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Forum writing competition?

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I've participated in a couple of writing competitions for novels, and short stories and always enjoyed them. That is why I think it is a shame that there has never been a game writing competition on game dev. Would people be interested in a participating in say a 3000 word writing competition? If so would you prefer a 3 day competition or a one month competition? Also what sort of format would people like? Would you want it to be say, an intro, scene, epilogue, or back-story writing competition?

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I think a general game overview competition would be a good idea, like 500 words on you idea.

ace

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I would be interested in doing such a competition. 3 days sounds adequate for 3000 words and the format could change between the intro, scene, epilogue, back-story, game overview, teasers(1000 words max). So when is the first competition?

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I believe the problem we ran into last time was who would judge the entries and what criteria would they be judging them on. The staff wants that info written out before they approve a contest or a prize for the contest.

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Hmmm Criteria,

Spelling, Grammer, and Diction
Depth
Completeness
Creativity
Uniqueness
Applicability (practicality of writen work in an actual game)
Popularity

You should also have open voting to see which one was most liked by public and also peer voting so that each entrant has to vote for at least one and up to 5 other submissions. Comments and constructive criticism should be encouraged. Popularity should be determined on the different categories Judges, Public, and Peer.

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Quote:
Original post by 5MinuteGaming
Hmmm Criteria,

Spelling, Grammer, and Diction


English Grammar, not Kelsey Grammer.


Also, "Diction" tends to be used in the context of the spoken word, rather than the written form, although it has, historically, been used to refer to both.


Quote:


Depth


How do you define "depth"? Not every form of writing needs to be deep and meaningful.


Quote:

Completeness


I would hope that any competition entries were, indeed, complete.

Quote:

Creativity
Uniqueness


I think the word you're looking for is "Originality".

I should stress that it's extremely rare to find a truly original novel. "Harry Potter" is fundamentally a long Coming-of-Age story. Its setting is based on, frankly, very tired old tropes. It's the quality of the world-building and Rowling's _writing_ that keeps people begging for more. It's the characters, the settings, the novel twists on old ideas.

Ideas in themselves are tuppence ha'penny; it's the _execution_ that's important.

Quote:

Applicability (practicality of writen work in an actual game)


Now this is a good criterion. It is also, unfortunately, very subjective: give the piece of writing to three separate judges and you'll get three different views as to whether it's suitable for a an "actual game".

The problem is that you need to be able to think of a _lot_ of different types of "actual game" in order to conclusively and objectively state that a piece of writing _isn't_ suitable under this criterion.

Quote:


Popularity

You should also have open voting to see which one was most liked by public and also peer voting so that each entrant has to vote for at least one and up to 5 other submissions. Comments and constructive criticism should be encouraged. Popularity should be determined on the different categories Judges, Public, and Peer.


I would probably just go for this one. Rather than appoint ivory-tower judges to speak from on high, just wait until all the entries are in, then require all entrants to vote on each others' entries. The one important caveat is that they cannot vote for their own work.

No comments. No justifications. Just a short set of multiple-choice, "online poll"-type questions. ("Would you buy a game based in this story's 'universe'?", for example.)

--
Sean Timarco Baggaley

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Well, as an idea those categories I mentioned were critized as the end all be all of a competition criteria for judging. Mr. Baggaley, surely you did not have to counter each of them in turn treating them as the sections of a highly significant charter.

I do like the idea of instead of having categories of judgement to be replaced by popular opinion in the form of a poll and a peer rating system.

So for a refined set of categories and associated poll questions

style (this would along with grammer and other presentation aspects ultimately be summed up in how the entry is rated.)
Originality ("Have you played any games with a similar (story|epilogue|back-story|intro) )
Applicability ("Would you buy a game based in this story's 'universe'?" (Baggaley, quoted from above)
Popularity (rating 1 out of 10, OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT)

Diction:
Mr. Baggaley, I was always under the impression that Diction in context refers to word choice either in speech or in writing.

