The Writers Guild of America has hit back at criticism concerning a widespread perception that only full guild members are eligible for its Best Videogame Writing Award. Instead, games writers must pay a $60 fee if they wish to be considered for nomination.
In an editorial published on GamesIndustry.biz today, the chair of the Writers Guild of America's Videogame Writers Caucus Micah Wright claims that "you do not have to be a member of our guild to win our award.
"We ask that all entrants join the Videogame Writers Caucus (VWC), but that is not the same thing as being a member of the WGA." VWC requires a $60 annual fee, which also entails access to free film screenings and a subscription to the WGA's Written By Magazine.
"The WGA is a Guild primarily supported by the mandatory union dues of our film and television member-writers. A writer who works on, say, Pirates of the Carribean 4, will contribute 2% of their salary to the union, which in the case of a film like that might be in the range of $100,000.
"The idea that anyone thinks the WGA is somehow getting rich off of $60 fees from videogame writers is laughable."
The award does have further requirements, however. "We need to see a script with a list of writers' names on it. For one thing, we need to know who wrote these games: we're not clairvoyant... we can't magically peer into some Developer's internal business structure and divine who wrote what.
"Because of this requirement, however, some game studios have refused to submit a script, even though we've gone to great lengths to make it easy for them to do.
Studios electing not to participate included some big names: "Bioware, for example, refused to submit a script for either Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age this year, and that's too bad, because both games would have likely been finalists.
"Similarly, Take Two Games refused to submit a script for Red Dead Redemption. Why? We don't know. Maybe they hate unions, or maybe they just hate winning awards, or maybe they have enough statues on their mantle.
"So another game gets what would likely have been their nomination. Are we happy about it? No... but rules are rules and our rules are clear and very fair."
In regard to criticisms that what is perhaps the most renowned award for games writing has too narrow a scope due to VWC membership requirements, Wright argued that "Some people in the games press say that we should simply play all the games and make our judgments that way. Our judges are all members of the VWC, and thus, professional, working videogame writers. I can't demand that our judges sit down and buy and then devote 80 hours to playing every videogame that comes out at retail... not when they've got jobs and lives to lead and they can read the entire script in 2 hours or less."
Although the Writers Guild of Great Britain does play all relevant games, "only British writers are eligible for that award, and there are many fewer British-written games than there are American-written games."
Wright was responding to concerns about the award expressed by Eidos Montreal's narrative designer Mary De Marle yesterday.
"If Mary De Marle wanted to submit the Deus Ex script for our award this year, she could have, and we would have loved to have her... and she might have even won it since the guys who wrote Red Dead Redemption took themselves out of consideration this year."