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Does gaming (RPGs) make one a good writer?

Discussion in 'Games' started by Weaver, Oct 13, 2012.

  1. Cosmolien

    Cosmolien Dreamer

    I do not think that i helps because you do not actually imagine or think up any of the ideas
  2. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    I guess it depends on the type of gaming. If it's a computer game, maybe not. If it's a pencil and paper RPG, for example, where characters are role played and a game moderator creates the world and adventure and runs it, I think that imagination and thinking up actions and ideas is very much a part of the game.
  3. Sparkie

    Sparkie Auror

    You have a point, but not all computer games quash imagination.

    Take Shadow of the Colossus as an example. (Yea, yea, I know it's not an RPG but stay with me for a sec.) The sparse approach to storytelling in that game leaves room in the players mind to speculate about the nature of the world, the relationship between the protagonist and the girl he wishes to save, even the very idea of heroisim. I loved that the game could be interpreted a number of different ways.

    When video game developers 'spell everthing out,' little is left to imagination. But when those few developers who refuse to treat a player like an idiot create a game that challenges someone to think for themselves, creativity can result.

    Just my two cents.
  4. Katsu

    Katsu Acolyte

    I completely agree with Sparkie. Shadow of the colossus did leave something more then a normal game such as Halo saga for example. For the very same reason!

    They do not give you all the information, you actually build up scenarios of what might have happened to certain characters. At some point I was convinced I could actually find a way to wake her up by shooting some lizard down and prepare some kind of potion that could help the plot go in a hole different way... Turned out it was all in my head.

    So yes, it definitely helps.
  5. Just from what I have seen myself, I don't think playing games - even RPGs - will make you a better writer. On the other hand, I think that if you are already a writer, some games have a way of promoting creativity.

    I remember playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for the Gameboy Advance. For those who don't know, it's a strategy RPG and while there are a handful of main characters, most of your units have no backstories or personalities. However, they do have randomly assigned names, and I noticed that this was enough for me to start making up backstories and personalities myself. Eventually, my entire clan was made up out of characters of my own design - this moogle wants to be a great knight, that fencer girl is a tomboy noblewoman who ran away from her family, this paladin is a master swordsman who has a romance going on with that white mage, etc.

    Mentally fleshing out those characters, with all their personal quirks and relationships, was more fun than playing the actual game.

    I'm pretty sure the Dragonlance books were written this way. I don't think it's an ideal way to create a plot, though, because there were several points in those books where it was pretty noticable that the authors hadn't planned much ahead.

    For example, at one point the hero finds a magical dragon-slaying sword and then immediately loses it, forever. To this day, I consider that a mortal sin of fantasy writing. Also, after fighting through several books, one character randomly dies from a heart-attack - supposedly because his player quit the group.
    Sparkie likes this.
  6. Zireael

    Zireael Troubadour

    Dragonlance books and some of the Forgotten Realms books read like a session report. This is not a good thing in any case.

    However, I think both RPG and writing are creative activities... therefore one might lend itself to the other...
  7. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    The majority of my RPing is text-based, so I like to think it helps me improve my writing skills, and vice-versa.
  8. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Maester

    Depends. Are you talking about online gaming or table top/play by mail RPG?
    I think computer games have had a lot of influence, possibly not as much as DnD, Warhammer etc. It certainly improved my writing and got me back into the creativity I used to have when I started writing adventures and characters for GMing. Warhammer and Dragon Age, amongst other were and to an extent still are a big part of my life.
    PC game wise, not as much, for me at least but the idea and the love of fantasy is important. I much prefer say Skyrim, Oblivion or Dragon Age to say Mass Effect or space type games.
  9. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    I've played a lot of pc rpg's, Baldur's Gate, Icewind, Planescape, Fallout, Elder Scrolls etc. It echoes through my books. The part I'm working on atm is sort of a dungeon crawl, complete with skeletal legs sticking from under a load of rubble. I don't even do it consciously, others attended me to it. But with this scene I suddenly realized they were right. So no, rpg's won't make you a better writer per se, they can help to define your color.
  10. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Maester

    Awesome I might have to check that out:)
  11. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

    Depends on what you take from it and how you use it.

    Ed Greenwood is certainly an imaginative guy, and it shows in his stories. That said, reading one of his books is akin to dragging your face through a field of razor blades.

    The mid-point, depending on preference, would be R. A. Salvatore.

    On the 'it definitely helped' side you have Steve Erikson.

    My general take on it is that it really depends on how you play. If you're sitting there looking at a scenario from all angles, using all of the resources you have at your disposal, the outcome of you playing will probably be positive. You're developing that toolkit that is necessary to write interesting, intriguing scenes.

    That said, if you're good at crafting characters on the sheet it might encourage you to be predictable and go with run-of-the-mill solutions.

    So I guess it depends on if you play a bard or a fighter.
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I'm only seeing this now.

