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 $60 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 $60 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 labor headache.

I don't know labor 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 $60. Sixty dollars. Wonder what that would buy at retail?

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