Awarding Video Game Writers…
The value of quality writing in video games continues to be recognised by the industry, audiences and aspiring writers. This has been exhibited by the breadth and depth of titles eligible for the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain “Best Writing in a Video Game Award 2018”. Creating a shortlist of just three nominees from an extensive and diverse longlist of titles was a tricky and interesting affair for our judges. But form a shortlist they did, from which only one title can officially be declared the winner.
The Nominees Are…
While other titles on the shortlist could have existed without their stories, Subsurface Circular would be literally nothing without its writing. The tone is often comedic, nonetheless the story tackles pressing issues of current and near-future society, such as consent, care for the vulnerable, and the urgent need to assess the implications of AI on all of our lives. It is a story that leaves the player considering their choices after the game has finished, and as such directly addresses the power that audience-interaction can bring as a tool for writers. Maintaining character voices and motivations, while allowing the player to choose the sequence of events, is a challenge that is arguably both unique in its commonality in video game writing and an essential skill for video game writers. Subsurface Circular as an experience is the same length of a film, has the word count of a very long short story or brief novella, and juggles the limitations of a small team with very low budget to tell a compelling and highly accessible story – balancing all of these and still creating such as successful narrative is a mark of an accomplished writer.
Developer: Mike Bithell Games. Publisher: Mike Bithell Games.
It is rare that a video game’s story can rightly be discussed foremost for its explicit treatment of its themes, but this is entirely appropriate for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice which deals with mental health and grief in a way that feels both appropriate to the 8th century setting and highly relevant to the modern world. The story is told on many levels by the choices of research, mythology, world art, and interactions, backed up by exceptional performances. It also displays the craft of storytelling integrated into many aspects of the game’s production, where the remitting combat and the difficulty of the gameplay reflects Senua’s own struggles with the impossible foe of her own mental illness and trauma at a time in history when these would have been even more misunderstood than they are now. Improvised dialogue gives the game a theatrical tone that is unusual and to be commended as an experiment in blending the skills of the various artists. As we recognise the skill of the writer, respect must also be given to the team that has embraced this authorial vision and given the players a unique experience. Without the skill of the writer, this game would not have reached even close to the impact that it does on its audience, and as such it is deserving of this nomination recognising excellence in video game writing.
Additional writing by Elizabeth Ashman-Rowe.
Developer: Ninja Theory. Publisher: Ninja Theory.
Battlefield 1 is the watermark of professional writing embedded in a large production team. The script shows clear determination to bring writerly elements into the storytelling, using symbolism to represent the lives of the soldiers before they were pulled into the devastating conflict of the First World War. These elements remain in the final game, mixed with the chaos of warfare and placed alongside gameplay details that emphasise both the huge losses made by troops and the individuality of each one that died to protect the lives that we live today. The story is in the thrall of fast-paced and high-drama action, and yet the writing consistently meets the requirements of delivering both narrative context and the gameplay information that players need to continue the game without dropping the intensity. The ‘first person shooter’ genre is a challenge to write for, particularly one with the ferocity and rapidly changing player interactions that are part of the Battlefield series. The nuance that has been placed on character interactions and personalities in Battlefield 1 demonstrates the current ability and future potential of this writing team.
Additional writing by Christofer Emgård, Adrian Vershinin, Mikael Säker, Eric Holmes, Viktor Israelsson, Justin Langley, Stefan Strandberg, Martin Kopparhed, Indy Neidell and Andrew Robertshaw.
Developer: EA DICE. Publisher: Electronic Arts.
The Live Awards Event…
The actual award event takes place on Monday 15th January 2018 at the Royal College of Physicians in central London where the winner will be announced live on stage. Thank you to our awards sponsors, The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), BBC, ITV, Company Pictures, Nick Hern Books, Silver Reel and Lionsgate.
“I am enormously pleased and proud of the Writers’ Guild Award shortlists. They represent the best of British writing by the best writers across the full range of dramatic, (*interactive) and comic writing. And they are all selected by working writers in their own field. It is that judgement by your peers that makes these Awards unique and uniquely special to the winners.” – Olivia Hetred, WGGB President
And The Judges Are…
Thank you to our guest judges and video games committee who volunteered their time to help make this award possible and a pleasure to arrange – Cara Ellison, Olivia Wood, Greg Buchanan, Morris Stuttard, George Poles, Giles Armstrong, David Varela, Antony Johnston, Andy Walsh and Mata Haggis who is our presenter this year and provided the citations in this article.
Good luck to the nominated writers and titles.
All the best for 2018,
Video Games Chair of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain