Tomb Raider writer discusses violence and story-telling

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 08:47 GMT By Dave Cook

Tomb Raider co-writer and BioShock 2 scribe Susan O’ Connor has given an insightful interview into the game writing process, in which she discusses the issue of violence in games. Connor has suggested that on one hand violence can be in a game for no good reason, but when written well it can help flesh out a character.

Speaking with Gameological, O’ Connor described what sort of projects she’d like to be doing, “I’m way more interested in telling stories about different kinds of characters. I don’t want to tell stories that involve shooting or being shot at. I’m all for violence at some points, but I think game stories can be black and white, because of the way the stories are told. You don’t have a lot of time to get a lot of stuff across. It’s a lot easier to be like, ‘Here’s a guy. Go shoot him.’

“What really gets me excited as a consumer of stories is something [like Breaking Bad]. That’s some phenomenal shit, and that show’s got more than its fair share of violence. But that doesn’t bother me because it’s very rounded in these characters, and you really understand their dilemma.

“In the second episode of the first season, he’s got that one guy chained up to the basement, and he’s like, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? I can’t let him go because he’s going to kill my family, but I can’t kill him because killing is wrong.’

“That’s a genuine fucking dilemma. I want to see how that’s going to resolve, and I guess that’s what frustrates me about games. I want to tell more thoughtful and complex stories that games really allow us to do.”

O’ Connor added that game studios often aren’t ballsy enough to include big dilemmas like this, or to really push the level of writing in a game, but suggested that it’s not as difficult as it looks. “The reason that people shy away from being ballsy about storytelling is that it’s a black box mystery to them,” she added. “Other elements of game production make more sense to them.

“And it’s a safer bet, and if you can point to it and say, ‘It’s going to be just like Call Of Duty, but with apes,’ that’s one way to make a game. Again, someone’s going to do it. BioShock’s a perfect example. If you had talked to someone the year before BioShock came out, they would go, ‘Myah myah, that wouldn’t work,’ and then it came out and everyone said, ‘Oh, this totally works!’ I want to see more paradigm-busting stuff.”

What is your take on the issue of violence in games from a story-telling perspective? Can it lend weight to a story like in Spec Ops: The Line, or can it seem throwaway and crass? Let us know below.

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