Depth:
I am curious as to what piece of writing for game or otherwise that is popular does not create a sense of depth. And by depth I am meaing richness or intensity. Whether the work be serious or humorous. Also, would 'immersive' be an appropriate substitute Mr. Baggaley.

Completeness:
Incomplete entries would be a possibilty since you are limiting writers to how much they are aloud to write, therefore an incomplete entry would be hard to rate or would you care to differ on that opinion as well.

I would, however the way it is finally organized, enjoy entering a Forum Writing Competition!

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Well sunandshadow those are valid points, since I suggested it I have no problem being one of the judges after that I suppose the question becomes how many judges are necessary? I think three would be enough but if we can’t find two more then we can always try it with just one.

For judging criteria I’d say it could be judged on the following four:

style - The overall quality of the writing including grammar, punctuation, spelling, and use of language.
Use of Subject matter – How effectively the subject matter and theme of the competition where used.
Applicability - How suitable is the idea for a game, and would it make a good one?
Popularity – Run a poll where people can vote for their favorite work.

An example of what the first competition might look like is the following:

Forum Writing Competition 1

Theme: The wings of Icarus
Description: Write a 3000 word introduction and 500 word synopsis to a game that utilizes the phrase “The wings of Icarus” as a core concept in the story. You are free to be as creative as you want with its meaning and interpretation.
Start Date: 12:00pm BST Friday …
End Date: 12:00pm BST Monday …



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Personally, I just like the informal showing off we have had over the past.

The problem I see with "writing a story" for a game is that this might probably end up more as a Game Design contest rather than a writing contest...
Especially in the way you describe it here, it just sounds to me like a "get a great idea for a game and write about it for 3000 words".
It's not exactly the same as writing, is it?

Maybe writing something more like "write your story about a given game" contest.
Say, write a short story (3000 words max) based in the San Andreas game. Period.
Whether you end up describing a portion of the plot in your own unique fashion, or a fanfiction style adventure of a minor character from the game, or something completely different, is up to you.
Think of it as the written equivalent of those excellent Penny Arcade comics they have done for various games.

Plus if we did one such contest succesfully, I could see how it would be much easier afterwards to make it an official/sponsored contest thingie (say, win a copy of the game signed by the authors or something [grin]).

Anyway, just my two cents, so what do you think ? :-P

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Quote:
Original post by ahw
The problem I see with "writing a story" for a game is that this might probably end up more as a Game Design contest rather than a writing contest...
Especially in the way you describe it here, it just sounds to me like a "get a great idea for a game and write about it for 3000 words".
It's not exactly the same as writing, is it?

Maybe writing something more like "write your story about a given game" contest.
Say, write a short story (3000 words max) based in the San Andreas game.


Actually I want to vote against this. Designing the story for a game IS game writing, as is writing the script and even the advertising copy for the game, but writing a short story is NOT game writing for the simple reason that short stories aren't a building block of games.

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I agree with sunandshadow that the idea of game writing competition is to create a piece of game writing and fan fiction.

There seems to be some interest in this idea so why don't we run the first competition this weekend? We will keep it informal this time to see how it works out. If it’s a success we can always have a formal competition next time.
The start time will be 12:01pm BST Friday September 9th and the end date will be 12:01pm BST Monday September 12th. I'll create a thread with the rules and theme then.

Deyja has volunteered to be a judge so that will make the judges Deyja and me.

Unless anyone has any objection.

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Just to add to the confusion [wink] if we're going informal another voting option would be that only people who enter the contest may vote, and they can't vote on their own, only everyone else's.

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Well, I appreciate your point of view Sunny, but I still think it would be easier to get interest in a "write your little story about X". I dunno, I think it demands more writing skills to write a story than to write about a game.
And if isn't exactly game writing but more fan fiction, who cares really, as long as we are writing some good stuff? :)
Maybe it's just me misunderstanding what it is, exactly you guys propose to write?
Feels to me like technical writing, more than anything.

