Jeff Gardiner, video game producer and Oswego State alum, spoke to Oswego State’s Living Writer Series on Monday, Oct. 11. In his presentation, Gardiner discussed narrative in video games and how writers can pursue a career in the video game industry.
Gardiner is currently an employee for Bethesda Studios, and has worked on iconic titles such as "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" and "Fallout 3." Gardiner graduated with a writing arts degree with a focus on fiction and drama, the equivalent of a creative writing degree.
Designing games is hard work and crafting a fine narrative is just as difficult, according to Gardiner. The writing fundamentals are essential and mastery of writing skill can go a long way, but maintaining simplicity is also very important. A game will generally start with a small crew and a handful of ideas. The crew explores broad subjects, such as themes, characters and setting, and after considering the "big story" elements, the crew investigates "little story" elements: user interactions, moment-to-moment game-play and gamer immersion. Gardiner said it is crucial to know the game’s audience and the creators must see their game through a player’s eyes, without giving into fandom.
Even when the writing details are hammered out after constant feedback and review, there is a possibility game creators must make compromises to meet realistic goals. Creating a game, Gardiner said, is a collaborative effort and one person’s vision may not be the best course for a game. A work in progress is always under review and changes are always being made to assure a quality product is ready to ship.
Designing video games may be hard work, but Gardiner said the industry is burgeoning and always looking to hire passionate designers. Careers in video games are not limited to masters of any particular study, but are rather flexible. However, a working knowledge of design, art and code may greatly improve an applicant’s chances of finding a job. The industry looks for "Renaissance Men and Women;" jack-of-all-trades, who may not necessarily be masters of any particular study, but can be versatile in what they provide to a team. A focus in design, art or code may help, too. On top of that being ready to seize opportunities and actively write and put yourself out there are vital.