Hollywood writers contributing video game story arcs

Feeling dejected because bigshot producers won’t give you the time of day? Think the film industry is mired in films with unoriginal story lines? Are you trying to break into Hollywood? Do you already work in Hollywood? Well, good news! Video game developers are now looking to others sources, most notably Hollywood screenwriters and established authors, to pen their games’ story arcs.

Scribe Chris Morgan (“Wanted,” “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”) is the latest to make the shift, signing with Red Eagle Games as the story director for a series of upcoming games based on Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” books.

“There are a lot of good writers in the games business,” says Rick Selvage, co-founder of Red Eagle. “However, I don’t think stories have been the compelling driver in many games to date. Game play has been the thing that has motivated people to buy. We believe story is going to become more important to players.”

Morgan is hardly the first screenwriter to make the jump to the gaming world. James Wan, executive producer of the “Saw” series and the scripter of its first and third installments, is penning the videogame adaptation of the slasher films. David McKenna (“American History X,” “Get Carter” and “Blow”) wrote the script for Vivendi’s “Scarface: The World Is Yours.”

The hunt for quality writers doesn’t end at the film world. Chair Entertainment is working with science-fiction author Orson Scott Card on “Shadow Complex,” due for release on Xbox Live on Aug. 19.

Rather than simply adapting one of Card’s works, Chair approached the author with the basic idea of a story: a near-future civil war in the U.S. Card was asked to come up with a way that such an event might happen. Card then wrote a book, “Empire,” that established the universe of the game. Chair, meanwhile, built an action game that could exist within the world Card created.

It’s so interesting to me how all these forms of entertainment are integrated. As technology advances, production companies are witnessing the need to have the most talented people involved in the creative process. Magazines, blogs, TV channels, and YouTube channels all provide commentary that is viewed by millions of consumers. The gatekeepers are everywhere and their expert opinion — honed by years of nerdiness despite a popular medium to express it — now have a larger influence than ever before. Red Eagle knows “The Wheel of Time” series has a rabid fan base. Since many of these fans may comprise the video game market, they need the game to engage with players much in the same way the book does with its readers. If the game disappoints its fan base, the gatekeepers will let the public know and sales will drop. Fact is, flashy graphics don’t cut it anymore. In the advent of role-playing games for PC, traditional video game developers see the upside of a strong story. I never really got into video games, but I’ve seen bits from the new “Resident Evil” and can see the time put into creating sympathetic characters and an interesting plot. And who better to pay to have that done for you than actual writers. Makes sense to me. I hope gamers are appreciative.


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