If you’re playing a videogame, you’re not watching television.
It’s a reality many scribes are coming to terms with as more of their target audience, especially younger males, power up their Xboxes, PlayStations or Wiis for their daily dose of entertainment.
But for writer-editor Seamus Kevin Fahey, games haven’t proved a drawback to his career.
The scribe, currently the executive story editor and a writer on “Spartacus: Vengeance” and who previously worked on shows “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” “The Forgotten” and “Battlestar Galactica,” has written “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a game that Activision Blizzard, the largest videogame maker in the biz, will release June 26, a week before Sony bows its “Spider-Man” reboot at the megaplex.
It’s not Fahey’s first videogame job. Over the past four years, he’s worked for Electronic Arts, Bungie Studios (the maker of “Halo”) and Sega on various projects. But “Spider-Man” is his first completed game project that will hit store shelves.
“This is the first start-to-finish project that is actually being released,” he says, noting that development hell exists in the videogame world, as well.
Making the move to games didn’t demand much of a creative leap for Fahey.
“It requires you to use a different part of the brain for sure,” he says. “You’re flexing a different creative muscle. But at the end of the day, it comes down to what’s a compelling story, and can you tell it in a different and interesting way? The fundamentals are the same.”
The main difference in writing for games, Fahey says, is in tapping into the mind of the gamer, and trying to figure out what how he or she might want the story to proceed. “You have to imagine yourself as a player having control over a character, which you can’t do when you’re watching television,” he says. “You always have to think, if I’m playing this right now, is the guy going to throw down the controller because he can’t go through this door? That’s exciting and a challenge.”
Fahey spent two years working on the “Spider-Man” game that takes place in the time frame directly after the new movie, starring Andrew Garfield, ends. The plot is designed to be an original epilogue story, which gave Fahey and the game’s developer, Beenox Studios, the freedom to craft their own narrative.
At the same time, the new game returns Spidey to New York — the first time the web slinger’s been to Gotham in five years. The last game that featured the character in Manhattan was “Spider-Man: Web of Shadows,” in 2008, also from Activision.
Fahey isn’t surprised gamemakers are turning to Hollywood to tell new stories.
“I think a lot of game developers right now are looking for that serialized or episodic voice to drive the narrative a little bit more,” he says. “It is a natural reach to look for TV writers. Working with Hollywood screenwriters helps us craft deep, rich interactive experiences driven by great narratives that keep players invested in finding out what happens next, in addition to all the amazing on-screen gameplay,” said David Oxford, executive VP, Activision Publishing, adding that the publisher brought on for the “Spider-Man” game “to help ensure the narrative we tell through the game feels like a true extension of the cinematic experience, and something that Spider-Man fans will definitely want to check out.”
Fahey is the latest screenwriter the gaming biz has tapped as it looks to develop new tentpole titles, with talent agencies finding scribes jobs between movie and TV gigs. Others include Bruce Feirstein, who went from writing James Bond films to 007 games, Mark Wheaton (the reboot of “Friday the 13th”) who penned the “FEAR 2” game, and Danny Bilson, who went from writing “The Rocketeer” and shows like “The Flash” and “The Sentinel” to shepherding Electronic Arts’ “The Sims,” “Harry Potter” and “Medal of Honor” franchises before running creative at publisher THQ.
Fahey expects Hollywood writers to become more and more involved in the vidgame biz. “It’s another world, but both will blur,” he says. “The talent pool will start to merge. That will take a couple years.”
In the meantime, Fahey’s experience in with “Spider Man” was filled with plenty of give and take — a lot like Hollywood. After two months of solid writing, his work went to game designers at Beenox’s studios in Canada, who tried to make his words interactive, while he moved on to another assignment.
Three months later, Fahey was told what he’d written wouldn’t work.
“They would say, ‘We love the idea, but can we do a more production-friendly version? Everything else that followed would have to be adjusted” as a result, Fahey says.
In between design sessions, Fahey provided gamemakers with character bios and other supplemental material that could be used in the game or online.
Still as Fahey switches back to tackling the third season of “Spartacus,” he’s eager to get back to gaming sometime soon — whether the game ever comes out or not. That’s because at the end of the day, the two worlds aren’t all that different.
Game designers are “geniuses,” he says, who know their stories extremely well.
“They’re people making stuff up for a living,” he adds. “It’s what we’re all doing.”