Gamasutra’s Top 20 Game Writers list just came out, and while I think it’s a pretty good list (happy that Chris Avellone is in it, unhappy that Ragnar Tornquist isn’t), I’m more amused with the user comments on the page. Some people disagreed with the list, and posted so; and then the writers themselves argued back. While the comments are all tasteful and smart, you could tell some people just couldn’t resist.
I’m a firm believer that one should never respond to your critics. I grew up in a house of writers – my dad is a famous writer (and critic, too!), and while my mom isn’t a writer by profession, she used to write a weekly column and also contributed a great chapter in the book “The Writer’s Wives”. (If you ever want to know what it’s like to live with a writer, that book is for you).
When I was in high school, I watched my dad argue on the phone with a famous local film director. The director’s really important film just came out, but a critic in the paper reviewed it as not being all that. The director responded by writing a rebuttal and sending it to the paper, which they published, of course.
I remember my dad telling the film director, clearly, “You should never respond to your critics.” That piece of advice stuck with me as I grew up. It’s counter-intuitive. It was either my mom or my dad who told me that writers are inherently arrogant – you HAVE to believe you’re right, in order to tell the whole world that you are. So when someone disagrees with you, it’s extremely difficult not to get a word in edgewise. Thankfully I’ve never been in the spotlight enough to warrant my very own critic – but I remember when Anito: Defend A Land Enraged came out, people were either praising us about the story or shooting it down. You really didn’t know whom to listen to, whom to believe.
I wonder if things would be better if people just didn’t respond to their critics. Is it possible to live in a world where your work speaks for itself?
In other news, Syd Field is holding a two-day Screenwriting Masterclass in Manila on March 14 to 15. I’m totally psyched. It was Syd Field’s Screenplay that I read and studied for fun when I was in high school, when I dreamt of writing for film; I still refer to story or film events as Plot Points 1 and 2. I hope I can get a slot!