“People think prostution is the oldest trade when in reality, story telling is the oldest trade“. – Quote from a friend of mine who is a film producer
Check out the quote above and see what you think of it. I’ve heard it many times from him over the years. It’s true that as humans, one of our most beloved pastimes is hearing about the struggles, conquests and lives of others. Story telling has evolved over thousands of years from simple drawings on cave walls to the mighty cinema screen. But recently a new way of telling a story has come about over the past few decades, as it evolved once more and managed to weave its way into the fabric of interactive video games.
Now we all know the main purpose of a game is the gameplay. Look at Tetris for example. It’s a great, solid game and it does the job perfectly. No story, no nothing. Does having a story in a game really make it a better game? Is there really any need? Some people think it’s pointless having hours of in-game cutscenes and I totally respect that. But you can’t deny the popularity of games out there which are backed up by lovable characters and a great story line. I for one, absolutely love them and believe there should be more!
It’s true, not everyone plays video games. However, pretty much every one I know does appreciate the value of a decent story whether it’s at the cinema, on TV or in a book/magazine. It’s human nature. People are interested in people. That’s why soaps and dramas are so popular. It’s all about the emotional ride we experience from watching them and whether we like it or not, story based games are here to stay.
Do you remember the way you felt when you stepped out of a cinema after experiencing some awesome blockbuster? Or when the DVD rolled the end credits, you finally snapped out of your hypnotic trance and you were back in your living room? You were so engrossed by the experience that you forgot about reality and were temporarily inside the filmmaker’s world. It was an amazing feeling wasn’t it? Remember telling all your friends about it the next day? Remember how you swore to pre-order the DVD? Do I need to say any more? You get what I’m saying, right?
Filmmakers have emotionally moved audiences for over a century. People enjoy watching movies in order to feel love, joy, anger, sadness, hope, surprise, fear, anticipation, etc. Why should video games be any different?
We’re now living in an age where you can cram several hours worth of cinematics onto a disc along with a great game and you can finally deliver the mind-blowing impact you get from watching a well-written feature film. Some developers take their story telling very seriously and manage to do a fantastic job of integrating a great set of cinematics into their games. But unfortunately (and this is sad) there are still some who despite the big budgets and resources available always make a mess of what could have been an awesome epic tale. I’m sure you’ve all experienced those before. It’s not always the case, but I’ve noticed that some games which pass through the sacred slot of my XBox 360 or the hallowed hard drives of my beloved PC somehow seem to disappoint when it comes to entertaining me with a great story (and I hire a of a lot of games every month). The disc goes straight back, and my list of ‘games to buy’ doesn’t get any bigger.
Why is that? It’s nothing to do with technology any more. Back in the 70′s and 80′s for example you couldn’t really put epic mind-blowing cinematics and visuals in a game because of technological restrictions. But times have changed now. With the technology and the budgets we have today, there are no more excuses.
My background is in film visual effects. I’ve been around directors, actors and screenplays for a large chunk of my life. But I only started taking writing seriously several years ago. Then I made my first attempt at writing the screenplay and back story for a game called “Anaksha Female Assassin”. This game was both a blessing and a curse. I, like a lot of people, thought I could write….I was wrong. Yes it was a great concept with great potential but like a typical beginner I made a lot of fatal mistakes which make me cringe when I look back on them. So when I made the decision to create a sequel, I also made the decision to learn as much I as I possibly could about the art of screenwriting. I went on Amazon and spent so much money on screenwriting books that I still haven’t read them all. It took me many long months to understand the things I’ve learnt. I became obsessed with it. I wanted to make it my pet. Learn everything I could. Master each area of this subject. I was so dedicated with my mission that I could think of nothing else. I, like a lot of people out there, wanted to ‘get it’ and was going to do anything to ‘get it’.
I remember in Dec 2008, I was admitted into hospital for major abdominal surgery. As soon as I got into the ward I pulled down that little computer screen they have above the beds and began looking at websites filled with screenwriting resources (I specifically remember reading the Blue Velvet screenplay among several others). The operation I was undergoing was potentially risky, took over 4 hours of delicate work by two teams led by a veteran surgeon and professor. I remember when I woke up after the op, the first thing I did was ask the nurse, “Did the operation go well?”. She smiled and said, “Yes it went extremely well”. As soon as I heard those words and received her confirmation that my life and health was going to be OK, my mind immediately flipped back to my obsession with writing, as I lay there in the recovery ward thinking about the plot for Anaksha Dark Angel once again.
