Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nanocon and Writing for Game Designers

Panelists at Nanocon, including Rich Graham, far left, Jeff Howard, far right, and Seth Hudson, in tie.
Here are my summary notes on "Writing through Games:  Merging the Writing Classroom with Game Design" by Seth Hudson 11/10/13, a part of Nanocon 2013 at Dakota State University.

Hudson, who teaches writing for games at George Mason University in the Computer Game Design Program, gave a talk to prospective game designers on making writing a component of their quest for success in the industry.  His talk, lively, interesting, full of references to games, movies, and books, prompted laughs, recognition, and questions at the conclusion.  
My notes on his talk are as follows. 

Stop writing the same thing
Respect yourself (and your audience) enough to edit

“Tell me something, then tell me why I should care.”  Kamholtz  (It’s the “so what?” question)

3-act structure
context, goals conflict resolution

Volder’s Hero’s Journey
“It’s theory, not a formula.” 

Academic paper:  Specific, Contextualized, Useful

Observing conventions

Realize that audience is the real key (audience and user)
Writing classroom
Audience driven:  if it’s not written down, it doesn’t count.  Both academic papers and creative ones need to keep audience in mind. 
Collaborative:  learn to give criticism; you get to be a better judge of your own work (always be reading other people’s work).  Criticism as a series of questions—why did you give that character that dialect.  Digital feedback as an extension of critical commentary.  Everyone gets better in collaboration.
Iterative:  Developing voice.  A long process.  “Writing is revision.”  Shitty first drafts.  Writing a shitty first draft is easier than writing a good one. 
Portfolio-centric:  focus on collective work.  NP (not proficient) grades.  Formative assessment vs. summative.  Formative is how you are developing; summative is what’s at the end of the process.  The identity comes from a lifetime of experience, not just their collective course content.  Passions beyond technical skill set students apart from others in their field. Studios look for people who have higher order skills that are hard to display on a resume.  (Swacha et al 2010).  Communicate a lifetime of experience. 

Writing classroom as a preparation for collaborative game projects.  Power of reflection and criticism. 
Find out what works, establish a voice, overcome your fears. 

Judge the work, not the person.  Avoid the “you suck.” Teach responding. 

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