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GDCO 2012 - Game Narrative Summit

Garrett Fuller Posted:
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As GDC Online approaches us next month we were lucky enough to chat with two of the top writers in the industry. Tom Abernathy works at Microsoft and has been a staple in game writing and narrative forever. Richard Dansky, from Ubisoft/RedStorm also joined us for theinterview. Both Tom and Richard conveyed how important the Game Narrative Summit truly is for industry members and writers at GDC Online. Whether you are a new writer breaking into the game industry, or an old veteran looking to get some new ideas out there, the summit has a lot for all, not to mention the great night at the The Ginger Man!

Tom and Rich both look at the summit which has to adapt to the changing game business all the time. With moves to mobile and tablet platforms, there are a lot of challenges for writers out there. Writing in a smaller space is one of the things addressed at the conference. Many times too much narrative is not good, so the guys spoke about making sure you had the appropriate narrative for the game. Enough to get the player going and many times less is more. This philosophy is part of the summit this year as games take a turn into new markets. As the industry has more themes to tell stories on, the key is having the right content, and more importantly the right amount.

These are the types of conversations that the Game Narrative Summit truly encourages and is something both Tom and Rich feel strongly about. Another topic we discussed is more and more serialized game play. With DLC content growing and players accessing content much faster, there is more for writers to work with in that space. The guys also pointed out that these types of delivery methods for writers play heavily into working with the communities who play the games.

We also talked about how in the past the game industry was constantly battling for the console market, and now it has become a battle for the social and mobile space. With more casual games popping up they do feel there is a lot of room for depth in these games. Narrative can always add depth and this is a place good writers can shine. At a much smaller event like GDC Online writers can get together to talk about this space without have the massive convention like E3 on their backs. The community attitude of the show really encourages writers to talk and work on best practices.

Another area that game writing really is changing is in the social space and community space. With tools like Twiiter out there, the group keeps an open mind in using these tools as writing implements to communicate with gamers. Some of the talks focus on ideas like On Demand Narrative and using different technologies to tell your story. Another talk is about Building Characters and how critical that can be to gamers even in the casual and social space.

Also, Richard pointed out that it is a great place to network for game writers. If you are new to the scene, people will truly help you out and work with you. It is a very strong community and the writers really do welcome newcomers with open arms. We all agreed in the preview that this mentality really does work throughout all of gaming. Developers are just as passionate as players and the group of writers at GDC Online will always welcome new talent.

Both Tom and Rich agree that the key for many writers is to stay fresh and work out new ideas. When coming to the summit they both always leave with that fresh outlook on their work. They also remind every game writer to realize that you are not alone. This is something that is at its core for the Game Narrative folks. They want to support and help each others ideas. They want writers to walk away with a tool set they can use. Rich explained that even as a cynical old pro, he always leaves GDC Online with a new outlook, refreshed and reenergized.

We want to thank the guys for taking time to talk and also make sure folks know about the Game Narrative Summit at GDC Online. Even if you cannot make it to the show, stop by The Ginger Man that week and spend some time with the crew as they get together to meet and talk about writing for games. It is a great creative place and all are definitely welcome. 


Garrett Fuller

Garrett Fuller / Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997 and writing about them since 2005. He joined MMORPG.com has a volunteer writer and now handles Industry Relations for the website. He has been gaming since 1979 when his cousin showed him a copy of Dungeons and Dragons. When not spending time with his family, Garrett also Larps and plays Airsoft in his spare time.