    WoW - Some of the Warcraft storytelling universe is strong, but it's also heavily cliched, and the time-to-story ratio is pretty lopsided. It can help you understand how rich and detailed a fantasy world can be - how many novels have worlds with that much going on? - but the amount of time you have to spend on it to experience those details can drown out other writing styles, and lead you to a book that's poorly hack-n-slash. Having given WoW up a long while ago, and now focusing on my writing, I find it just slightly helpful to glance at WoWwiki at certain points in the worldbuilding process.

    For D&D, we played differently, I understand, than most people do. For instance, as a DM I recruited mostly random players, asked them to write a background which left a few details vague (don't name the city, leave a few characters unnamed, so on), then created a game with a storyline that tied them all together. One player's villain was another player's uncle, that kind of thing. There was a real story that developed over time.

    I let players pick their own stats, with just a cap in Strength, and I told them from the getgo - "Make characters that can do lots of things, not ones with big damage numbers. I love my NPCs too much for you to kill them." I gave exp only for roleplaying, and sometimes gave random challenges, like "800 exp to the person who describes the best watch." A better example, I gave one cleric an exp bonus for conducting a wedding.

    Another thing I swore to: Combat every game. But I also ran fights differently. They typically lasted just a round or two and players were encouraged to "Talk, move, do anything but cast spells or attack people" when it wasn't their turn to keep things moving and open up options. I used to joke that all of the fights were rigged; many were interrupted by character development or a plot twist. New characters or returning characters or new information would emerge mid-fight to turn things on their head.

    Which was another thing - I sometimes encouraged characters to argue, even fight. We had one game that opened with the party split on opposite sides of a battle. One side won, took the other players hostage; a few games later, there was a rebellion that flipped their roles. In a "one-off pick up game" I ran several times, I dubbed one of the characters a doppleganger and tasked him with killing and replacing another PC; his real character would then enter the scene, and the dead player would become the doppleganger. Since some of that happened in whispers, it was fun to watch players deal with the confusion; nobody ever figured it out before they were told.

    I had a game where some characters were told, upon seeing an NPC, that "You've failed a Will Save and have fallen in love." I had a game where they faced a losing war as a people based on Native Americans was invaded by another based on Japan - battle of the mythologies. I enjoyed thrusting powerful items and abilities into players' hands just to mess with them.

    In one random pick-up game, everyone started in a bar; one thing leads to another, and the thief character winds up in an after-closing poker game with the barkeep, the other players, and a halfling. Then a giant worm bursts through the floorboards and attacks them; they fight it for two rounds, ignoring all the hints (and there were so many hints). Finally, one of them spots a thick piece of paper on the ground. It's a card from the deck of illusions. The worm disappears. Everything is fine. The halfling ran off with their poker money.

    So what am I getting at?

    The thing about gaming that way was writing right in front of your audience, seeing their reactions in real time, and getting the adrenaline rush that helped to make that writing better and more interesting. And I stepped it up as much as I possibly could. That's how it helped me become a better writer.
    Sparkie and Legendary Sidekick like this.
  13. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    Devor, that's awesome! I love the illusionist thief who conjured a worm using a magic card.

    Playing Dragon Egg (Steerpike's D&D-ish game on this site) is giving me some fun writing experience, as did Endless Hunt, Second Hand, Shenoka Shadows and other games I've played here. Someday, I'll run a D&D type game. Can you believe I just turned 40, and NOW I'm playing D&D for the first time?
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  14. Codey Amprim

    Codey Amprim Staff Article Team

    I draw from my experiences in gaming in my creative processes quite often. That said, I tend to pull from everything when I am creative - gaming just happens to be a major part of it.

    The way I see it, is that gaming might be one of the most engaging forms of fantasy storytelling, since it puts you directly into the characters. You experience the story as they experience it. You control (somewhat) the outcome of the story, and how the character develops.

    Gaming gives you a lot to take in - environments, characters, conflicts, etc - all at the same time.

    As Shockley said, though,
    Take from that what you will. I agree that it helps in many creative processes, but it definitely is not something to have based everything you create upon.
  15. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    It's a lot of fun, but it's all in the people involved and finding a good vibe. The chat features here aren't really equipped to make it feel like writing - where I played, people could change their name to match their characters, and I could DM with my name as just a blank space.
  16. anduril38

    anduril38 Scribe

    Personally I don't think it automatically helps either side of the argument. But doing both will naturally improve the creative mind in order to write or enjoy gaming.
  17. Sparkie

    Sparkie Auror

    That way of playing sounds awesome. I suppose one could argue about whether that could make someone playing a PC a better writer, but at the very least it would certainly help their character-building skills.

    Funny thing. When I was playing Endless Hunt, I didn't think about an audience. I was just writing for me, and that was my problem, I guess. Now, with Dragon's Egg, I know that several people are going to at least glance at my posts. This means that I'd better make those posts interesting, or at least presentable.

    So I get what you're saying here, at least to some extent. As Stephen King pointed out in On Writing, most good writers write for somebody else. If just one of my fellow players in Dragon's Egg finds one of my posts entertaining, then I'll consider it a success.
  18. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    I liked your Endless Hunt posts. But I know what you mean. In Dragon's Egg, we all want to know each other's moves so our moves make sense, so yeah, I read every post in detail. (I will confess that I skim Steerpike's beautifully written posts until I see the name "Baldhart," but then, once I find out how my turn turned out, I read everything.)

