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Writing for Half-Life | Marc Laidlaw

Marc Laidlaw worked for Valve Software from 1997–2016 as a video game writer — one of the first ever to hold that title. Mark worked on several games, including Half-Life, Half-Life 2, and both Half-Life 2 Episodes.

In Writing for Half-Life — written in 1998, just after Half-Life was released — Mark recounts what it was like doing something truly original: writing a narrative for a video game, where the player gets to inhabit and define the character on their own terms.

Anyone writing for computer games should start off recognizing the principles and techniques of drama that give impact and meaning to traditional forms of art—start there, but by no means stop there. The great thing about working in this new medium is that tradition is not a narrow set of restrictions, but a proven springboard. With a solid foundation in traditional storycrafting, I believe we are in a better position to create totally new kinds of experiences which our audience—any audience—has never had before.

It’s interesting to read this in our current day, where narrative in video games isn’t the norm, but is often expected as a matter of course. Mark was involved with something very unique and revolutionary. Half-Life went on to define what a narrative in a video game not only could be, but set the bar for what it should be.

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