October 26, 2011. It was time to attend another IGDA writers panel. Last year's panel write-up on Environmental Narrative had been well-received, so I was encouraged to do a repeat performance this year.
The panel's theme this time around was “Players Vs Characters” - the games writer's pocket incarnation of “What happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object?” The four writers, convening at BAFTA, were almost the same as last year's line-up:
- Ed Stern (Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Brink)
- Rhianna Pratchett (Overlord, Heavenly Sword, Mirror's Edge)
- James Swallow (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Killzone 2)
- Andrew S. Walsh (Harry Potter, Prince of Persia. Medieval II: Total War)
The panel was run differently too. Last year, each of the big names delivered a short presentation, followed by questions. This time it was a freeform discussion with Walsh chairing.
In another departure from last year's panel, I'm going to pepper the write-up with my own commentary.
What Is Character?
With a picture of David Caruso looking down on us, because that is what Caruso does, Walsh opened with the first question: what is character? This shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer, Walsh said, because character has been around for a long time in other media.
Stern got first dibs and tackled Walsh's implication that there should be much in common with other media, saying he saw games “as more dissimilar than similar”. Things which look like character aren’t because of the issue of interactivity. The cinema-goer is expected to be passive when watching a film, he said, but the gamer gets to play with perspective and pacing all the time.