Beginning with Baldur's Gate and running through series including Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age, BioWare has built a reputation as a studio that creates great characters and tells great stories. But David Gaider, who has design and writing credits on just about all of them, said on Twitter that attitudes toward writers at BioWare had soured prior to his departure in 2016.
Gaider said writing is "undervalued" because everyone thinks they can do it, and in the game industry in particular it seems secondary to disciplines that require "real skills" like art or programming.
"Even BioWare, which built its success on a reputation for good stories and characters, slowly turned from a company that vocally valued its writers to one where we were... quietly resented, with a reliance on expensive narrative seen as the "albatross" holding the company back," Gaider tweeted.
"Maybe that sounds like a heavy charge, but it's what I distinctly felt up until I left in 2016. Suddenly all anyone in charge was asking was 'how do we have LESS writing?' A good story would simply happen, via magic wand, rather than be something that needed support and priority."
Gaider's comments are particularly relevant at this very specific moment in time, when we have growing concern about the impact of AI on creative endeavors—writing and art, specifically—alongside significant layoffs at media companies like Buzzfeed and Vice, and a strike of roughly 11,500 film and television writers, who are seeking a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
There's a growing feeling that AI could, or will, supplant writers in various fields, and seemingly an active desire for that outcome from some quarters, particularly those more focused on shareholder returns than quality. There's definitely potential for good stuff to come from it, as we saw recently with Hidden Door's upcoming game/platform, which aims to "tell structured [videogame] stories with surprises and payoffs that, unlike so many AI chatbot conversations, actually make sense." But as Gaider pointed out, generally speaking you get what you pay for.
"At the end of the day, you can say you like good writing—whether it's in a game, a movie, an online article, or whatever—but if you don't value it enough to prioritize it and support it... and, yes, pay writers what they're due... that's not what everyone else is hearing," Gaider tweeted.
Gaider is currently working on what sounds like a very "writer-first" project at Summerfall Studios: Stray Gods, "a heartfelt reconception of Greek mythology blended with the magic of contemporary musical theater." It's set to launch on Steam on August 3.