The development of video games has today reached immense expenses. Producing a new AAA is at first a huge investment by the producer; however, with the possibility of earning an even bigger amount. The stakes in the video game industry today are high. The pressure that this – high risk, high reward – game creates is the theme of small Twine game The Writer Will Do Something (2015) by Tom Bissel and Matthew Burns. The game situates the player as the responsible writer for a big game company’s next big game, ShatterGate, but the game is struggling, the employees overworked, and the writer (the player character) is not interested in ShatterGate at all. This essay will discuss some of the issues in the game industry that the game portraits and what solution the game offers.
The opening part of the game offers the player an opportunity to read/learn about his/her co-workers. All of them are in some way under an immense pressure by their position at the game company. This harmonizes well with the real-world, where it is expected that only about half of the people employed in the game industry will remain there for more than a decade (Anthropy 2012). The Creative Director, Josh, is claiming to have been the originator of the idea to ShatterGate he is, however, not owning the rights to the game: “Of course, it’s [ShatterGate] not his IP [Intellectual Property] – it’s the company’s” (Bissel & Burns 2015). The company has the legal ownership of the game and they are therefore the only one who can produce the game (Coleman & Dyer-Witheford 2008). Through this introduction, the game establishes itself as an attempt of a representation of the real-world industry.
The player quickly learns that his character, the writer, has been doing a poorly job and thusly is the scapegoat at the meeting. Through the meeting, it becomes clear that something must be done to save the game; who can do it? This question the game never answers; it offers another and even more interesting question. Somehow ShatterGate is finished, but the game ends by implying that the production of the fourth ShatterGate is just as troublesome and thereby showing the recurrence of this situation in the video games industry. The question the game leaves behind seems to be: how do we break this cycle?
Anna Anthropy proposes a solution: “By undermining the industry’s claim to being the only route to game creation – especially to making a living from game creation – we force the industry to reconsider its totalitarian attitude toward the people it employs” (Anthropy 2012). In this task, to create videogames outside of the industry, a program like Twine might be the solution. As a free program to produce Interactive Fiction Twine gives anybody the tools to create a videogame. The possibilities are described by Porpentine: “Creation is the most powerful form of criticism, because it has the power to drestroy that which it criticizes” (Porpentine 2012). Porpentines argues that the production of a criticism actually helps subvert the object being criticized. Bissels and Burns little game can following Porpentine’s logic contribute to the destruction of some of the conditions in the video game industry.
Anthropy, Anna. “The Problem With Videogames.” Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2012. 1-21.
Bissel, Tom; Burns, Matthew S.: The Writer Will Do Something. 2015
Coleman, Sarah and Nick Dyer-Witheford. “Playing on the digital commons: collectivities, capital and contestation in videogame culture.” Media Culture & Society 26.6 (2007): 934-953.
Porpentine. “Creation Under Capitalism and the Twine Revolution.” Nightmare Mode. 25 November 2012.