Gardiner talks writing in game design

Jeff Gardiner sits at the Water Street Cafe in Old City Hall
Photo taken by Nick Brown | The Oswegonian

Complete immersion stands as the ultimate goal of a good video game production, said a prominent video game designer this past Monday.

Jeff Gardiner, a graduate of Oswego State, stressed the importance of fundamental writing skills, scripting and player immersion in game design.

“Our games are all about immersion,” Gardiner said. “When we decided to set ‘Fallout 3’ in Washington, D.C., it was a conscious decision.”

He also discussed the importance of knowing one’s audience when designing a game, noting that different “gamer types” have varying tastes.

“We don’t know who’s going to play our game,” Gardiner said. “But we try to cater to all of them.”

Gardiner spoke about the evolution of downloadable content (DLC) in modern games, with Bethesda having been among the first gaming companies to implement it into “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” and “Fallout 3.” He also emphasized the growing demand for cinematic experiences in games, and how important screenwriting experience can be for those in the video game industry.

“If you watch games, you’ll notice how much they borrow from movies,” Gardiner said, citing the game “BioShock” as an example. “We try to make a cinematic experience, and who does that better than Hollywood?”

Gardiner also talked about getting into the game industry in general; saying that initiative and passion is key. One of the best ways Gardiner stated to get into the game industry is through internships. He also stressed that prospective game designers should be prepared to take pay cuts and switch companies as needed in order to pursue their passion, a situation Gardiner found himself in when he moved from Activision to Bethesda.

“When I got to that company [Bethesda], I’d taken a 35 percent pay cut,” Gardiner said. “When I got the opportunity to work there, I jumped at it.”