So – this is a very late post, but I thought I’d finish my Conflux wrap-up…
If you haven’t read my Part 1 wrap-up of Conflux you can do so here. Otherwise, let’s move on to Saturday:
Saturday morning 10am saw me heading to the conference rooms for a workshop: Writing For Games with Rik Lagarto. I’d never really considered how much writing there is in games before (in hindsight, it seems so darn obvious). Developing flavour and environment, creating meaning and consequences of gameplay, and developing plots and subtext to propel a gamer through what could be hundreds of hours of gameplay, a game writer’s job is far more complex than simply: ‘your mission, if you choose to accept it…’
Rik delved into some of the ways game writers tackle the challenges unique to their medium (for example, in-game cutscenes vs the more traditional cutscene) and then asked us to do an exercise creating our own in-game scene.
We then looked at systemic dialogue (the in-action chatter that tells you when things are happening/ or have happened eg. building units, enemy fire etc.) Again, game writers face a challenge to keep systemic dialogue short and snappy, not poetical, well written but not so well-written it sticks out (as a player may hear the same line hundreds of times during gameplay). We then did an exercise writing systemic dialogue with our own imaginary games.
Rik also discussed the huge role environmental storytelling plays in making an immersive game (the mood, tension, Foley used to show the world, including background conversations, signs, books that can be picked up, recorded messages, architecture, clothes, and just the state of the world itself) and how this is used to create layers of meaning and intrigue for players.
It was a great workshop (it was nice to hang around with a bunch of gamer-geeks!) and Rik is a great guy – if you’re interested in game writing, I’d highly recommend taking one of his classes and checking out the games he’s worked on here. (His new game, Yonder, has won a bunch of international awards recently).
Next up was a panel on Steampunk Martial Arts with Aiki Flintheart, Madeline D’Este, Laura Goodin and Rik Lagarto. With a second dan black belt in aikido, Aiki was well placed to discuss matters of size and strength when it comes to the physical fight, particularly when female protagonists are often much smaller than the male aggressor they’re facing. Alan Baxter’s book ‘Write the Fight Right’ was mentioned as a good starting place for writing fight scenes – often writers who haven’t been in physical confrontations forget that most people who fight do get hurt (often seriously). There was also discussion of Steampunk gadgets and gizmos as a means for clever characters to even up their chances in a fight, and of course costume – can you fight effectively in a corset?
Next, I was off to another workshop, this one Vividness and Voice with Zena Shapter. Zena was also launching her brand new book at Conflux – Towards White.
I picked up a copy and am looking forward to reading it.
Zena began the workshop by having us tap into our emotions, and think about instances in our life that have affected us or that we feel deeply about in order to tease out our writing voices. We delved into Point Of View, rewriting a simple scene in first, second and third person in order to find our best voice. We then had to write the same simple scene with an angry tone. This was my favourite exercise. I found it really illuminating how easy it was to take an innocuous event (making breakfast, in this case) and by imbuing it with an emotion (anger) the event transformed and a whole pile of subtext suddenly bulged out of that event. It showed me that it’s the internal conflict that is often so much more important than the outward plot.
Having discussed voice, we then moved on to vividness, with an exercise using perspective and the senses to develop emotion and build up the environment of the story. She suggested this for openings because it’s so important to draw the reader in so that they want to spend time with you at the start of a novel.
It was then time to watch Meri Amber launch her EP Grimm Tales, and then get ready for the banquet! Here’s me as Little Red…
I was like this by the time I hit my bed!
Part 3 coming up tomorrow!