Writing is everywhere; every job, hobby, school assignment and business venture involves some modicum of it. Writing in games, in particular, has a very interesting history. In the early days, game limitations expected the user to have some sort of imaginative ability. In the times of old home consoles and such, your creativity played a main role in your gameplay. I’m looking at you, Adventure.
Looking back on some of the most loved games, you could argue that writing wasn’t a huge factor. Super Mario Bros. had next to no writing, and Zelda was never huge on it until recently. But look at standout titles nowadays: Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, and The Last of Us, for goodness’ sake! These games bring out three major emotions with their writing; GTA always makes you laugh, Max Payne was a mentally taxing experience, and must I even talk of the tear jerking moments in The Last of Us? One thing that has been a constant lately is that almost all major games present stories – every game from the yearly, mandatory Call of Duty titles, all the way up to the now 20-year saga of absolute craziness that is Metal Gear.
On the other hand, graphics have always been a major selling point in gaming, growing in importance alongside writing. The concept goes all the way back to the bit wars that traveled from 8 bit to 16, to 32, and even 64. Then came polygons and full motion video. Once HD resolution and 3D gaming was achieved, literally anything was graphically possible. Games then began deciding which they could sell, a pretty world or engrossing narrative.
The biggest examples of the conflict between graphics and writing that come to mind are Quantic Dreams’s Heavy Rain and Telltale’s The Walking Dead. When the community was absolutely drooling over new consoles a little over a year ago, David Cage of Quantic Dream presented at the PlayStation Meeting in 2013. During this, he stated, “Technology is what we rely on in order to get the player emotionally involved.” He then showed off a tech demo displaying just how he could do that, using an old man’s beautiful eyes to relay a plethora of emotions.