The other day, the Writers Guild Of America announced that they had added a new awards category for excellence in video game writing. Over on his blog grumpygamer, Ron (Monkey Island) Gilbert is a bit dubious.

What bothers him is that submissions should be in script form. Ron contends that a script, in this case, isn’t enough because games are interactive, and how the story goes depends on what the player does.

He may have a point there. However, as we all know, many games these days are linear in design. The basic plot, the main line, usually doesn’t change much if at all.

There might be a little alteration here and there, but the story progresses to its predetermined conclusion nonetheless. In some cases, there may be both a “good guy” ending and a “bad guy” ending, but such differences are often superficial.

Consider Oblivion. You can step outside the main line, do all sorts of things, good and bad. None of that affects the basic story in any way. Regardless of how “good” or “evil” you’ve been, you end up saving the world anyway. And you have to do it by “connecting the dots”.

So as most game stories are linear, and unaffected in a major way by the player’s actions, sending in a script is certainly acceptable. We certainly can’t expect the review board to sit down and play who knows how many games (just considering PCs; add in the console products and you have quite a few!).

What I’m wondering, though, is what these scripts will look like. Much of the story, the information given to a player, comes from dialogue and cutscenes.

Added to that is the trend of the “jigsaw clues”, where, as you progress through the game, you find diaries, letters, PDAs, voice recordings and whatnot that provide the story of “what’s going on” or “what happened”. This is a feature, for instance, in both Bioshock and Doom 3.

Of course, a synopsis is required with the script, and that will probably help. And the rules do allow for the script to be abridged, which I think is a wise measure, since that can cut out a lot of extraneous stuff.

Anyway, check out Ron’s thoughts (and the comments), and see what you think.

Ron Gilbert on the WGA Awards for Video Game Writing

WGA Press Release