Three Reasons Why Writers Should Watch Game Design Videos

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this topic before, but I thought that I’d talk about why online videos about game design can useful for writers. Although prose fiction and videogames might seem like very different mediums (and they are), videos about game design can still be extremely useful to writers for a number of reasons.

So, I thought that I’d list a few of them.

1) Some lessons translate directly: A few days before I wrote this article, I happened to watch this fascinating (if lengthy) video about combat systems in action/thriller videogames. Whilst this might not seem directly relevant to writing, one part of the video stuck in my mind.

In one part of the video, there’s a description of how “dramatic” attack animations in videogames often focus more on the build-up and aftermath of an action than the action itself. It was then that I realised that dramatic fight scenes in many thriller novels often do something similar – devoting more words to both suspenseful descriptions before a fight scene and the consequences of each action after it happens.

So, yes, even though videogames may be a very different medium to prose fiction, some lessons can translate directly. This is probably because some dramatic techniques are fairly universal (after all, this advice about dramatic fight scenes would probably also apply to film and comics as well).

2) They teach you the value of design: One of the interesting things about game design videos is that they’ll often focus on how designers deliberately set up parts of their game in order to achieve a particular mood or effect. For example, a game might subtly encourage the player to explore by hiding useful items around the game’s world.

But, what does any of this have to do with writing? Simply put, it reminds you that every creative decision matters more than you think. After all, each structural or linguistic choice that you make will affect how the reader thinks and feels when they’re reading your story.

For example, Dan Brown’s 2003 thriller novel “The Da Vinci Code” has very short chapters. This design choice allows for frequent mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, it gives the reader a sense of jumping from scene to scene quickly and – because each chapter is quick to read – it makes the reader feel like reading “just one more chapter…“.

This subtle design choice helps to keep a story fast-paced and gripping. So, it’s perfect for thriller novels. Yet, if you tried using it in a romance or a historical epic, then it would probably seem slightly out of place.

So, learning to look for design and appreciating how it can subtly shape the way your audience experiences your story can be really useful.

3) It makes you think about medium-specific stuff: Games are different to books. Books are different to games. Films are different to both, so are comics and music too. Every medium has things that it can do that all of the other mediums can’t.

Game design videos will often focus on the stuff games can do that nothing else can. And, although this isn’t directly relevant to writing, it helps you to think about all of the stuff that books can do that nothing else can.

For example, books can spend tens of pages focusing on the events of a single minute. Books can show what happens inside characters’ minds. Every reader will imagine the characters in a book slightly differently. I could go on for a while, but there’s loads of stuff that books can do that nothing else can. And seeing videos about the unique elements of other mediums can make you think “Well, they’re doing all of this stuff that I can’t do… what can I do that they can’t?”.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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