6 Video Games With Actually Decent Writing

When I’m not writing a novel, novella, and multiple short stories for anthologies, making friends on Twitter and falling deep into the infinite vortex that is TV Tropes, I am a massive video game nerd.

Video games have long been criticized for poor writing and use of the medium, which is understandable considering how young interactive media is compared to film, TV, and music. Sometimes we just don’t know how to best use what we’ve got.

That being said, there have been more than a few standouts, games that rise above the rest and give us writers something to really aspire to.

And if you’re a bookish nerd and haven’t really delved into gaming, these are a few I highly recommend:

The Elder Scrolls

The Elder Scrolls series began with a shaky start in 1994 with Arena and didn’t exactly hit its stride until its third installment, Morrowind, in 2002. Even then, it had already established a rich world with huge and new places to explore, intriguing and multi-faceted races and cultures, and action-packed stories and things to do. For close to 25 years, Bethesda has put on a show of this breathtaking universe that always has something new.

The most interesting part of The Elder Scrolls series is also how it treats canon and information through its storytelling. Players are invited to see the world how they would like to whether it’s as a Viking Who Beats Up Dragons or whether they’d like to investigate the nuances of this strange environment where the gods may sleep, characters may or may not realize they are in a video game, and the stars are mere holes in the sky.

Saint’s Row

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Vulgar, crude, and obscene, Saints Row is a series that chronicles the life and times of a street gang, The Third Row Saints. While it may have begun as nothing more than a simple Grand Theft Auto imitator, by the second game the writers really amped up the utter ridiculousness with such shameless abandon that it’s hard not to have a good time.

Even though later installments have completely jumped the proverbial shark into true madness, there’s still a charm to a well-written series that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Mass Effect

BioWare’s oft controversial science-fiction series may come with more than a few tumultuous concepts and choices, but no one can doubt that it comes packaged with a complex and interesting world to explore.

Making friends with alien races like the warlike Romanesque Turians and floating neon jellyfish people, exploring the galaxy’s uncharted waters, and creating your own unique character through social decisions has never been so much fun.

It says a lot that even ten years after its initial release, the ending of the final installment is still hotly debated to this day.

Portal

Full of snarky banter and cutting wit, Valve’s Portal duology of first-person puzzlers was revolutionary in more ways than one.

Although the first game only featured the voice talents of the remorselessly murderous AI GLaDOS, the second game expanded on their cast and storytelling featuring Ricky Gervais alum Stephen Merchant as well as an enjoyable but ultimately heartbreaking co-op mode that presented a flavorful story without much by way of a script.

We still eagerly await for the day Valve can count to 3.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

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Another BioWare make, Knights of the Old Republic is considered one of the best-written and most compelling Star Wars game ever created. Set almost 4,000 years before the first chronological movies, the studio was given free reign to create their own story and devise their own cast of captivating characters that aren’t named ‘Skywalker’.

It took home multiple prestigious awards for its creative storytelling and its twist still has fans pining for a certain Sith Lord to remain canon even after Kathleen Kennedy’s purge of the Expanded Universe, landing this game in the ‘Legends’ universe.

Bastion

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Bastion, the debut game of indie developers Supergiant Games, is a unique oddity on this list because the story is presented in a completely different way than anything else: the game is fully narrated. Everything from spending too much time destroying crates to the numerous deaths of the player character (whose only given name is “The Kid”) has its own line of dialogue in the smooth caramel tones of the game’s voice-over.

It also features unique universe of diverse races and an out-of-the-ordinary dual-wielding mechanic.

Which games did I miss? Any of your favorites not make the list?
Let me know in the comments!

More Things to Do With a Writer’s Block (That Still Make You Feel Like a Writer)

Sometimes writers block gets the best of us. It comes for us whether we are famous and working, whether we are hobbyists and stay-at-home-moms.

So if you are going through a writer’s block, you are not alone. We all go through it. But sometimes it’s hard to keep calling yourself a “writer” when the words just aren’t doing the… uhh… word thing.

Here are a few ideas of things to do when the words aren’t “wording” but still keeps you in the game:

Make a Playlist

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This may come as a surprise to you, but I love playlists. I love, lovelove curating playlists. I mentioned it in my previous post but honestly, I can’t say too much or too often how fun, and important having playlists for characters, settings, and settings-as-characters can be.

Determining what would go on your character’s iPods (even if it’s before or after such a thing) or what kind of music the people of your world play and dance to can really help you get back in the mood to write about them again!

Get Planning

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If you’re a pantzer like me, you probably rushed into your story headlong, face-first, maybe not even writing in order. Sitting down to actually plan and structure your work once you have a better grip on what your story will look like.

If you’re more of the planning type, maybe it’s time to revisit your outlines, rework your structure, look over your plot points again.

It can help you find your direction, determine where to go next, and give you an idea of your progress.

Find Character Details

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What is your character’s favorite color? Favorite food? Favorite book or song?

These details might not always come up in your story, but it can make your characters seem like fully-fleshed people with real interests and hobbies and likes and dislikes.

There are lots of great resources and worksheets you can download and fill out or even just start lists yourself!

Work on Marketing

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It’s never too early to dream! Poke around Manuscript Wish List, find a copy of Writer’s Market in your local library, or start thinking about promotion.

Even writing out a query letter, no matter how early into your work you are, can help you refine your ideas and get an idea of where your story really is.

Connect on Social Media

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Reaching out and getting support can really help you get through a block and give you more inspiration to keep on going.

Not only that, but establishing your platform can be really important when it comes to publishing and making sales in the future and there are lots of people who can help you when you need it most!

I recommend checking out online hashtag chats like #WritersPatch, #JustAddTea, and daily prompts like #AuthorConfession on Twitter. By answering questions about your work in progress, it can get your creative juices going, and it’s a great way to make friends! There are hourly chats practically every day so keep an eye out for schedules, and pick one that works best for you.

What do you do when you struggle with writer’s block that keeps you in writin’ fightin’ spirit?

 

See Also:

The Characters of Faehunter: Character Playlists
The Life of a Pantzer
What to do With A Writer’s Block