Award-winning game writer wants storytelling to play a larger role in game development

Perry Vandell at

Susan O’Connor, who helped pen the stories in BioShock, Far Cry 2, and the latest Tomb Raider along with Rhianna Pratchett, isn't happy with the state of game storytelling. She doesn't condemn video game stories themselves, but rather the overall process through which those stories are written. She sees storytelling in games being as dominated by teams that care more about compiling code—and she's tired of it.

In an interview with The Gameological Society, O’Connor pointed out how the creative process for video games is different from other forms of media.

“For me, I always want to focus on the entertainment side of it,” O’ Connor said. “This is supposed to make people feel something. It’s supposed to be fun, or be scary. But when I look at conversations that creatives are having, like in television or film or theater or freaking mimes, everyone else, the conversations they’re having are totally different.

“If you were to say, ‘Books are a great way to go inside a character’s mind for pages and pages, and movies are a great place to see larger-than-life movie stars and phenomenal explosions that are 40-feet tall,’ games are a really kinetic medium. The story is what the player does.”

She has a point. Books and movies rely on well-developed plots because that’s all they have. Movies might add amazing special effects to distract you from a poor script, but games are interactive. Whether you’re taking out an enemy base, scavenging an abandoned cave, or opening inter-dimensional portals, you are busy doing something. Sometimes, there’s not enough time or priority to inject enough plot to tell you why you’re doing said thing.

O’Connor went on to admit that she was tired of writing stories for video games and wanted to move on to other areas of entertainment.

“I don’t want to put up with this s$*& anymore,” she said. “I’m grateful for the success I’ve had, but I’m never going to be able to do work that can come anywhere close to the kind of emotional impact that stories in other media have, at least not in the next five to 10 years. I love stories, and I just happened to fall into games. I’ve learned who I am as a writer, and I think my talents and skills are much better used in other places."