Language Is A Virus: A Talk With Pandemic's Tom Abernathy
October 25, 2007 Page 4 of 5
What do you see as the advantages of being in-house at a developer, versus being freelance and being able to work on different projects?
TA: At this stage of the game, they are two-fold. One is that it's a stable job. As in any profession, having a salary, having benefits, knowing where your next paycheck is coming from, and having a structure that you can perhaps ascend in are things that have a certain value to them. They're not things that everybody necessarily wants. I have friends who are still contracting game writers, as I used to be, who don't want to do what I'm doing. They're younger, they're not married or have kids like I am, and their needs are different, and they like the freedom.
They like being able to work on two or three different projects at once. They like having time to work on their screenplays or whatever on the side, which I most of the time don't, in dividing time between work and a two-year-old. And I totally understand that. And they can, at least hypothetically, make more money, but of course they have to buy their own health insurance, too, and all that kind of stuff.
For me, it made a lot of sense because of the point of my life I was in, and having a new child on the way and feeling like that would be something that would be good for my family. But the second thing -- and this is the more important of the two for me -- is that process that I described as having the writer be involved early on. A game company's not going to pay a writer for that length of time. They weren't going to pay me as a contractor for my hours of work over three years, because that would be a lot more money, quite frankly, than they're paying me as a salary.
What I wanted more than anything was to have the opportunity to get into a company full of smart, forward-thinking people who were willing to have their eyes opened and help them learn -- as I learn, because I'm still learning it too -- how the writer can be incorporated into the process from the very beginning in a totally integral, totally vital way. I did believe with every fiber of my being that was true -- that it was no question that a good writer involved from the earliest point could make any game better. Even Star Wars: Battlefront -- a game that isn't really writing-driven.
That's certainly true. I've worked on a couple of things, and there's certainly a large difference between coming in at the end of a project and coming in at the beginning, in terms of not only your ability to direct the project, but in terms of you being perceived as integral.
TA: Right! That's right. That's absolutely true. One of the problems that we have in the industry still at this point is that it's not an industry that has traditionally used writers until fairly recently, and they're not convinced that they need us. But you know what? Programmers weren't convinced that they needed designers. It used to be two guys in their garage made Space Invaders or whatever. This is the way art forms and media evolve, and I firmly believe that writing is emerging -- I think has emerged, but is still in the birthing process of emerging -- as a totally integral, vital game development speciality, in exactly the same way that programming, design, and art are.
I think it's just as important if you want to not just make a game that's good and has a complete and immersive fantasy, but if you want to compete, as we have to, in this market with peoples' time and money with movies, television, the Internet, and all the other things that people could be doing to divert themselves -- not to mention the pub crawl on 6th Street -- we have to elevate the kind of experience we're presenting to make sure it's something that can totally compete with those kinds of experiences. And we have some tools that none of those things have. We have interactivity. There are things we have already that give us advantages, but good writing can absolutely help you do that, and is essential to help you do that, I believe.
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