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Feature: 'The Gamasutra 20: Top Game Writers'

Feature: 'The Gamasutra 20: Top Game Writers'

February 20, 2009 | By Staff

February 20, 2009 | By Staff
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Continuing the 'Gamasutra 20' series, the editors of Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine are proud to name and profile a score of the world's top game writers and story crafters, from Ken Levine to Tim Schafer and far beyond.

LucasArts veteran and Double Fine founder/creative designer Tim Schafer (Brutal Legend) was singled for his ability to take players where few other game writers seem willing to visit, whether that be a hard-boiled film noir take on the Mexican land of the dead in Grim Fandango, or the fractured yet fully-realized subconscious minds of spies and asylum inmates in Psychonauts.

Gamasutra's editor-at-large Chris Remo examines Schafer's talent:

"Tim Schafer understands some principles few game writers do: you can present breathtaking imaginary worlds without the aid of plodding text crawls or expository voiceovers.

You can flesh out complex and interesting characters with dialogue that is concise and enjoyable rather than neverending. More so, you can combine genuine humor and genuine drama without making either seem cheap.

There is a welcome frugality to Schafer's witty writing; though he is known to write extensive back story and character profiles during development, he resists letting too much of it make its way to the game in the form of unnecessary dialogue.

The result is dialogue and narrative that is sharp and always enjoyable, but that also hints at something deeper under the surface."

Though not as visible as Schafer, Nippon Ichi Software producer Sohei Niikawa for his work in creating "a series known for warped stories, bizarre characters, and an enduringly (and endearingly) macabre universe" with strategy RPG franchise Disgaea. Game Developer magazine production editor Jeff Fleming shares his praise:

"Sohei Niikawa gleefully populates his games with characters that are loud, disrespectful, and prone to vandalism. And why shouldn't he?

After all, when you strip away the weak moral justifications (usually conveyed as bullet points on the back of a game box) for why video game characters behave as they do, they begin to look extremely anti-social. Even a straight arrow like Zelda's Link is essentially a murdering thief when examined objectively.

Particularly in world of Japanese RPGs where mawkish sentimentality is the rule, Niikawa's writing stands out for its irreverent wit, echoing across the church of videogames like a very wet Bronx cheer."

You can read the full feature, which goes into further detail on Schafer and Niikawa's backgrounds, and profiles 18 other outstanding writers in the game industry (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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