David Martel: “Over the last few years, you have worked on many videogames such as Ghostbusters, Terminator, Riddick and many others. What do you find the most interesting about writing for video games?”
Flint Dille: “It’s a whole new medium. There are no rules. Or at least as soon as there is one, it changes. It’s fun to be sitting out on the creative edge. I’m judging the WGA awards and the DICE awards right now. People are doing some real breakthrough work. I’m thrilled to be there.”
DM: “How is it to write game scripts based on a popular film or series franchise? What were the biggest challenges for you?”
FD: “Well… A game lasts 8 or 10 hours and a movie is 2. Also, games are about challenges and the physical universe and its harder to do character (which is where the challenge comes from). This question lies at the heart of Transformedia. The idea is that you want to bring something to the franchise that wasn’t there before. It was a lot of fun to invent a Batman villain. With Riddick, we didn’t have a script, just a vague reference to ‘Butcher Bay’ in Pitch Black. We built a whole world out of one sentence. The world seemed to fit with the rest of the Riddick metafiction, so that was kind of cool. Ghostbusters was fun because we approached it like we were writing the 2nd movie. The trick with that was working a player into the ensemble and balancing the horror and humor.”
DM: “Speaking of horror, when you wrote the game script for F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, where did you take your inspiration? Are you a fan of horror movies?”
FD: “I have a funny relationship with Horror. I’ve created two horror projects. One was an audio disc that grew up to be a CD-ROM interactive movie, called Terror TRAX (you can find it on the web). I wrote it, directed it (as both audio and video) and then Renny Harlan did it as a TV pilot for Fox.
Then, John Zuur Platten and I created a game design document called BACKWATER, which got turned into a movie called VENOM. It got made and we got screenwriting credit for it after a Writer’s Guild arbitration. So horror has been good to me.
F.E.A.R. was an interesting project. Very Japanese horror superimposed over apocalyptic ‘techno thriller’. The big thing was figuring out the little girl and all of the other craziness. You have to kind of let go and ride with the Japanese aspects of it. Liked that project. Great guys.”
DM: “Let’s talk about your ARG class at UCLA.”
FD: “Well, an ARG is an Alternate Reality Game. That means that it’s a game, usually played in the real world and in cyberspace that is intended to feel, to some degree, ‘real’.
Alternate Reality Games are sometimes confused with Augmented Reality Games (also ARG). Those are games where a mobile computing device (smart phone) is used to ‘see’ things in cyberspace that are ‘mixed in’ with the real world. It’s also called, ‘mixed reality’. And to make things more confusing, Alternate Reality Games sometimes use Augmented Reality Technology.”
DM: “That makes it confusing, indeed. Alternate reality gaming using a real world reference, how do you deal with real world’s actual limits and rules? I suppose that it is a subject that is discussed in your class. Is there an ethical concern about it? I.e. Murder or theft that you can choose to commit if you’d like in games like Grand Theft Auto, for an example. No consequences until you get caught. How much freedom should you get in an ARG universe?”
FD: “Good questions. The first issue is that you have to define the boundaries for your game. Some are intensely local, others are global. That’s the ultimate expression of any internet game. The reach of the web. You have to define your game in terms of time, space, etc. We stumble into the ethical issues, but you just kind of do what you feel is right. The general rule is that you want to be ‘invisible’ to the rest of the world. Nobody knows who you are or that you’re playing the game. Of course, that’s just one kind of ARG.”
DM: “Is it the first class that you teach?”
FD: “No. I taught a class about Game Writing a few years ago when I wanted to get off dead center with the Ultimate Guide.”
DM: “That is a good way to prepare a book about the subject. It gets you right in the middle of it.”
FD: “Yeah. You’re forced to see the issues right at you.”
For those of you who’d like to know more about video game writing and learn from its masters, get your hands on The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design , written by Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten.
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