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BioShock, Tomb Raider writer calls for 'thoughtful and complex' game stories

Susan O'Connor not content with advances thus far in game storytelling, says she is contemplating leaving industry altogether.


BioShock and Tomb Raider writer Susan O'Connor has called on games to tell "thoughtful and complex" stories instead of narratives focused only around shooting. In a new Gameological interview, O'Connor--who also wrote for Far Cry 2--said though it may be easier to tell stories like "Here's a guy. Go shoot him," she is more enthused by getting to know characters and the dilemmas they face.

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O'Connor called out an early episode of Breaking Bad as an example of what she deems to be strong storytelling and one that game writers should aspire to. Breaking Bad spoilers are below.

"In the second episode of the first season, he's got that one guy chained up to the basement, and he's like, 'Oh my God, what am I going to do? I can't let him go because he’s going to kill my family, but I can't kill him because killing is wrong.' That a genuine f***ing dilemma," she said. "I want to see how that’s going to resolve, and I guess that's what frustrates me about games. I want to tell more thoughtful and complex stories that games really allow us to do."

O'Connor is not the first to speak out against the way stories are told in games. Heavy Rain designer David Cage in August called on the industry to "grow up," saying he is fed up with the industry's unwillingness to embrace more mature subject material.

If game stories do become what O'Connor hopes they can, she may not be around to be part of the process. She explained that she is contemplating leaving the industry for another where her creative aspirations can be met.

"I don’t want to put up with this sh** anymore. I'm grateful for the success I've had, but I’m never going to be able to do work that can come anywhere close to the kind of emotional impact that stories in other media have, at least not in the next five to 10 years," O'Connor said. "I love stories, and I just happened to fall into games. I've learned who I am as a writer, and I think my talents and skills are much better used in other places."

O'Connor could not point to one specific moment when she decided she would like the leave the industry, but instead said her negative feelings for the business have steadily grown over the years.

"It's been an ongoing dissatisfaction that’s always been there," O'Connor said. "But the more savvy I got--and I've been working on these great projects that are arguably the best ever made--it's like, 'This is the mountaintop, and this still isn't cutting it.'

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