It is really interesting reading Kira Snyder’s experiences with the Warner Bros. Television Writers Workshop she has recently been lucky enough to get accepted to. And the reason it is interesting is because there’s nothing remotely like this in the games business.
Kira herself comes from the games biz (among other things) of course, so maybe she’ll chime in here on the comments about the differences.
Me, I just got back from yet another fantastic intensive workshop style conference which was all vets, no newbies. A common thread that has come up at all of these is the issue of whether bringing in some recent entrants to the field would be a good thing. Universally, the answer has been “young blood is great — newbies are not.” The fear is always that having folks new to the industry would basically slow down discussions, force a lot of training time, and distract from the really, fairly tough problems the workshops and conferences are trying to solve. (These sorts of design conferences and workshops are generally about solving big problems, either for the attendees or the industry; Project Horseshoe in particular is very “think tank”-like).
I suppose that to some degree, internships can solve this, but it’s just not the same. When I see Kira’s experiences as she describes them on her blog, to me it parallels the experiences I’ve had in high-end writing workshops, like Turkey City (if you are into SF/F writing, you probably heard of it because of the famous lexicon. Turkey City was brutal, honest, and had zero tolerance of amateurism. If you presented a substandard story on your first time out, you didn’t get to come back. But newbies did get a shot — it was a matter of whether you could cut it when tossed in the deep end of the pool.
Even more similar to these Hollywood workshops, of course, is a paid workshop like Clarion. I have never been (though Clarion, the original, is moving to San Diego!), but it’s described as a place where journeyman writers go to be forged into Pros, hammered upon by a series of expert instructors who are all noted authors.
I don’t know of anything like this in the games biz. Why not? Well, part of it is probably the increased dependence on teams for making damn near anything as a game. Which is a real shame; I’m becoming more and more enamored of the idea that since game systems are fundamentally systemic, designers need to learn to code at least enough to make basic prototypes. The time required to hack out a quick small game really isn’t much different from the time needed to write a short story, so it’s not a time limitation.
Ironically, the only place where I have seen something similar is probably in the Game Development Camp they run in Denmark, and in somewhat similar summer camp programs that are popping up in the States.
I actually think that if we wanted to improve games journalism, one of the best ways to do it would be to make every reviewer and games critic go through a camp like this, so they can learn to appreciate the art form from more than just the player’s angle.