I wanted to share a recent article that I just came across, which gives a very positive mention to me and to the Sanctum of the Archmage series. It was on Brad Gallaway’s blog at GameCritics.com, in a guest post by romance and SF/Urban Fantasy author Ann Aguirre. Here’s the link:
Guest Blog: Writer Ann Aguirre talks games
It can also be found here with some comments on Brad’s personal blog, Drinking Coffecola. Here are Ann’s very kind comments about my module work, for which I would very much like to thank her. 🙂
“Write a script that determines the NPC love interest according to the gender the player chooses. That way, you only need to write one romance with minimal tweaks. I’ve seen this done with real expertise in player-designed modules for Neverwinter Nights. Andarian has designed an amazing module called Sanctum of the Archmage, where the romance is really well-developed in addition to combat, traps, and story. He integrates this swing-sex NPC with great skill, so if he can do it, why can’t the bigger companies?”
Ann makes several other observations with which I agree, particularly about RPG developers’ all too common lack of emphasis on writing decent romances — a topic that has been a hot button of mine for years. I particularly resonated with this one, which I’ve jokingly offered a couple of times myself:
“So why are the romances so half-assed, seriously? If you guys don’t know how to write one, CALL me.”
I think she’s right that this often reflects an unwillingness on the part of game builders to prioritize writing romances as a development goal, and to invest resources in hiring the writers they might need. Writing good romances is a skill, to be sure, but it’s also not rocket science and there are folks out there who know how to do it. And as she observes, this is a wide-open market — not only for female gamers, but for male gamers who know how to appreciate a good romance. And trust me, we’re out there. 😉
With that said, though, I do think there’s another factor that’s helped complicate the evolution of writing for RPGs in general, and not just for romances in particular. That’s the fact that writing for an RPG isn’t the same as writing for a novel or a movie. RPGs are a new medium for narrative art, and while there’s a lot of overlap, it has its own distinctive requirements as well. Those involve developing new writing skills, and to some extent ways of thinking about plot construction, than what experienced writers for other mediums may be used to. Because an RPG is interactive, the plot needs to be both integrated to a central theme and adaptive and multi-dimensional. This “dance” between linear and non-linear design is distinctive to interactive fiction, and it forces you to think about the central plot in more abstract terms than in other media.
As both a programmer and an amateur novelist myself, I can see how RPG writing to some extent involves an integration of both kinds of skills and thinking. That’s actually one of the things that fascinates me about the genre, and has motivated me to invest so much of my personal time in writing and building them myself. As experienced writers from other media begin to do the same and to learn these new skills, I think we’ll see something of a sea change in the depth and complexity of story-based gaming. Indeed, I think we’ve already started to see this happening.
All of this holds true as well, I think, for writing romance plots. One of my goals with the Sanctum of the Archmage modules was in fact to explore not just how to write a good RPG, but how to design and write a compelling RPG romance — so I’m especially gratified by Ann’s comments about my work. Thanks!