Close
Are you sure? Are you sure you want to report this comment? I understand, report it. Cancel

Bioware, Rockstar "refused" to enter WGA writing award

Fri 04 Feb 2011 9:25am GMT / 4:25am EST / 1:25am PST
Development

"The idea the WGA is getting rich off $60 fees from game writers is laughable"

EA BioWare

BioWare develops high quality console, PC and online role-playing games, focused on rich stories, unforgettable...

bioware.com

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."

20 Comments

Waqar Ali
Studying Games Design and Production Management

9 0 0.0
That's shame really. Bioware for one have consistently good writing and I always thought that writing in games should get more recognition in itself.
It'd also help promote computer games as an art form, which is always good.

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Martin Mathers
Copywriter/Journalist

39 0 0.0
"The idea that anyone thinks the WGA is somehow getting rich off of $60 fees from videogame writers is laughable."

You're still essentially charging them money for the chance to win an award though, which in itself is laughable. Essentially, you're running a lottery - 'Hey, buy a ticket! You might win!'. True talent deserves to be rewarded for being talent, not because it stumped up an entrance fee. This comment:

"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."

is you basically saying, 'Well, they could have had a prize, but they weren't willing to pay us to read it." Ridiculous.

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Geraint D'Arcy
Writer / Poet

6 0 0.0
Why bother with the WGA anyway? Wouldn't it be better if they won awards for writing in their genre? eg. Mass Effect could easily win a Hugo or a Nebula on the writing alone (though the same can't be said for the spin off novel).
And. . .
"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"
. . . Why not just submit a review copy instead of paying $60? Then they can be distributed to different judges who only play a few and shortlisted like any other presigious writer's award.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Farhang Namdar
Lead Game Designer

75 47 0.6
This truly is bullshit, I think writing needs to be judged in a game as part of the composition of the entire product. We go to great lengths to say the right things at the right moments, how the hell will I describe a line that occurs after a 20min puzzle in a manuscript. The only thing this award is good for is linear gaming interrupted by scenes, Uncharted, Batman, Assassins Creed etc. But remember boys and girls games aren't sad ripoffs of films, they actually require people to play. And when you write the right lines during the right actions that shit is awesome! Too bad their judges can't play games...

Posted:3 years ago

#4

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

735 430 0.6
@ Martin Mathers:

I totally agree. Maybe the Nobel Peace Prize could adopt a similar approach.... I'd love to win that and have it on my CV for doing nothing more than entering for a small fee. After all, i'm a very peaceful person!

@ Farhang Namdar:
I agree with your point as well. I'd specifically like to award extra points to games that, when you fail, don't subject you to the same patronising (and often highly repetitive) dialogue during fights and after dying and being shunted back to a save point before some verbose "action".

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 4th February 2011 12:58pm

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Mazeltof
Conceptual Imagineer

8 7 0.9
Uh oh. Someone mentioned the 'U' word.

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Panagiotis Karanikolis
Developer Account Manager

6 0 0.0
Like he said, it's laughable to think that the $60 is the actual reason. Did you really think Bioware or 2K wouldn't spare 100 times the amount for some extra publicity? The problem here is the requirment of the script which I would find ridiculous if I was Bioware. Gaming is a unique experience, combining the quality storytelling of a good movie with elements of gameplay and customisation that are just impossible to put on a script.

How exactly do you script an RPG with 10 NPCs when you can have 2 or 3 with you at the time? How can you express the connection a player feels with an NPC after learning his history, spending 20 hours playing along side him, heard his random rants and warcries. Mass Effect 2 had brilliant storytelling but I doubt there is an actual script for it or a way to make a script that would do it justice.

The requirment of a script is just an archaic way to think about "writing" in general. It's close to trying to judge songs based on their lyrics.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Panagiotis Karanikolis on 4th February 2011 3:25pm

Posted:3 years ago

#7

Mark Ashton
Producer

1 0 0.0
But you know that you have to pay a fee to enter your game for a BAFTA right?
http://www.bafta.org/awards/video-games/...

Posted:3 years ago

#8

Martin Mathers
Copywriter/Journalist

39 0 0.0
Not saying that's better, Mark - in fact, that's worse given the prices. Might as well buy your own award... it probably wouldn't cost as much and you'd DEFINITELY win.

