Women moving in to 'Housewives' game


Writer Scott Sanford Tobis has been playing video games all of his life. His wife is an active gamer, too, but he noticed that there aren't a whole lot of female-friendly choices for women outside of Electronic Arts' "The Sims" franchise. So when Buena Vista Games asked Tobis to script the new PC game based on ABC's "Desperate Housewives," he jumped at the opportunity to create an alternate universe populated by the ladies of Wisteria Lane.

Key actors from the show lent their likenesses for "Desperate Housewives: The Game," while actress Brenda Strong provided the same spooky narration she delivers on the TV series. In the game, players assume the role of a new female neighbor that moves into the neighborhood. She interacts with the characters from the series to solve a new mystery.

"When you are writing a video game, you are both trying to lead the player in the direction of the solution to the mystery," says Tobis, who also has worked on the "Housewives" TV series. "Over the course of the game, you're also trying to lead them astray to have fun, allowing them to mingle with the characters from the show."

Like many TV scribes, Tobis says that he tends to overwrite his scripts. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that video games are one medium where length is not a problem.

"Video game writing takes a very different path than traditional entertainment because you want to lead the audience to a solution, but you deviate by offering a lot of different paths," Tobis says. "It's a bit like creating a family tree, or more accurately, a spread sheet."

The intricacy and depth of storytelling found in some contemporary games reflects the influence of a new generation of writers like Tobis, who move freely from penning film and TV projects to games.

"The game developers are starting to understand that the dialogue in games can't be the kind of dialogue that existed 10 years ago," Tobis says. "It's important to the future of gaming. Writers of video games, and some of them may come from Silicon Valley rather than Hollywood, are bringing a new level of sophistication and complexity to games."

Understanding the medium helped Tobis make the transition to interactive entertainment, but he says there definitely is a learning curve. He sees Hollywood and gaming interacting with each other.

"I think that games and Hollywood TV and film properties are informing each other in the same way that the iPod and online mobisodes are impacting television and film," Tobis says. "I think writers are discovering a way to enrich their stories through these new digital offerings."

The less rigid storytelling structures of games allow for more interesting elements to be expanded upon, to the delight of hard-core fans of a property.

With a digital palette that includes the antics of Bree, Edie, Gabrielle, Lynette and Susan, Tobis had more than enough material to work with.