What’s in a Name?

Writing for video games is one of the hardest mediums to write for. Bypassing entirely the fact that development teams think they don’t need a writer, the writers being brought in exceptionally late, and/or assuming that anyone on the team who can put words on paper counts as a writer, there are a ton of minor issues with traditional writing that make writing for a game difficult.

One major issue that is very common is the assumption that story can only be told in text blocks. Bioshock has proven this to be completely untrue. Story can be told using models, textures, sounds, and even enemy set ups. This is part of an idea that when making a story the designer is also making a world. Everything in the game has to be a part of the world and a part of the story. Nothing should be put in the game that doesn’t support the world and the fiction.

If the design of the game requires something like zone or area names, then it logically follows that each of these names should be selected to support the fiction. Brand names, character names, place names… every single proper name in the game should be carefully considered and chosen to support the fiction. Nuka Cola in Fallout 3? Perfect. Pokeball to put Pokemon in? Perfect. Sinclare Solutions? Spot on. Each name supports the world.

That means the person on the team who knows the world best (hopefully an evil overlord of design), if not a writer, should at least be working with the writer to generate proper names for every single thing within the game. From characters to unique items. From places to technical terms that need to be renamed for the players (eg spawners). These molecules of flavor are just as important as a good footstep sound effect and a well placed combat area for making the world feel real, consistent and coherent.

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