“Dialogue, World Building, and Characterization”

As part of the “Writing for Games” conference, Seamus Sullivan presented a seminar entitled “Dialogue, World Building, and Characterization,” in which he offered tips and insights on the process of designing the world of a game.  The seminar first began with Sullivan offering some personal advice stemming from his experiences as a writer in which he outlined what he believed made a successful video game world.  He emphasized that the story line and the character were the most important characteristics that contribute to a game being an immersive experience as they are what the player connects to early on.  What was especially helpful was that he often formatted his advice in the form of a question; he advised game designer to ask themselves questions like, “What does the character want?” and “What are the rules in the society, how does society work?”  An especially fascinating part of the design process that he mentioned was the writing of a “Game Bible,” a document that essentially contains everything there is to know about the game world and information about the characters (physical features, personality, motives.)  After he offered his advice, he led the group in a series of group activities designed to help spur the game design process.  One activity involved choosing your favorite character from a game and writing a speech on a certain topic as though it was written by that character.  This was a fun activity that definitely provoked thought about character voice and how a character would react in a certain situation.  Another activity involved pairing off, where one person would think of a game world, and another would think of a character in the world and both would collaborate to think of a game that would incorporate both.  This sparked many game scenarios that were both novel and hilarious, and highlighted the fact that though a theme may have been explored in a previous game, bringing it back and analyzing in a new situation offers a completely new experience.  Sullivan reinforced this by saying that every situation has already been played out in a game, the key is finding new scenarios to explore that which has already been discussed.  A final noteworthy point is that Sullivan highlighted the character’s voice as the best way the player identifies and connects with the character; this pertains to our discussion of Wheatley’s voice being so important to our characterization of him.

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