On Top of Their Game 

By Bridie Lee, WGAW Organizing Coordinator 

Photo credit: Jesse Knish Photography for GDC Online 2011
Videogame writers talk shop at WGAW’s Game Narrative Summit Mixer in Austin, TX. 

It doesn’t naturally follow that a conference with panels devoted to virtual guns, analytical data, multiplayer RPG math, and the Android China market would have an entire track devoted to writers. Then again, Game Developers Conference Online consistently offers up far more than its namesake suggests.

It’s both a thrilling petri dish of endless innovation and hybridization as well as a gathering place for age-old creative concerns. While a panel titled “My Producer Really Sucks” may sound more familiar to most WGA members than “Content Iteration and Validation with Spatial Analysis,” writers flocked to the halls of the Austin Convention Center.

The WGAW’s Videogame Writers Caucus presented a panel to a standing room only crowd on “The Importance of Game Narrative to a Successful Game.” Joining moderator Micah Wright, Chair of the VWC, were WGAW game writer Flint Dille, 2011 WGA Videogame Writing Nominees John Gonzalez (Fallout: New Vegas) and Jason Henderson (Singularity), along with James Waugh (Senior Story Developer, Blizzard Entertainment). “Sponsoring an event like this is a perfect vehicle for the WGA to spread our message to established, up-and-coming, and new writers who may have previously thought of themselves exclusively as “designers,” or who thought that WGA membership was beyond their grasp because they didn’t work in Hollywood,” said Micah Wright.

Discussions amongst game writers inevitably include debates over the lack of industry-standard credits and how to maximize the collaborative creative potential involved in creating a videogame. However, everyone agrees on one thing - writing is more important than ever. The stakes have never been higher and everywhere you turn the intense competitive nature of the videogame industry is evident.

While Occupy Wall Street dominated the headlines to the rest of the country, Blizzard representatives’ “Headhunter” shirts and “We’re Hiring” banners served as constant reminders of the seemingly untouchable force with which this aspect of the entertainment industry forges ahead. “There was a real joy to the pioneering, outlaw feel of game writing a few years ago, and that's changing. The flip side is that the standards of the work and of the productions are being taken much more seriously and it is showing in the results. It is a very cool place to be right now,” remarked Flint Dille.

Whether they considered themselves writers or narrative designers, a large crowd of videogame scribes and developers headed to the WGAW’s Game Narrative Summit Mixer held on Tuesday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center for a post-panel reprieve. As each day progressed the tech speak faded and writers gathered as they always have, late into the night over several drinks sharing anecdotes, commiserating, and feeling a kinship with their fellow storytellers.

If you’re interested in joining the WGAW’s Videogame Writers Caucus, please visit: http://www.wga.org/videogames or contact the Guild’s Member Services & Organizing Department at Videogame Writers Caucus; 323-782-4511.