Tom Bissel and Matthew Burns’ The Writer Will Do Something is an indie developer’s viewpoint of the process of creating a large triple-A videogame, and how everyone involved views it. The game displays how the intention of the creatives working on the project is to create an entry into the franchise that they can be proud of, whereas the higher ups representing the company are only concerned about its purpose as a commodity. It’s very much an “us vs. them” type tale, where the writer is portrayed as a heroic underdog and the producers are the villainous bureaucrats opposing him. The player is given a slight amount of choice, but in the end it is still the writer’s path that the player will follow. This aids in showing the frivolity of attempting to work in the big studio system, and diminishing a work of art to its core basics as a commodity for profit.
The illusion of choice is given to the player in regards to how they circumvent the branching storylines of the game, when in reality these all lead to the same relative destination. A player is not a player as they lack the control that the developer has, leaving them only as a spectator being guided along the pre-written path. The game loses its identity as a game and becomes lost in its own narrative. Is it necessary for someone to even play this game, or does its existence in general validate its place in the world and the point it is hoping to achieve? Its puropose may very well be justified if it were to be ignored and forgotten, as that is the realistic embodiment of the videogame industry that the developers are hoping to educate about: how artistic endeavours with a message and purpose are overlooked and overshadowed by consumers who choose to pick games that are catered by a large studio to appeal to a general populace.
It does however beg the question of whether this is a realistic portrayal of the videogame production cycle, or the ramblings of two lone developers who may have been burned by the system in the past. While Bissel and Burns are trying to distance themselves from any sort of franchise or brand, their names themselves are the brand, with their names being the only other words proudly displayed on the title screen aside from the title of the game. What also needs to be understand is that without larger corporations churning out AAA, producer-led products and pushing the videogame market into being a multi-billion dollar industry, small independent developers would not be afforded the opportunity to create the games that they wish to. The commodity of videogames are the necessary evil that must be present in order to pave the way for smaller, more thoughtful projects.
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.
Bissel, Tom; Burns, Matthew S.: The Writer Will Do Something. 2015