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Harmonix narrative designer discusses authorship 'myth' and challenges of narrative

In order to make progress in game development, people in the industry need to understand that authorship is collaborative, Harmonix senior narrative designer Matthew Weise said during a GDC panel.

Weise, formerly a Massachusetts Institute of Technology game scholar, spoke during the "Getting a Team On Board with Narrative Design" panel, which covered the challenges many face when attempting develop a game for narrative design. According to Weise, there is a certain myth about singular authorship that needs to be debunked. Narrative authorship doesn't have to be all about the "heroic author," Weise said.

"The real lesson is not that games are different because they're collaborative," Weise said. "Art is collaborative. We resist understanding that."

Narrative writing challenges appear in other forms, too. According to Weise, the language used about narrative today "was built for another time."

"The language surrounding narrative is really inadequate," Weise said.

The gaming industry itself has a problem with originality as well, Weise said, but it's a problem with a source.

"I really do blame society for this on some level," Weise said. "This is a huge cultural misconception about how creativity is."

Weise gave the example of Stephen King being asked about where he gets ideas. King observes the same world, Weise said, and draws inspiration from that.

"A lot of people have this idea that unorginality is the result of having too many influences," Weise said. "It's the result of having too few. Really you just haven't been influenced enough, so that the influences have synthesized into something new ... There's something inbred about only watching Aliens and Starship Troopers."

Weise does believe, however, that the challenges of narrative can be overcome.

"I don't want to be too bleak about it," Weise said. "I think these are things that we can change ... But I also think it's really important to understand the larger cultural forces at work when we run into these problems."

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