Writers Guild of America will no longer award video games for excellence in their writing

Writers Guild of America will no longer award video games for excellence in their writing
Imogen Donovan Updated on by

The Writers Guild of America, or WGA, announced that it will no longer grant video game awards for outstanding storytelling in its next round of awards next year (via MCV).

The category had been a part of the WGA since 2008, and games like Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Batman: The Enemy Within, Marvel's Spider-Man, The Last of Us, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, and God of War were recognised for their quality narrative development. In a statement to USGamer, a representative said that the category will be brought back when there is a ‘critical mass of video games’ written by its members. 

Video game writers have expressed their disappointment and vexation at the announcement. Neil Druckmann, vice president of Naughty Dog, described the decision as a ‘misguided slap in the face’, and Insomniac Games writer Mary Kenney said it would be ‘one step forward, seven steps back’ for the industry. A few claimed that the WGA’s choice to only recognise guild members for their work was a move to build their ranks rather than to acknowledge the storytelling power of video games. 

Portal and Half-Life writer Chet Faliszek stated he would never join the WGA and explained that, ‘To win this award you have to be a member. When they asked us to join so we could win – we could pay dues, but not vote because game writing isn’t real writing, not like have a short story published in a zine read by 12 people.’

‘The WGA Game Writing Award was never more than a way for the WGA to build its membership among game writers, incentivizing us to pay dues in exchange [for] the privilege of being eligible for that award,’ Mortal Kombat 11 writer Shawn Kittelsen corroborated. Branching into the topic of unionisation, Kittelsen said that the industry ‘should look to our fellow game developers — designers, programmers, artists, testers’ rather than to desire recognition by big name guilds. 

Prince of Persia and Earthworm Jim 3D writer Andrew Walsh drew attention to the Writers' Guild of Great Britain in response, which has not done away with its own award for video game writing. This award is independent of membership, its only qualifier is that half of the game must be written in Britain or by a British person, and the guild is working closely to campaign with the Game Workers Union