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Bitmob Writing Challenge August 2011: The importance of game settings

So much writing pertains to gameplay, characters, and other tangible elements of video games, but what about something that's right in front of our faces the entire time we're playing? Setting can provide atmosphere, give us context, or put us in the frame of mind needed to engage with a developer's vision.

Setting also defines the art direction of a title and often has a significant impact on its gameplay. Some settings get attention for being different from the norm, but most of the time, people overlook their importance. It doesn't seem fair to take something so significant for granted.

At some point, certain commonly used settings begin to solidify, such as the sci-fi space setting of Mass Effect or the Crusades-era Holy Land of Assassin's Creed. But not all games use these elements equally. In the same way, the developer may or may not have fully explored the potential of these settings. And what about settings that are so different that they fit into their own category (like Silent Hill or BioShock)? Will anyone duplicate them in the future? If so, will the attempt wring something new out of the milieu? These are all things you will be exploring in this month's writing challenge.

 

The Prompt

Your assignment for the Setting Piece challenge is to pick a setting and write about its significance. You can discuss a common or overused trope or an original idea that appears in a single game and defies established conventions. Your job is to then analyze how well developers have utilized this setting, how much potential it still has, and who uses it best. Remember: This is to be an all-encompassing piece that should cover (almost) every title that uses your example.

Also keep in mind that understanding setting means understanding how a game's different parts are interconnected. Since setting helps determine so many things about design, analyzing it can help you dig down to the soul of an experience and deconstruct it from there. This is really valuable when you're tasked with analyzing something more generally.

  1. Choose a setting you want to write about and claim it in the comments. Again, this locale can be something that's become conventional, or it can be a one-off jaunt to another world. Make sure you remember to claim a setting before writing about it. I'll update the article with what people have claimed.

      The Renaissance – Matt Polen
      Sci-fi horror – Danny Concepcion
      Zombie apocalypse – Scott Deakin

  2. Write a piece analyzing this setting. Don't forget to discuss the quality of past uses of the setting and the potential for its future inclusion in new games. If you have an angle that will tie the piece together, that's all the better. Also, make sure it's under 1000 words.

  3. Post your piece to the Mobfeed using the tag “Bitmob Writing Challenge” by August 31.

I'll be collecting all the pieces at the beginning of next month to post in a challenge-roundup article. By participating, you'll increase your chances of getting your work noticed. And as always, this challenge will hopefully help you improve your writing skills. Also, don't forget that Chris Hoadley's challenge Passive Aggression has been extended to August 7, so make sure you jump on that one, too!


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