Kim MacAskill Interview, Part OneComplications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

November 2019

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

May 2021

June 2021

November 2021

December 2021

January 2022

February 2022

August 2022

September 2022

November 2022

February 2023

March 2023

April 2023

May 2023


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

I’m thinking about a third writing book, this one about game writing. I had a strange trajectory in game writing where my second job ever was Story Director of Contrast. So I didn’t come up through the game writing ranks; I came up through the TV and film writing ranks. I thought about titling my book CRAFTY GAME WRITING: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING BUT PEOPLE SEEM TO LIKE IT. But I also decided to do a bunch of interviews with skilled writers I like and respect.

Kim MacAskill

I met Kim MacAskill (Twitter: @kimmacaskill1) at a game writing summit for first party Microsoft Studios companies. She started in games as Senior Scriptwriter at Rocksteady; when I met her, she was Senior Scriptwriter at Playground Games. She has since returned to her native Glasgow as Principal Narrative Designer at NaturalMotion. So please kindly read all of her responses in a Scottish accent.

Alex: What phase of game development are you in currently? What do you do in a typical day?

Kim: I’m in a strange place in between the ending of one game and the beginning of the other. Really we’re in pre-production on one game, and tying up the end of another.

What do I do? It really does vary. I’m not writing every single day. Most days it’s creating a high level presentations where I think we should go. As you know in game development there’s a lot of presenting. There are a lot of moving parts to a game. Often we have to scale back on the narrative aspect of a feature for easier design and coding. So I’m negotiating on that. I really only spend about one day a week writing dialog, if I’m lucky.

Alex: And the tying up of loose ends?

Kim: Oh, I’ll get a ping from someone, oh, UI needs this, can you tie this up? [UI is the user interface – what buttons do what.] There are last minute design decisions which need narrative support.

Alex: Have you ever heard of The Writer Will Do Something? It’s a Twine game about a bunch of game devs handing off all their design mistakes to the writer. Something’s broken? The writer will do something.

Kim (laughing): Oh, my God, that sounds like the best game. It sounds like therapy.

Alex: Therapy or horror, I’m not sure which.

Kim: Like you’ll get the designers saying, “Oh, this gun works under water,” and then there’s the question, well, why does the gun work underwater?” And, “Oh, the writers will fix it.”

Alex: Yeah, if you’ve designed the level properly, the player character doesn’t need to say much, but if you haven’t, then you have the player character saying, “Oh, I bet there’s a trapdoor somewhere around here.”

What are the hardest battles you fight?

Kim: My own preciousness. Sometimes they want to cut a design feature and there’s an impact on story flow. Or we have to cut something, and you have to ask yourself, am I upset because cutting this is not the best thing for the game, or am I just tired? I try not to be precious. Everything is discardable. You have to realize, when people change your story, they’re not necessarily ruining your story.

Alex: So you never find yourself going, okay, this is going to absolutely break the story?

Kim: Oh, absolutely. But when there are so many moving pieces at a time, it’s kind of choosing your battles. Sometimes, okay, that’s going to wreck that scene, and that’s going to wreck the story, and you sit down with yourself and go, Okay, is this when I fight the battle? Is this the day when I push back?

It can be hard, because when you’re so invested in your story, you have to ask, have they actually killed the story dead, or is it recoverable, or can I even make it better?

It’s a constant compromise. Really living and breathing your characters and caring about them and then someone telling you that you can’t tell the story that you intended. But am I really annoyed, or am I just tired? It’s a constant self-mental-assessment.

Alex: How did you get into game writing?

Kim: Total mistake, I think. It was because of the instability of the TV industry. You know this, when you have work, it’s great; when you don’t, you’re like, “When’s my next contract gonna be?” Contracts are anywhere from three months to a year, so you’re constantly always trying to find your next meal.

I was always a big, big comic book fan. I loved Batman. And I played games as well. And I saw that Rocksteady were looking for a senior scriptwriter. And I think at this time, I was sending out about 20 CV’s a day to anyone who would listen. I was just putting everything out everywhere, I was applying to Nickelodeon for a shitty TV show. And I was really surprised when Rocksteady got back to me.

And I told them, I’ve written for film, I’ve written for TV, I’ve even written for wrestling, but I’ve never written a game. But they didn’t necessarily need a game writer, they needed someone with a bit more experience creating strong narratives. And I came from a comedy background, that was useful given that we were writing for Suicide Squad. So they were happy to teach me about game writing as I brought things from my other skill set.

And they asked me to do a writing test. And that was, Harley Quinn, Penguin and Deathstroke wake up in a room. They have no memory of how they got there. How do they use their strengths and weaknesses to get out?

But from then to actually being employed was like three months. You know, in TV, it’s very fast. “I need a script editor, you’re a script editor, okay, here’s your money.” Recruitment in games can be a six month process from applying to actually arriving at the studio.

Alex: Yeah, back when I was in TV I got a call, “How would you like to write on a TV show in South Africa for four months?” “Interesting. When?” “How about Tuesday?” And it was Thursday.

So this is a question that I think no one else will be able to answer for me: what lessons did you take away from writing for wrestling? What’s it like?

Kim: It’s like a soap drama. This one’s going to betray, that one’s going to go away for a long long time and suddenly appear out of nowhere. Someone's having an affair, all kinds of twists and turns. That could be a soap drama. Maybe realism is more of a factor for soaps. But it’s the same sort of, we need the drama and we need it now. You can’t really go too long without something melodramatic happening.

Alex: My wife Lisa was once up for a gig at the WWF, but she didn’t want to move to Connecticut. I’ve always felt that was a missed opportunity.

Kim: It’s really fun. There are all sorts of people writing for wrestling. There was a writer from Family Guy.

Alex: But were there any lessons…

Kim: If I’m gonna be honest, no. I suppose the one thing I’m going to bring out is how are you going to embed heaps of combat in a story while making it engaging? How am I going to build important dramatic beats, and build relationships. It’s all very well and good telling a love story, but you still have to have people fighting each other.

Alex: Lisa has a theory that opera and kung fu movies are basically the same thing, you know, a bit of story, then there’s a fight, or an aria, then a bit more story, and a fight, or someone sings. “Two brothers separated at birth. One’s a cop, one’s a killer, and they’re in love with the same woman!” Is that a kung fu plot, or a Verdi opera? So I suppose it’s the same with wrestling.

More MacAskill Soon!

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.