In a statement to US Gamer today, The Writers Guild of America (WGA) confirmed that they will be dropping the award for Videogame Writing from their 2020 ceremonies. According to the WGA, the award is being suspended due to a “lack of coverage” in the category by the WGA’s members.
The statement released to US Gamer reads: “”There won’t be a Videogame Writing Award in 2020; however, the category will be reinstated when there is a critical mass of videogames covered by the WGA in order to provide a meaningful award selection process.” In other words, the Writers Guild of America would revisit the category when more video game writers are also members of the organization.
Was just told the WGA suspended their Game Writing award category this year.
One step forward, seven steps back 🙄
— BloodyMary Kenney☠️🍹 (@maryknews) October 2, 2019
US Gamer reports that a post on Twitter from Insomniac Games writer Mary Kenney brought early attention to the changes to the Writers Guild 2020 awards. In the Tweet, Mary Kenney assesses the schedule change as “one step forward, seven steps back” for video game writing’s place in the wider world of professional wiring and the arts and humanities.
The Writers Guild of America is a labor union that counts among its members writers who work in a variety of mediums, including in the television and film industries, with East and West-centric organizations. The WGA’s inaugural award in Videogame Writing went to Vicious Cycle Software’s Dead Head Fred in 2008, a definite sleeper on the PlayStation Portable. Award winners in the years that followed went largely to mega-hit AAA titles like Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us and Sony exclusives God of War and Horizon: Zero Dawn. The Videogame Award recipient is selected by the WGA’s video game writers caucus made up of professional game writers who are members of WGA West.
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 the privilege of being eligible for that award. https://t.co/TdrArFtHbo
— Shawn Kittelsen (@kittelsen) October 2, 2019
Many video game industry writers brushed off the WGA’s change to their award ceremony, believing it to be a means to recruit more writers in video game development to the organization. Others feel that the WGA doesn’t have nearly the same presence in the games industry as it does in television and film and is not equipped to advocate on behalf of game writers. In a thread responding to Mary kennel’s original Tweet, Mortal Kombat 11 writer Shawn Kittelsen explained that he feels the WGA wants games writers to “pay dues in exchange for being eligible for that award.” He goes on to add that “getting rid of this award a least does away with the charade that the WGA advocates for game writers in any capacity” and cannot meaningful help writers unionize within development companies.
I’ve never joined the WGA and never will. 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. https://t.co/o9UFzWf0U7
— Chet Faliszek (@chetfaliszek) October 2, 2019
Portal and Half-Life writer Chet Faliszek also weighed in on Twitter, posting that he “never joined the WGA and never will” because he feels that the WGA doesn’t treat video game writing as “real writing” despite its exponential narrative growth and its ever-growing audience.
Narratively ambitious video games like Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding or The Last of Us: Part II can still aim for recognition at London’s BAFTA Game Awards, which now also includes more awards in the acting and animation categories. And of course there’s always the annual Game Awards in Los Angeles this December.