Coming Soon: The Wake

wake FINAL DRAFT r4 adj

I am extremely pleased to announce that we have finished shooting on my latest short film The Wake!

I’m excited to start cutting this piece together and completing post-production in preparation for next year’s festival season. Many thanks to our ridiculously talented cast and crew for making this piece possible.

Stay tuned for more updates on the film’s progress!

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Story’s Place in Videogames

Should there be story in videogames?

I first saw this question posed on a comment board I frequent. To me, it seemed like an odd question with an obvious answer.

“Of course!” I shouted at the screen.

But I’m biased. There’s not much I value more than storytelling.

So where does this question come from? When I look deeper, I find I’ve stumbled onto an argument hotly debated by some of gaming’s best and brightest.

Let’s dive in.

Imagine a movie or book where you’re in control of the main character. Instead of watching and waiting to see what the protagonist will do next, the question is thrust upon you. What will you do next?

This control over what happens in the story is what sets gaming apart from all other types of media. Cliff Bleszinski, CEO of Boss Key Productions, describes this as “instant empathy”. You’re instantly more invested in what’s happening on the screen because it’s happening to you.

So why does narrative get such a bad rap?

One of the largest misconceptions about writing for games (and movies, for that matter) is that a writer’s only job is to write dialogue. To me, a writer can only be effective when he or she is integrated into the entire storytelling process.

Surprisingly, a great example of the importance of narrative in gaming is Pac-Man.

At first glance, this classic seems as straightforward as pong. But as it turns out, Toru Iwatani had a lot more in mind when creating the game.

Toru’s Pac-Man is actually a complex hero complete with motivations and flaws. Even his antagonists have their own character traits. When you dig into the game of Pac-Man, you discover a tragic hero fighting against forces of evil – forces that he can conquer only temporarily, never permanently.

Pretty deep for a game where a yellow circle eats a bunch of dots.

And yet, even though narrative has been part of gaming since the beginning, the idea of story still irks many gamers. Why?

Because they’ve been hurt by story before.

Ask a gamer what storytelling looks like and they’ll talk about cut scenes and filmic plotlines. For them, cut scenes equal time that they’re not playing the game. Plotlines equal things that limit their options within a game. Both of these industry standard techniques commit the same crime: They reduce interactivity.

With his narrative design “Play, don’t show.” mantra, Cliff once again hits the nail on the head. Need a cool chase to happen? The player would love to be a part of that. Have a quippy one-liner for your protagonist? Make it one that the player chooses to deliver. Game makers may have a specific story they want to tell, but without trusting the player to experience and understand that story, it will always feel forced.

The videogame industry is in transition.

Games are no longer just a toy to play with – they have become their own entertainment medium.

I believe that story holds the key to the medium’s growth. For that to happen, it’s becoming clearer that there needs to be a reinvention of the way that story is handled in video games.

What will the post-cut scene incarnation of storytelling in games look like? The answer can only come from a new generation of game writers who choose to integrate storytelling into the medium itself.

 

 

 

 

Insights of the Roundtable

Awards season is upon us! And as much as I love watching acceptance speeches, my favourite part of this celebration of cinema is the THR Roundtables. If you’re unfamiliar, every year The Hollywood Reporter conducts roughly one hour discussions with nominated writers, directors, composers, and actors.

What sets these interviews apart? The conversation. The first round of questioning hits all of the pre-determined notes that you hear on late night talk shows. But sometimes if the interviewer and the chemistry of the group are good, the participants begin to carry the conversation. The result is that we get to see some of the brightest minds, in a fascinating field, share insights into their craft. We were incredibly lucky this year.

Hearing passionate and intelligent people talk to others who share that passion is a rich and wonderful treat. This phenomenon is especially rare when it concerns professions that are under the microscope of public scrutiny. Not to say that participants aren’t aware they’re being filmed – of course they are. But there are moments when a particular topic or comment sweeps them away.

One of the most pleasant surprises was the gathering of composers. In previous years, I’ve made the mistake of only watching writing roundtables. Shame on me! What I found was listening to Hans Zimmer recount the origin of his creative process on Interstellar sparked creative realizations just as relevant as any caused by my familiar subject matter. The stimulation of connecting with what I didn’t entirely understand helped unveil the common themes in my own creative process.

So if you’re looking for a cinematic psych up, topics for serious thought, or a more productive form of procrastination, I highly recommend devoting some screen time to the linked videos.

Composer’s Roundtable

Writer’s Roundtable

Director’s Roundtable

Actor’s Roundtable

Actress’ Roundtable

Let There Be Site!

Hello and welcome to my site! My name is Taylor Johnson. I am a recent graduate of the University of Victoria BFA Writing program specializing in screenwriting and film studies. I’m kicking off my next chapter by immersing myself in the world of storytelling and content creation here in Vancouver.

You will find examples of my most recent work including script synopses, writing samples, short films, and photography on this site. I will be updating it regularly with new posts. I hope you enjoy what you find!

If you’re reading this then you’ve noticed that I’m also blogging. I hope that the comments, articles, videos, and reviews will spark some passionate opinions and conversation. When I find something cool about narrative, in any form, you’ll find it here.

Well, that’s pretty much it! Enjoy, and if you want to get a hold of me just go to the contact tab. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks,

Taylor