I mean, I have some write ups I did years ago describing a full campaign for an imaginary RTS, but honestly I don't see the artistic interest, precisely because it wouldn't be of much use if it weren't technical enough. I suppose it's a challenge, in a way.

PC Gamer (at least UK) have a cool little writing competition going on that I think is a great example of what we could do. The one I have here (well, at home) was about writing a story about a WWII type of game, I forget the exact theme. Anyway, the winner wrote an imaginary text based adventure game sequence, which was rather amusing to read. Good fun all around.

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Writing a game is actually much more similar to writing a screenplay than writing a short story. You don't just sit down and write the script from start to finish, you first come up with a concept, outline the major plot points, describe the major characters and worldbuilding, then write the actual dialogue and stage directions for the storyboarder, and finally come up with a logline and synopsis to pitch the script.

Is writing a plot outline (for example) technical writing? I wouldn't say so, although it is kind of a grey area. The reason I would say it isn't is because there isn't an existing body of data for you to organize and theorize about like in technical writing; instead you are making the plot, the character info, the worldbuilding, etc. up out of thin air. Whether it's technical writing or not, you have to write this sort of thing as part of the game development process, and generally game writers enjoy doing so, although everyone has some part they will consider difficult and annoying.

If you were writing a novel you could conceivably get away with just throwing words at a page and then beating the thing into shape afterwards, but in the game industry the writer generally has to create several concepts, pitch them to the boss, further develop the one(s) he/she picks, make changes he/she demands, incorporate input from other teammembers, create materials describing the story for the design doc and webpage, write the actual script, rewrite stage direction to work with animation limitations, write dirsctions for the voice actors (if any), and write advertising copy for the finished game. So theoretically any of those things is a legitimate type of gamewriting and something we could ask people to do for a contest. But fanfiction and any sort of prose story, while fun, are largely irrelevant to the process of creating a game.

The subject of the contest should depend on what the contest is intended to accomplish. If we just want to get lots of people talking about writing for games, asking people to submit 500-1,000 word game concepts, as many as they wanted, would probably be best. OTOH if we want to help improve the generally lousy quality of game plots we ought to ask people to submit the plot outline for a whole game. Or again, if we are trying to hone people's dialogue skills it would probably be best to give them the plot outline of the first scene of a game and have them write the script for it. Or we could even have a series of contests and do all of these things, using the winning 2-3 concepts as prompts for the plot outline, then the winning 2-3 plot outlines as prompts for the scene of script.

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I agree with sunandshadow's explanation of what game writing is and also felt I should add to it by saying that the game writer may in fact have very little control over the design and content of the game. For instance the producer or project manager might come to you and say we are making a game about robot cowboys hunting dinosaurs in post apocalyptic future. It will be FPS, with the man character being a human who crashed on the planet. It will also have 7 levels and 10 different weapons. We plan to include desert, jungle, and ruined city environments and the last level will take place on alien spaceship. I want see a plot outline and back story on my desk by the end of the week.

As for the subject and purpose of the contest I agree it would be ideal to run several rounds that focus on different aspect of game writing, and carrying on from where the winning entry left off.

For rounds how do the following sound:
Round 1 – Introduction – write a 3000 word introduction to a game based on a given concept. (The introduction can come in any form you choose but generally it consists of the narrative or scene that takes place before the player start playing.)

Round 2 – Plot sketch – write a 1-3 page plot sketch for the rest of game based on winning introduction from round 1 it should consist of brief descriptions of the important events and scenes, and should have at least 3 exciting incidents.

Round 3 – Scene Script – write a 3000 word script for a given scene from the winning entry from round 2, the beginning and end of the scene will be provided and the entries should explain what happened in between using either a film or theatre style script.

Round 4 – Climax and Dénouement - Write a 4000 word entry describing the games climax and Denouement based on the winner from round 2.