Then again, most award ceremonies like this are little more than cash-stuffed back-patting opportunities. I could point fingers, but... well, some are renowned in the industry for being utterly pointless beyond offering a chance for everyone in attendance to get slaughtered.

Posted:3 years ago

#9
Lots of egos around the table. Meanwhile the movie guilds are doing just fine with much higher price tags and very specific rules.
Everyone has a valid point, but at the end of the day the guild is running the show for their award, and they're not asking for the moon quite frankly.

Posted:3 years ago

#10

Paul Gheran
Scrum Master

123 27 0.2
"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."

Read: All writing is judged out of context.

If the membership dues don't go to pay the judging staff for services rendered, what is happening with the money?

Posted:3 years ago

#11

Andrew Wearring
Studying Arts

1 0 0.0
Anyone else think it's slightly worrying the spokesperson for the Writers Guild spells mantel "mantle"?

Posted:3 years ago

#12

Micah Ian Wright
Game Writer

5 0 0.0


First off, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A MEMBER OF OUR GUILD TO WIN OUR AWARD. Yes, 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. The WGA is a federally supervised union of film, television, and videogame writers which provides portable health and pension benefits for professional writers. You can't just "join" the WGA, you have to work under a WGA contract first. The VWC, on the other hand, is a working group of professional writers dedicated to raising the profile of the videogame writer, improving the working conditions for all development crew, and setting industry standards as far as work and payscale and deliverables for game writers. The VWC is a volunteer organization made up entirely of working videogame writers.

The reasons we created the WGA videogame writer award are threefold: (1) we wanted to honor the craft of the game writer/narrative designer, (2) We wanted to encourage game companies to fairly credit the writers on their games, and (3) we want to know who all the best game writers in the industry are are so we can sit down with them and find out what their concerns and ideas about improving work conditions in the games industry are... and then to implement those ideas. Asking that entrants join the Videogame Writers Caucus in order to be eligible for the award is no different than, say, the Academy Awards, which requires that nominees join the Academy.

http://www.geek4tv.com/wp-content/upload...



















Secondly, we have succeeded in raising the profile of our game writer nominees and winners. When Hayden Blackman left LucasArts earlier this year to start his own company, every article about his departure mentioned that he had won our award, and several of them used the WGA's press photo of Hayden holding up his award for "The Force Unleashed" as the image they ran with those articles. Other companies have run advertisements touting that their game was "Nominated for a WGA Best Videogame Writing Award" or "Winner of the WGA Best Videogame Writing Award." An award like this, bestowed by the largest group of working professional writers in the world, raises the nominated writers' stature and provides career access that they might not otherwise have, both in the games world and in the film & TV industry. It's DIFFICULT to win a WGA Award, and it's considered a major achievement by other writers. Plus you get a cool statue for your cats to constantly knock off your mantel!



Micah Wright
videogame writer/narrative designer
chairman & steering committee member, WGA Videogame Writers Caucus

Posted:3 years ago

#13

Richard Gardner
Artist

123 32 0.3
What caught my eye is you have an 'entrance fee' for games and the union takes a percentage of peoples earnings, but you don't 'have the time' to play through a game experience that is longer than reading a script? With all these charges and union fees where exactly does all this money go? As what your basically saying is your not going to play through a game as its not in your best interest?

Posted:3 years ago

#14

Stephen Northcott
Senior Consulting Engineer

76 0 0.0
Dear WGA, if you are so desperate to include these companies in your awards wave the $60 fee - for everyone. Simple.

It seems that you're the ones making the fuss and not these companies.
No amount of whinging, moaning or justifying changes the basic fact that in order to be considered you have to pay $60. Something which people have a right to find irritating, or not.

Could it also be be that perhaps they just don't give a damn about your awards?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Stephen Northcott on 5th February 2011 10:38am

Posted:3 years ago

#15

Alejandro Alberich Blanes
Programmers

2 0 0.0
If they don't have time to play the whole game them they can always watch a playthrough on youtube, that way they can skip pure gameplay segments while getting most of the context of the script.

Posted:3 years ago

#16

Neil Hughes
Managing Editor

4 0 0.0
Is this a similar reason to why Rockstar have not put Red Dead Redemption forward for a BAFTA?

