Writing Games

Being a writer is easy. It's like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire. You're on fire. Everything is on fire and you're in hell.

So I came across an interesting game premise recently.

Well, not a game, per se. There’s no gameplay and no storyline and no final boss battle. There’s no leveling and no skill-building and no farming. No gold, no XP. Instead, it’s just a virtual environment to be explored like an open-world game, for the purpose of prompting would-be writers to actually write.

Lots of people want to write but are then intimidated by the blank page. And traditional writers’ adages don’t necessarily help.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. - Earnest Hemingway

Enter Elegy for a Dead World, a game to encourage novice writers to shut off the self-doubt and just write.

The three lost worlds feature beautiful scenery, moving music, and are inspired by Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias, Lord Byron’s Darkness, and John Keats’ When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be. They create a strong, moody atmosphere that becomes the breeding ground for feelings and ideas. (Experimental Game Turns Players into Poets and Writers)

Elegy uses prompts to get writer-players started, but unlike most games there is no scoring, no standard, and no jumping puzzles. (I’m really, really bad at jumping puzzles.) Developer Ichiro Lambe explains, “The most important thing for us is that someone sits down and has a positive experience, doing something creative. We avoid doing any kind of scoring, or handslapping, because writing can be personal and frightening enough, without attaching a score or anything negative to it.”

Ain’t that the truth. Writing is one thing, but showing it to others is like getting nekkid. It’s exposing your soul for aesthetic judgment. But Elegy tries to make it it less intimidating.

Another new writing-themed game is Epistory, a game in which the player is a muse literally unfolding a new story. I’m not mentioning it just because you ride a three-tailed fox around the game (although, did I mention you ride a three-tailed fox?); the concept of exploring an untold story in a writer’s head sounds terrifying intriguing.

And it’s also a typing game. So if Typing of the Dead isn’t doing enough for your keyboarding skills, this is another choice.

Of course, I think you’d get more writing done overall outside of playing games. But hey, we all need a mental break and some fresh inspiration sometimes.

Both Elegy for a Dead World and Epistory are available on Steam, if you’re interested.

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  1. Sounds fun! It is nice to get your head into a place of creativity and play, away from the pressures that often come into play when writing a story or novel. Learning to do that while actually writing the novel is something I’m actively working on. So far, it seems to help if I can focus on the parts I love about the story and let everything else melt away but that feeling of excitement and the joy of discovery.

    It’s amazing the similarity that exists between a game of “pretend” and the sort of meditation and focus that becomes the faith to write what’s in your head. The intangible must become real enough to touch. And if to touch, then to capture.

    Do you find yourself recharged after playing the games? Or just entertained during the moment?

    • I actually haven’t played Elegy for a Dead World at all, just read a few release promos and the game material. I did break down and buy Epistory last night, though. It’s not *really* released yet — it’s in Steam’s Early Release play-testing mode — but I quite enjoyed the hour I wasted with it last night. Yes, I should have been revising, but…. :)

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