The term “video game” might conjure up images of space invaders, barrel-flinging apes or a pair of super brothers: kids’ stuff.
For people like game producer Jeffery Gardiner ’95 it’s a lucrative business — and a chance to tell great stories to all ages. A senior producer for Bethesda Softworks in Maryland, Gardiner’s résumé includes titles such as Fallout III, a critically acclaimed hit that sold more than 5 million copies.
“Games are still stigmatized. People still think they’re for kids,” Gardiner said during a campus visit sponsored by the Living Writers lecture series and the Oswego Alumni Association’s Alumni-In-Residence program. “There’s a barrier of entry to games, but I think that is lower now because of phenomena like Wii™ that attract a wider audience.”
A longtime gamer — going back to his elementary school days playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends — Gardiner applied his English writing arts degree to the vast creative avenues offered by his favorite electronic medium.
In video games, the player controls the story. It’s the writer’s job to dream up challenging scenarios that will keep the gamer engrossed, Gardiner said.
“How can you help them lose themselves in the game?” he said. The writer works with a theme, characters and settings, “very much the same as the fundamentals I learned here.”
The gaming industry has evolved considerably in his lifetime. Today’s fantasies are very complex and filled with compelling stories, many of which are targeted at adults.
“Nothing beats a good script,” Gardiner said. “Like a good pulp fiction novel or movie, you’re able to escape.”
— Shane M. Liebler