Writing and game crossovers

I was watching a Twitch stream last night by DJTruthsayer, catching up on Elite:Dangerous lore chat (he is a font of knowledge) and it raised a number of interesting questions surrounding publishing.  Firstly, some context:  an excellent author, Drew Wagar, is writing the new Elite:Dangerous novel, ‘Premonition‘.  This book is being written based on the events that players of Elite:Dangerous generate in response to certain set events.  It’s a very interesting blend of computer game which I don’t think I have seen before.  Last night he was talking about the finale of the book being decided in game on April 29th – a brave, brave approach considering how some players will naturally try to make a name for themselves by breaking any mechanic they get a whiff of. They have plans within plans to try and keep things flowing but players will be players..

Nevertheless, it is happening and, from what I can tell, it’s happening across platforms (MAC/PC/Xbox) with just the players themselves to regulate what happens.  To say it sounds stressful is an understatement and Drew himself sounds like he is need of a well earned rest.  It’s all the more impressive when you consider that Frontier Developments are an indie developer (well established but still small scale) who have had a working space-sim game active for a few years now.  Relative to some others with multiple millions of dollars and proportionately more staff who are yet to meet expectations, it’s quite an achievement.  They have also released the very successful Planetcoaster further pushing their resources.  So, as Drew admitted, he has pretty much monopolised the author resources of Frontier for nine months and it will be nice to let someone else ‘have a go’ one ‘Premonition’ is done.

This reminded me of an interview I was listening to with ‘legendary games developer’ Hideo Kojima and his views regarding the convergence of video games and films; people will seek their entertainment from one source and not want to have to choose between games and movies.  Here in the UK we have an indie games developer attempting something similar through the novel writing process.  Unlike Kojima’s vision, however, it’s not out of a desire to save time and make it easier for an Elite:Dangerous fan to get their media fix from one source- far from it.  A lot of hard work is going into making the book and emergent gameplay tie in so, as Drew commented, you should be able to read the book and think “I seem to remember that..”.  The game is strong in that you can play it without knowing a thing about the universe in which the game is based but for geeks like me, the clutch of novels enrich the game and it’s lore immensely!  If I had been a bit less busy, I would have tried to elbow my way into Drew’s book… perhaps the next one- once he has recovered.

So, as writers, do we sit at the start of a new emergent existence for our novels that began with the eBook (that didn’t result in the death of the printed book as first envisaged) and the rise of the Twitch generation?  We can watch people play games, vote on how they should proceed with choices and create interactive communities based around computer games in a way that is a lot more immediate than ever before.  How well equipped are writers to embrace this brave new world? Will it persist or just fade away, like an unwanted save-game on a discarded hard drive?  Will this be a boom-time for content creators, the beginning of corporate, mass-produced goovies (game/movies…?..No?) or somewhere in between?  It’s another possibility, another potential creative outlet and potentially a whole new bunch of problems.  I for one will try and embrace it.

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