    Second Hand was a true test of creativity because it was a chat game. I had to* come up with good one-liners and surprising revelations about my NPCs (my overpowered sidekick, Tusk, and a mouse-riding pixie girl) on the spot. I enjoyed my second banana role in that game because I could focus on making my own character interesting and not worry about in-game logistics. As a player, I didn't have that sense of fear that I might get myself killed, and I didn't have the pressure of running the game like Phil did. (Though Phil came up with some very interesting and humorous descriptions of the choas our characters were causing. My tiny pixie's sword of ice is the best weapon in the Universe!)

    *Maybe I didn't have to, but I felt compelled to.
  19. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I don't know why, but I assumed Dragon's Egg would be chat-based like Second Hand. I haven't had the chance to read up on it. I've never been able to get into the forum-thread D&D-type games, here or elsewhere. I've always felt forums were better suited for a different kind of roleplaying if you set them up accordingly. I did a bunch of that, too, back when I played WoW and WAR.

    Just now I went looking for examples (since this is about how that stuff makes you better writers), but much of it is in private-access only and almost all of the WAR stuff was taken down. And it's all pretty game-tied. However, for example, I did find this, this, and this from my time at WoW. (The first one was originally written by me, but reposted by newer guild leaders after I stepped down.) Not sure if they're really the best examples. The WAR stuff was better because of the way were organized from the beginning. And we started the RP in WAR long before the game actually came out, so it was much less tied to in-game events.

    We weren't an overly "tough" guild, but we liked to taunt the Horde and do RP events in public spaces and march through the game's main city and throw open battle events so often that one of our players left the guild and started one Horde-side just to RP against us. That we did, and since horde-alliance can't communicate in-game, the forum RP became a lot of fun.

    There's a big difference between playing and DMing. I went on kind of a rant above and didn't get into my experience as a player, but it was fun, too. It's definitely a different vibe. I liked to relax a bit and focus more on being goofy and silly. My favorite were a pair of halflings - Twipple, the "cleric for the goddess of fine taste," or Tibblydor, a munchkin fighter with a wisdom of 3. I noticed that I fell into that exact silly pattern again in the one game of Second Hand that I played with you guys.

    As for the writing thing, it made me a better writer, but I also did things I don't think most others did. So I'm not going to talk up the games as if they're more than they are. You've got to find things that work for you as a writer, and I would suggest being very picky about doing the things that help you the most, and not just "Oh, there's some benefit, so I'll do this instead of actually write."

    I did these games when I, otherwise, wasn't ready to do actual writing, for a variety of reasons. D&D helped me when I was in High School, and WoW/WAR when I was in college. I don't think I would've been to put together a reasonable novel at that point in my life, and these things built up many of my basic writing skills instead.

    From time to time I've thought about what a top-notch forum/RP game would look like on Mythic Scribes. I've had a few ideas, but no time to try them, and everybody has a different idea that they've put out there and I don't want to compete with anyone. I'm not really sure if it's worth trying or not, but regardless, I don't think I can.

    Sidekick, I've seen your work, and I think you should consider trying out a web comic.


    I just took a better look at what Steerpike is doing with Dragon's Egg, and it looks like he's addressed several of the problems I've always felt boggled down forum-RP games in the past. Hopefully it does well for everyone involved.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013
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  20. Arhenvir

    Arhenvir Acolyte

    I got a lot of inspiration from RPGs when I was younger, mostly from video gaming though. Final Fantasy helped me realize that people can embrace systems of magic and special talents outside of traditional fairy tales or in the Harry Potter series. That, and sometimes admiring the pretty graphics made me want to write elaborate descriptions of facial features or wild hair styles.

    Traditional pen-and-paper RPGs though... I had only faintly heard of D&D when I was finishing high school, and when I finally sat down to play for the first time, when I was about 18, I felt somewhat lost. I feel the need to sit down and write extensively about my character, and think deeply upon how s/he makes decisions, rather than spit it out verbally just as soon as the dice falls.

    I believe that yes, for the most part, roleplaying games do encourage creativity, but they don't always go hand-in-hand with writing.

    One of my best DMs has a collection of notebooks with drawings and scribbles about the universe he started developing when he was 12. That's half his lifetime ago. And he's brilliant at worldbuilding and making impromptu adventures with crazy plot twists that keep us on our toes. But writing? He won't do it. That's where I come in, if the group wants to review what happened since we last played together.

    Good storytelling is not the same as good writing.

    In this thread there was previous mention of writing out events that occurred in a game log. I agree with the fact that maybe that's not the best idea, but I've practiced it a few times in my life, and it served us well. I loved elaborating on what our characters were thinking and feeling, and while it didn't always match the players' vision 100% of the time, all agreed that it was just as much fun to read as it was for me to write it.

    I'm definitely with Ireth on text-based roleplaying, though. I want to contribute to a good story, but I also want to look like I know how to write. I feel like it forces me to do my very best.

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