This morning, the Writer’s Guild of America unveiled its annual list of best writing nominees. The Guild covers almost every form of media, from films to television to zero-budget web series’ and as you might expect this includes video games. Based on the WGA’s list though, we’re not entirely convinced that the Guild is all that familiar with the medium.
We’ll get to our complaints with this list in a moment, but first let’s take a look at which games the WGA considers to be the best examples of games writing to emerge from 2012:
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING
007 Legends, Written By Bruce Feirstein; Activision
Assassin’s Creed III, Story By Alex Hutchinson, Corey May, Matt Turner; Multiplayer Story By Richard Farrese, Jeffrey Yohalem; Lead Scriptwriter Corey May; Scriptwriter Nicholas Grimwood, Russell Lees, Matt Turner, Danny Wallace, Ceri Young; Ubisoft
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, Scriptwriting by Richard Farrese, Jill Murray; Ubisoft
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, Writing Consultant Marv Wolfman; Disney Interactive Studios
Halo 4, Narrative Design Christopher Schlerf; Microsoft Studios
Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Written By John Garvin; Sony Computer Entertainment America
From these six titles, the WGA plans to select one shining, golden example of video games writing to hoist as winner. That game will receive its honors at a ceremony in Los Angeles on February 17.
Pertinent details aside, let’s get back to what really makes this list important: Its utterly baffling nature. Devoted Digital Trends readers may recall that we issued a relatively similar list toward the beginning of December as part of our year-end “Best of 2012” awards. We listed three nominees, and of those only Assassin’s Creed III also appears on the WGA list.
Not that we’re claiming to be the ultimate arbiter of what is good and bad in games writing, but it doesn’t take a trained expert to see the flaws in the WGA list. Did you notice that all six of those games come from major publishers? Activision, Ubisoft, Disney, Microsoft, and Sony are all represented there, alongside exactly zero smaller companies. This wouldn’t be such a glaring oversight if critics and fans alike had not almost unanimously dubbed Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead as the best game of 2012 almost entirely by virtue of its phenomenal characterization and story line. It’s no secret that we adore The Walking Dead and to see it slighted by a list that should feature its name in bold, red text makes us very wary of what criteria the WGA might use in selecting its nominees. It’s also odd to see 007 Legends on the list. Not only did that game adapt properties rather than write them, the game itself was a broken mess.
Perhaps sensing our incredulity, representatives from the WGA refused to explain the specific rationale behind the list and instead directed us to the catch-all explanation found on the group’s site. It doesn’t explain what qualitative measurements the WGA relies on, nor does it state that the awards are purely subjective, but it does serve as our only extant glimpse into the process behind selecting nominees:
Now in its sixth year, the WGA Videogame Writing Award honors the best qualifying script from a videogame published in the previous year. To be eligible for WGA consideration, games must have been released between December 1, 2011 and November 30, 2012, and feature on-screen writing credit(s). Credited videogame writers must have been or must have applied to become members of the WGA Videogame Writers Caucus at the time scripts were submitted. Work that was not produced under WGA jurisdiction was also eligible for submission. Preliminary and final judging for the WGA Videogame Writing Award is conducted by panels comprised of Videogame Writers Caucus members and/or Writers Guild members active in videogame writing.
That does little to explain how the WGA came up with its list of nominees, but it raises one very important point: The WGA has only been judging games for the past six years, so it wouldn’t be totally surprising to find out that it’s still fine-tuning whatever metrics it uses to rate a game’s script. Hopefully this is the real culprit behind the WGA’s baffling collection of nominees because it indicates that future lists might be more credible. If not, if the WGA legitimately considers those six games to be the best examples of script writing to emerge from the medium in 2012, then perhaps the WGA ought to stick to watching action flicks and sitcoms.