Well, duh. After all, we’ve been playing and having fun since we were kids… we’re old hands at it, right? So what could I possibly say about fun that someone like Ralph Koster hasn’t already said in Theory of Fun, or something that we don’t intuit naturally?


Let’s face it. We’re adults, and having fun seems to be a lost art or at the very least, a self-destructive one that involves a lot of alcohol and smoking and inexplicable bruises the morning after. I think that we over complicate things; especially when it comes to working in games or writing in general, we definitely over think it. We’ve become gravely serious and sometimes pedantic about the gravity of our work, like somehow ‘Fun’ has a silent ‘P’ in front of it that’s turned it into a 4-letter word.

When it comes to games, I think it’s part guilt and part the nature of the pressure cooker environment of pushing towards the constant deadlines (trade-shows, proof of technology kickoffs, proof of concept kickoffs, internal reviews, Alpha, Beta, First Submission, Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo Compliance deadlines, Gold, etc. etc.). The latter is self-explanatory, but the former (guilt) seems to be this self-defense* or guilt mechanism to hedge off any accusations that videogames aren’t real work. I mean, good grief! If people thought we loved our jobs because it was fun, they’d never take us seriously or be empathetic when we have a legitimately bad day or hard work week. Like fun somehow minimizes the impact of our jobs on our health and on our relationships.

We’re here though, to talk about writing for videogames, and fortunately that brings us pretty much to the same point. We writers tend to be insecure, and we fret over our words and we agonize over structure and themes, and we put more sweat into our work than a woman giving birth NOT because we’re actually doing more effort, but because we put so much drama into writing. And when our work is cut with an unkind word or indifference, we bleed like hemophiliacs covered in leeches.

Now, I can hear some of you saying: But people are constantly criticizing my work. They put me down. They don’t get me. They said I suck. They don’t understand my vision!

                And? You’re a writer and this is the life. Listen, learn, move on.

So what I have seen happen is that when people write, they do so with the express purpose of proving that they are authors! They want the world to know that they can write, and the story is just that vehicle. Well congratulation… any subtext that you managed to carefully inject into your dialog and any themes you artfully threaded throughout your story beats have been devoured by that one monstrous theme and subconscious piece of subtext… You. You made it about yourself. You made it about your ego and your fears.

Oh, and trust me, I’ve been there. Lord have I ever been hip deep in there. I have allowed the fear of writing to prove my worth as opposed to being true to the subject matter. And whenever I do that, I churn out something inferior. In trying to sound smart and learned, I lap myself and sound stupid.

So… thou shalt have fun. Be true to whatever you write and ride whatever spirit it was that first sent you to the page. And if you get a chance to write for videogames, write what is true and have fun with it. Your talent will shine through without all that unnecessary effort, your skill in the facility with which the reader or listener is submerged in your narrative. Try to make it about yourself, though, and you lose the audience in the forest of “Me!”

Next Up: Commandment – Thou Shalt Always Write the Truth

*Fuck you, Canadian spellchecker, I prefer spelling it the US way.