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Cheers SunAndShadow.
So what are we trying to achieve, then :)

Also, and again, that's just me, but I think narrowing the field by giving a specific subject would be useful, if only because it's easier to judge (Again, it depends what criteria you want to judge), and because personally I love to stretch the limits imposed by such an artificial limitation.
Say for example, if we chose San Andreas as a subject/theme (yes, I love that game), a "pedestrian" approach would be to scenarise a session of gameplay, whereas something original would be, I dunno, write about the joy of spending an hour pimping your ride only to have it destroyed by a speeding police car as you leave the garage.

Anyway, I think my point is to make this contest a bit narrow, rather than just "ok, let's write 3000 words in two days", as I feel it might inspire more people to participate (well, me at least ;) )

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TechnoGoth - What concept would you start from, and how is an introduction different from another scene's script? Also, 3,000 words is a pretty big amount - that's a whole 12 page chapter of novel, or significantly more pages of script, or 3 standard essaies. Would judges be able to read this amount for several writers?

Ahw - Yeah, I agree that specific is good. But specific to a certain game, such as San Andreas, would be bad because I bet at least half of us haven't played it. Also, if this is going to be an informal contest with voting by participants, setting strict judging guidelines isn't necessary. What I would really like to see is lots of people posting and providing constructive criticism on each other's writing, since that is what this forum is for (besides discussing writing theory and technique). I will be happy with anything that accomplishes that. Although personally, coming up with concepts, creating characters, and designing worldbuilding are my favorite parts of game writing and the sort of contest I would be most likely to submit an entry to. [wink]

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hmm, well most essays I've written have been 3000 word essays it doesn't strike me as being overly long. Its about 9 pages double spaced and in my experince it takes about an hour to write a 1000 words. Also 3000 words would be the upper limit I expect most entries to be around a 1000 to 1500 words. I set the limit to 3000 words in case someone has a particularly long entry but I think I'll drop requirement to a 500-1500 word entry. Since the more I think about the more its seems unlikly that a games intro would be longer then that.

How is a introduction different from a scene script? Well an introduction can take the form of either a narrative description or a scene script.

As for the concept I was thinking of "the coming storm". So people would have to write a 500 to 1500 word introduction about the comming storm for a game. They are free to interperate what the comming storm referers to.

But if people think that that is to vague a concept then how about : " A game set in the modern day about a female protaganist who through the course of her job or because of it, some how becomes drawn into the secert world of the paranormal which coexists within our world."



[Edited by - TechnoGoth on September 6, 2005 2:29:53 PM]

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I like the whole "The Coming Storm" idea. Gives the writer freedom while at the same time limiting the differint kinds of writing judges would have to judge.

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I like "the coming storm".
It's specific enough that we can all have an idea, yet it can be interpreted in many different ways (especially if you use it as a metaphor).

Also an introduction sequence sort of thing would be just fine, I assume.
Although maybe what we write (an intro, an example script of an action sequence, a plot outline, a character's background story...) isn't so important, really.

SnS: ah my apologies, I was mentioning San Andreas because I have been playing it for the last few weeks, and it just popped up as a natural example of something that is quite definite (you knew which game I was referring to), yet is so vast that it can be interpreted in many ways. But you got my point despite my example, so it's all good :)

Shall we do this over the coming weekend ? (cos although I only have internet access during the week, I don't think I'd have much time to actually write)

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I think the best judges are gamers. They are the one who will shell out money to buy a game, so they should be the ones who judge the contest submissions.

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I agree with ahw about the weekend being a bad time, since I am only able to access the net during the week. That and I think that 500-1500 words sounds more reasonable. I would also be interested if there was also an additional submittion for formatting notes in the Scene Script round or the Plot sketch perhaps even the introduction. That way you could come up with a prefered format for those who have never published or completed any of those and have no idea what the format should be, would be, or even could be.

I think that we should host a few competition as trials and get feedback on how things are organized and the response time from the judges and voters.

I agree with the AP that there should be outside voters in the more formal contest once we things are rolling.

There are a few questions that are coming to mind at this moment and those are: how will submissions / registration be done, how will the voting be done, and where will the submissions be posted. Is this all to be done by threads and stickies in this Forum or is someone willing to setup a webpage for this endeavour.

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