Revisiting Dragon Age — How Games Help Writers

I started a new Dragon Age campaign here in CA on the new XBox 360.  For the first time I played the human origin story where you are the child of the Tyrn of Highever.  I chose to play a son because I didn’t really want to try romancing Alistair, and I thought I would try to get through the sappy romance with Liliana this time.

Anyway, I’m up to the point where you deal with the civil war and I’m finding myself actually giving serious considerations to the upcoming choices.  Just as I would if this were a novel I was writing.  When I play my beloved Dalish elf I don’t give two hoots for the humans and their fight over the crown.  My loyalty is to my tribe and my companions so I back Alistair to take the throne and I usually manage to broker a marriage with Anora.

But this time I’m human and a noble, and Alistair is a bastard and presumably I’ve been raised to admire Loghain because he freed Ferelden from Orlais, and I’ve probably known Anora since we were both children.  So am I really going to kill the hero of River Dane and marry off my friend Cailan’s widow to an indecisive bastard?  Or if I’m really a self-serving son-of-a-bitch won’t I try to marry Anora and take the throne for myself?  Or is this deeply religious sap I created more likely to take the killing blow at the end and die in an act of noble self-sacrifice?  If I go the self-serving bastard route I’ll probably have Alistaire or Loghain kill the archdemon.  The one thing I can’t see is this character taking Morrigan’s dark deal.  My elf had no problem with that.

Apart from the fact I’ve been busy I also stopped playing while I wrestled with these questions.  It’s silly.  I know it’s just a game and a game I have played a number of times, but the writer in me wants to “play fair”.  I usually play total paragons or light side Jedi — however you want to put it, but to ignore birth and background seems wrong when you are crafting a character.

This is one of the reasons that I think playing video games can actually be helpful for a writer.  If your not just playing hack and slash you might learn some skills that will help you with your own stories.  Certainly our role playing group back in the day spawned a lot of characters and a few stories.  For example WILD CARDS.  Or Richard in my Edge books.  Or Tracy in the IMPERIALS saga.

3 Responses to Revisiting Dragon Age — How Games Help Writers

  • Alex says:

    I know what you mean. It’s especially interesting when a sandbox or similar low-story game makes you care enough to roleplay the character. One moment it’s a bunch of numbers and the next you’re thinking “how would they react?”, “what are their goals?”, “what is their backstory?”

  • Paul Weimer (@princejvstin) says:

    Another value for video games for a writer is to know that the mind of readers, in what they expect and what they are consuming. (This is also true of roleplaying games, and something I’ve thought about a lot). There’s a difference between writing to market, and knowing your market.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Absolutely. Connie Willis and I gave a talk at a local bookstore about the necessity of “satisfying” endings for readers, viewers and players. I think writers make a contract with their audience and they better deliver or woe betide.

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