Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gaming and Writing

Some of you may have seen on my personal Facebook or various other outlets that I got into a beta test for an upcoming online video game: Star Wars - The Old Republic.  If you've peeked at my bio, you may have read that I consider myself an avid video gamer.  I'm mentioned the gaming blog that I run a few times here, but generally I've not addressed it directly.

Don't get me wrong, I love to talk about video games. I just try to keep things in their own spheres.  (Though I'm more than happy to chat about whatever in comments, Twitter, of Facebook... doesn't even have to be my books or writing in general.  In fact, I added the links to my other blogs in the bio just for the curious.)

In practice, though, things rarely remain rigidly segmented.  One activity often bleeds into another.  Gaming and writing are no exceptions.

I listen religiously to the Writing Excuses podcast.  I'm a big fan.  They offer great writing advice, and I appreciate the brevity.  15 minutes is easy to squeeze into a day, whereas some of the other, longer podcasts I'm aware of end up going unheard because I can't complete them in one sitting (it's a personal thing).  Several of the hosts on Writings Excuses are self-described former gamers.  That is, they used to play a lot of video games but gave them up in order to pursue writing.

All due respect to those stellar writers, but I don't think one need completely give up gaming in order to write.  Now, I suspect that they've not really gone "cold turkey," either, but rather the point is to moderate playing like anything else so that it doesn't eat up all of your writing time.  I tend to be pretty good in that regard.  I follow the mantra instilled in me by my mother: "No games until your homework is done!"  In this case, my homework is writing.

In fact, I also believe in the "all work and no play" saying as well.  I think playing video games can directly feed creative endeavors.  Depending on the games you play, they are often a creative venture.  Generally games revolve around somehow solving a problem or achieving a goal in a creative or fantastical manner.  And, something else, all games generally have some sort of story.  Sometimes it's a thin veneer, other times it's deeper and more developed, but usually there's some kind of story involved.

Personally, I go for games with a lot of story.  I stick mostly with RPGs (Role-Playing Games).  I even dabble in tabletop D&D (Dungeons and Dragons, which is really like live, audience-participation story-telling if you ask me).  I have to believe that I've learned a lot about plot and character through these activities.  One of the best ways to write a character is to put yourself in their shoes, to role-play, and video games provide a convenient mechanism for this.

So, yes, I'm a gamer and proud of it.  I absolutely do not plan to give up on gaming.  It recharges me and gives me ideas.  It teaches me how to be a better writer without me even realizing it.  Sometimes, observing familiar tools being used in a different environment can really drive a lesson home.  Story development and game development really have a lot in common.  They both hope to deliver an emotional, entertaining experience to the end user.  So why not play video games as a writer?  So long as you take care to properly divide your time, that is.

Also, I'm really excited about the new Star Wars game.  They had me at Lightsabers...


Annalise Green said...

I'm like you. I love video games! Now, I've definitely gamed less since I started taking writing seriously again. But I agree with your moderation rule. It's healthy and fun for me to indulge in a little video games, just as it's fine for me to indulge in t.v. Actually, both of these things happen to be great storytelling mediums even though they're not books! (Although it's equally important to read lots and lots of books.)

Matt said...

Yeah, I definitely try to keep up with reading as well. I actually read a ton of blogs and online articles... and shoot for a novel a month. That's generally about all I can squeeze in. Plus, I'm usually reading long, fantasy epics, not quick thrillers (though I will knock out a thriller or two any time I take a vacation).

Really, the key is just to expose yourself to stories and writing. You can get both through reading, obviously, but that doesn't mean other media are without merit.

Ravven said...

I am so excited about SWTOR! I'm hoping that I can maintain some semblance of control and not let it interfere with writing. I usually write during the mornings, and produce little of value at night, so I think that evenings can be set aside for gaming.

I played on the recent beta weekend, and I fell in love with the storylines. This should actually be an incredible MMO for a writer to play. :)

Matt said...

It's good to hear from other gaming writers. At least I'm not the only nerd :-).

I agree, SWTOR should be fertile imagination ground!

I'm a night writer, though... so ima hafta be careful.

Post a Comment