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Significant Zero: Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games

Significant Zero: Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games

by Walt Williams


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From the award-winning videogame writer behind Spec Ops: The Line comes an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how today’s blockbuster video games are made.

When his satirical musings in a college newspaper got him discharged from the Air Force, it became clear to Walt Williams that his destiny in life was to be a writer—he just never thought he’d end up writing video games, let alone working on some of the most successful franchises in the industry—Bioshock, Civilization, Borderlands, and Mafia among others.

Williams pulls back the curtain on an astonishingly profitable industry that has put its stamp on pop culture and yet is little known to those outside its walls. In his reflective yet comically-observant voice, Williams walks you through his unlikely and at times inglorious rise within one of the world’s top gaming companies, exposing an industry abundant in brain power and out-sized egos, but struggling to stay innovative. Significant Zero also provides clear-eyed criticism of the industry’s addiction to violence and explains how the role of the narrative designer—the poor soul responsible for harmonizing gameplay with storylines—is crucial for expanding the scope of video games into more immersive and emotional experiences.

Significant Zero offers a rare look inside this fascinating, billion-dollar industry and a path forward for its talented men and women—gamers and nongamers alike—that imagines how video games might inspire the best in all of us.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501129957
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Walt Williams is the award-winning video game writer known for his work on such beloved franchises as Star Wars Battlefront, Bioshock, Civilization, Borderlands, Mafia, The Darkness, and the acclaimed, genre-bending Spec Ops: The Line. His book, Significant Zero, explores the hardships and insanity of AAA game development. He lives in Louisiana with his family.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

1 Tutorial 1

2 God, Lies, and Video Games 11

3 Breaking in 25

4 Eat Shit or Die Trying 37

5 The Cruel Tutelage of Peter Griffin 65

6 Enraptured 79

7 Made Men 105

8 Lost at Sea 135

9 Significant Zero 155

10 Character Flaws 163

11 Walking the Line 179

12 We Am Not Heroes 201

13 Development Never Changes 217

14 Airplanes 229

15 Into Darkness 249

16 Not the Fall but the Stop 269

Epilogue: New Game Plus 281

Acknowledgments 289

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