It sounds crazy but that’s how dedicated I was to learn to do this the correct way. (I think the only time I wasn’t obsessing over it was when they pulled the epidural out of my spine and shot me up with a dose of morphine because I was in so much pain. My mind, physical senses and perception of time and reality went completely nuts! I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy! Once the bad trip was gone however, the aftermath ‘high’ was totally awesome though. I won’t lie to you about that. )
The screenplay for Anaksha Dark Angel (the sequel to Female Assassin) changed several times during the course of two years due to mistakes I made early one. But I kept rewriting, and rewriting and applying new things that I was constantly learning from books and DVDs. I’m proud to say that in the end, I ended up with something I am extremely happy with.
I’ve learnt a lot, and have been to hell and back to get this information, during the course of which I’ve even written and co-written screenplays for films, games and animations for a few professionals I know. Even now when I watch a DVD movie, I will have a notepad and pen out and will be jotting down certain points throughout the film and making notes on anything interesting I encounter.
If you’ve ever wanted to write a script for a film or a video game, but were unsure how to go about it then this little course is for you. Even if you’ve been writing for a while, you may learn something new which you’ve not encountered before. The information I’m going to share with you isn’t available anywhere else because I’ve had to work some of it out myself. That’s why I’m writing it down, not just for your benefit but also for my own, so I don’t forget. There’s many ways to write a screenplay. I’ll be teaching you my personal way.
I’ll be splitting the whole course into several potential parts/chapters so please read and re-read it carefully and try to understand some of the concepts I’ll be introducing you to. I’m not guaranteeing you’ll go out there and write the next Shawshank, but if you take the time to practice and master this craft you will be so much more confident the next time you sit down to write the back story to your new game, or your agent calls you up because their client wants you to write them an epic tale (assuming you have an literary agent).
I’m not claiming to be perfect. Every writer is constantly in a learning phase and strives to know more. I’m only showing you what I know.
During this series you will learn:
The True Driving Force Behind All Entertainment
The Log Line: Creating an Exciting Foundation
Crafting a Bulletproof Plot Structure
The Life, Death and Anatomy Of a Successful Scene/Cutscene
Creating Lovable Characters That People Can Become Attached To
Why “Darlings and Babies” Are a Bad Thing
Writing Effective Dialogue The Correct Way
Problem Solving and How To Eliminate “Writer’s Block”
Formatting a Screenplay The Professional Way
Please note, over time I’ll be adding to this series, deleting things, correcting mistakes, updating and editing it to make sure you have the most concise, most upto date information I can deliver. The chapters you see above may or may not make it into the final version. I might even change the title, who knows. As one of my filmmaker friends always says, “We’ll just have to suck it and see”. Yeah that sounds a little dirty, but you get he point. Let’s just do this and see how it turns out, hmm?
If you have any questions you can find me at ????@arifgames.com or alternatively at ????@anaksha.com (Replace the four question marks with my first name).
I’ll sign off for now and I’ll see you next time. I’ll be using the Anaksha material as examples and teaching aids so I will be announcing all new chapters of this course via the Anaksha mailing list and the Anaksha facebook group and the ArifGames facebook group, so if you want to keep upto date with this then I suggest you either sign up for one of those, or just keep an eye on this blog.
All content is © copyright Arif Majothi, 2012 and is exclusive to the ArifGames.com blog. You are not permitted to reproduce or republish any part of this content. Please respect my right to do my own thing with my own rules. Report all content leeches and thieves to arifgames.com.
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- How To Write High-Impact Screenplays For Video Games and Film – Part 4 – Crafting The Foundation
- How To Write High-Impact Screenplays For Video Games and Film – Part 3 – The Log Line: Laying The Cornerstone
- How To Write High-Impact Screenplays For Video Games and Film – Part 2 – The Driving Force Behind All Entertainment
- How To Write High-Impact Screenplays For Video Games and Film – Part 1 – Introduction