Posted:3 years ago

#17

Peter Strauss
Studying New Media

1 0 0.0
A little late here, but I'm curious what a script of Fallout New Vegas would look like. It has no definitive pacing to it, the player roams freely and the plots and characters develop around that. How would you be able to read that and get the same impact? If you make a decision in the game that makes a certain character suddenly hate you, how would simply reading the script allow you to understand the humor, anger, irony of a characters reaction to your decision on a separate quest that effects them through faction alliance or personal reasons?

Posted:3 years ago

#18
Out of all the huff and puff of the comments here, @ Peter Strauss seems to ask the relevant question. What does the script of a free-roaming game like Fallout look like? Not that I'm a writer, but if I was one, or studying to be one, I would most certainly like to be able to read the script (or whatever takes its place) and learn. Film scripts aren't easy to come by, but you can find them and learn the craft by study. How does one really learn to become a great game writer?

As a gamer, as well as someone who works on the tech side of things to make games work, I would certainly like to see more games have good writing in them, even when (especially when!) they do not have a linear storyline progression.

I would hope that WGA/VWC wants to further that goal, and @ Micah appears to communicate that in his comments. Crediting writers matters, and so does their writing.

Posted:3 years ago

#19

Kirill Yarovoy
Game designer / Narrative designer / Writer

41 5 0.1
LOL why you guys trying to talk to WGA here?)
Just as non WGA members cant win their awards, non GI.BIZ users (aka not game developers) cant read all our comments at this site) Funny coincidence ? No, we just belong to separated industries, so whatever.

Also despite my love to ME 2, RDR and DAo, their scripts are LAUGHABLE for MOVIE INDUSTRY standards, because all listed games have nothing but big pack of cliches and scenes ripped-off many movies, and scripts of all 3 games are absolutely secondary.

ME2 starts with scene ripped off 5th element, continued with Cigarette smoking man ripped off X-files, entire story shows you Star-Wars kind of ship and characters (their look, names, and even their planets names are so Star Wars) + a some Dune rip-offs (council base is equal to design of Dune space\spice-ships from mini series) a little of Farscape and few more Sci-fi series and movies, and its all ends with BIG TERMINATOR at ALIEN hive, and yeah dont forget that main character of game Looks like main character of LOST series and even have same surname.
And im not saying that entire script structure is always the same in every BioWare game since Baldur's Gate.

Do you think this could have any chances to win in WGA? Oh, c'mon! This game could only win at some BLAHBLAH GENERIC GAME INDUSTRY AWARD founded by industry insiders, and it could win only with help of dumb players who vote for games like ME2 because they never watched classic movies and never reed classic books to understand where all the "original ideas" came from.
In Movie industry ME2 script is equal to B-movie trash.

What was next in list, RDR or DAO?

RDR, it have funny characters just as any GTA, good gameplay, but generally story is plain and washed out by "side-quests" and im not even in a mood to mention whole list of spaghetti-westerns it ripped off.

And DAO, its story is so classic Fantasy cliche

"Spawns from hell opened a gate\tower and started to destroy living lands... blah blah blah + dragons + might + magic + blah blah blah ... only lonely hero and bunch of his retarded friends with help of magic sword\ring\whatever can infiltrate main tower\gate of evil, kill big ugly hell spawn and bring peace to northerlands"

so its not even funny anymore. Its story just makes an illusion of reach story with help of characters and their dialogs, but in fact its same old fantasy which makes most of people puke because of "originality" of story.

If you ask me what was the most original and genuine Fantasy story in games last 5 years, i can tell you 2 games that really could win WGA awards - Dreamfall: the longest journey, and The Witcher.
ME2, DAO and RDR stories totally dull and predictable comparing to these 2.

So they did not have a chance, and i suppose thats the real reason why they missed this award, because BioWare and Rockstar guys knows for sure truth about "originality" and "ideology" of their scripts.
So they just preferred to stay away and let us think that they could win if they want, instead of losing in every nomination.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Kirill Yarovoy on 7th February 2011 11:17am

Posted:3 years ago

#20

Login or register to post

Take part in the GamesIndustry community

Register now