A Fistful Of Dollars Stopped A Nomination For Red Dead Redemption

A Fistful Of Dollars Stopped A Nomination For Red Dead Redemption

Check out that list of games nominated for the Writers Guild’s Video Game Writing Award. Seem like anyone’s missing? Well, there’s neither Red Dead Redemption nor anything from BioWare. The Guild says these games makers “refused” to submit a script.

Why is that? The matter of a $US60 fee seems to be a sticking point. According to an editorial today by Micah Wright, of the Guild’s Videogame Writers Caucus, both BioWare and Take Two Interactive refused to enter scripts for games like Mass Effect 2 or Red Dead Redemption, “even though we’ve gone to great lengths to make it easy for them to do so.”

But the VWC does require that a nominee be a member of the Caucus – which Wright points out is not the same thing as being a member of the larger Writers Guild of America. For that, the $US60 fee is required.

“Bioware, for example, refused to submit a script for either Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age this year, and that’s too bad, because both games would have likely been finalists,” Wright wrote. “Similarly, Take Two Games refused to submit a script for Red Dead Redemption. Why? We don’t know. Maybe they hate unions, or maybe they just hate winning awards, or maybe they have enough statues on their mantle. … Are we happy about it? No, but rules are rules and our rules are clear and very fair.”

To those who say the WGA’s VWC should evaluate and award games regardless of membership, as Great Britain’s Guild does, Wright says that guild’s awards are only for British-made games, and the smaller candidate pool requires an open entry format.

Further, there’s the dirty little secret of games criticism: “Our judges are all members of the VWC, and thus, professional, working videogame writers. I can’t demand that our judges sit down and buy and then devote 80 hours to playing every videogame that comes out at retail… not when they’ve got jobs and lives to lead and they can read the entire script in 2 hours or less.”

Seems like a petty kerfuffle but Wright has a point. I wouldn’t expect to win any organization’s award without being a member of it myself. His arch remark about “maybe they hate unions” seems to allege that a studio views encouraging or paying for VWC membership as a step toward a giant labour headache.

I don’t know labour law nor do I know these studios’ policies. I do know that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is up for a major award and Mass Effect 2 is not. All over $US60. Sixty dollars. Wonder what that would buy at retail?

The WGA’s Micah Wright defends its game writing award [Games Industry.biz]


  • “I don’t know labour law nor do I know these studios’ policies. I do know that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is up for a major award and Mass Effect 2 is not. All over $US60. Sixty dollars.”

    This seems like a remarkably petty way to make a point on the part of Bioware/Take Two. Especially when the writing is one of the strongest, most advertised points of their games. Strange.

  • I too know little about labour law or the policies of any studios.What I can say is that i’ve never heard of the Writer’s Guild of America Video Game Writing award, or this “Videogame Writer’s Caucus” (whatever *that* is) and would place little credence or merit on such an award, when I get a better and broader view of a well written game from numerous reviews, word of mouth, and playing the game myself.

    While a $60 membership fee may seem insignificant, membership of any organisation raises questions. What is the organisation? What does it represent? What benefits does this membership give a member, and what is it asking in return? Should a studio join a guild or a ‘caucus’ simply to stand a chance at winning an award? Isn’t that a little petty and self-serving?

    Mr Wright claims he doesn’t know why certain studios didn’t submit a script (in amongst his – let’s be honest – very bitchy sniping). Did he actually ask? Did he engage in any sort of constructive discussion to understand their reasons? If not, why not? If so, what was the result? Or were they reasons that didn’t suit his agenda?

    Ultimately it doesn’t matter that these games don’t win an award. Their merit speaks for themselves. The studio isn’t losing out – these games are already well known for their writing. The public isn’t losing out – unless anyone seriously thinks that a significant amount of people would base a game purchase primarily on “winning a writing award”. It’s this third party that loses. I’m not saying that’s right or fair or whether the reasons are valid. This is just the most likely outcome.

  • Seems to me the Writer Guild are trying to continue to justify their own existence. With more and more mainstream directors publicly disowning these guilds you can see why they would be keen to get as many people on board as possible. Hopefully next year even more studios refuse to join these guilds just to get a trophy.

  • Kell: It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of the award and apparently never heard of the WGA. It’s to award accomplishment within the industry, recognised by fellows in the industry (and guild), because you’ve likely never heard of the writers of these video games, or, indeed, the writers of most television shows and movies.

    Cameron: “Seems to me the Writer Guild are trying to continue to justify their own existence.”

    The WGA were the ones who went on strike in 2007-08 to demand a new contract wherein residuals from new media were given to writers (because these media formats didn’t exist when the previous contract was written). They almost crippled Hollywood. That hardly makes insignificant.

    You know who has absolutely nothing to do with the guilds? GEORGE LUCAS. OH YEAH I WENT THERE.

    • Hi Q,

      It’s true, no point arguing about that. It really *doesn’t* matter that i’ve never heard of the award. It doesn’t matter to most people, and especially not to most consumers of games. If it’s to award achievement in an industry, and key members of the industry couldn’t be bothered submitting an application, I think that act kindof speaks for itself regarding the respect they have for the award. I don’t pretend to understand why they’ve decided to do this, or whether their reasons are valid. Mr Wright certainly isn’t pretending to understand. At the end of the day, it diminishes the award’s validity.

  • Huh, a little OT but I can’t help but wonder if this is the same Micah Wright who was essentially blacklisted from writing comics after it turned out he’d been lying about being a marine or army ranger for years. It was a shame, the guy was actually a good writer.

  • Why submit a script for a videogame. You PLAY the game not open your gaming manual to find a script for the game and read it. No yo experience the game for what it is, a game. This guy – or the guild – are losers.

    Just like a film, takes less than the quarter of the time to play a game but I bet they still require a script for nominees. The guilds are kinda stupid half the time anyway.

    I remember the Directors Guild stopped Quentin Tarantino from directing an episode of the X-Files cause he wasn’t a member. Like what the eff, it would have paid off in ratings!!!

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!