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My first experiences with game stories - what made me want to become a game writer/developer.

Matthew Birdzell


I never played the classic consoles growing up. Parents never bought my siblings and I the SNES, NES, Sega, etc. Even if I was born in 1992, when those might or might not have existed, I never played them. Didn't learn about those until MUCH later in life, unfortunately. But from I know they really focused on gameplay, reaching an audience, killing 8 bit space ships and jumping on mushrooms. If anything they had extremely simple "stories." Then some came out to challenge that.

It wasn't until my parents got us a GameBoy Advance, with a clear case, that I discovered gaming playing Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Now I could be wrong, or my timeline is off, but I'm pretty sure that was the first gaming experience for me. I might have played stuff before that. My memory doesn't  go that far haha. But I really didn't into games that had any level of sophistication in their story until Bungie Studio's great and revolutionary Halo: Combat Evolved , but the 2003 Windows XP port by Gearbox (I don't think I started playing the series in 2003. It was that, or 2004 or 05). I still own that copy! This was what fully introduced me into big worlds, entertaining gameplay and interesting stories, merely years before I got into Halo 2. Except for those floaty vehicle physics...too easy to die to tapping the front of a Ghost! In the succeeding years it was also Call of Duty Classic (the first in the series) - in my opinion probably the second best in the series - and Battlefield 1942, all on Windows XP. CoD Classic and BF 1942 had a bit of narrative, but it was really about experiences in war rather than a single character. 

In the years to come I really just focused (still do!) on Halo's awesome campaigns (sometimes even the less awesome ones), expanded universe and its multiplayer. I didn't a lot of attention to other single player games. Except Skyrim later on. I believe I drifted every now and then, but really just stuck with Halo. It was all about its multiplayer, co-op campaign, Mary O'Donnell's incredible music, and custom games. Good times! But man...I should have tried other stuff!

Now we come to "today". I realize more and more that interactive storytelling is so absolutely fascinating. We have more knowledge, more tools, better developers, more writers, and more ideas than almost ever before. We're capable of making games that are a balance and fusion of gameplay and story, experiences with simple gameplay but are quite deep and intelligent in writing. Or you have indie games that harken back to simple stories, or themes, but incorporate level design that give you visual stories through the environment. I think its truly amazing; the progress made is crazy. However, the art of game design and interactive storytelling is such a young, and unique, medium I think we can do much more. Since I'm focusing on writing, perhaps creative design as well, I see that we've made improvements in cinematic quality experiences, such as voice acting, dialogue, plot arcs and how characters develop. But there's always room for improvement even in the best of titles. Adding more depth, when necessary, to bad guys or showing more story versus too much exposition. There are areas I probably haven't thought of. As a seventh year (yeah... )  college student studying writing, I know that I have grand ambitions to make or contribute to games. I also know that its going to take quite a bit of work. Years and years of it. Lots of trial and error, some failure, but also some success big or small.

Currently I'm working little by little on my first game story. I've been brainstorming plot ideas, characters, villains, environments, mechanics and more. Even though I really, REALLY want it to be written and developed as an Xbox exclusive in the future, I know that it could fail. Very well could be nothing at all. Which would suck. Oh yeah...that would be a big bummer. But...thats the reality of life...and wanting that career! So perhaps my first goals as a student of game development is to take small steps, work hard, persevere, ask for help and continue to drive forward. Learning the tools of writing, game writing, and working with development teams little by little. Maybe some of those first jobs won't be all that great, but they should provide the experience I need that's so valuable in a $100 billion industry, where so many are vying for success. 

Alright...time to call this block of text good, before I bore you haha. What sort of goals do you have, if you're working to be a game developer? What are your stories? What did you have to learn, or what do you have to learn, to get where you want to go? 


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