opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I’m following a story, an actual narrative, with none of the gameplay that makes me crash and burn. In fact, the gameplay is often noted by a single sentence between square brackets in the script. (That’s right; the thing that takes you three hours to play through can be a single sentence in the script, because it’s not handled by the scriptwriting team. Different people entirely take care of that.)
I get to read a story involving certain characters, protagonists and antagonists, and it amazes me that the scriptwriting team can demonstrate so much about individual characters within so many constraints. The story of this particular game has to unfold and advance, but on a more focused level, the story of these specific characters also develops and advances. And on a broader level, the story of the overall franchise has to further develop and advance, as well. It absolutely fascinates me that all this can be done through dialogue. And spare dialogue, at that; spare in the sense of being brief, not the sense of being extra. There’s nothing extra here: character-building moments have to do double duty, advancing the story or delivering key information to the player at the same time. It’s incredibly interesting to observe, especially if I have the chance to follow a scene or set of scenes that undergoes a major rewrite.
And in unrelated work news, I’ve been handling some other projects in my off hours. I just finished working on a STEM book, which needed heavy, heavy editing, and I kind of burnt myself out on it. My current project is a homeschooling book, which is a peach of a manuscript; it’s so very tidy and perfect, so perfect that my attention wanders away while I read it, because there are no errors to trip me up. I have to keep bringing myself back and refocusing!