Morpher: Rich Wilkes, 40, Venice Beach, CA
Wilkes was the wordsmith behind Vin Diesel's commercially successful action-hero flick xXx. Now he and Diesel are collaborating on The Wheelman, a movie and video game about the "ultimate driver for hire" (buckle up!), set for release late next year.
Wilkes, a longtime video-game buff, is adapting his storytelling skills for the gaming world. "It's a little counterintuitive to screenwriting, which is, put somebody in a roller coaster and take them from A to B however you want," Wilkes says. "Things happen in video games for video-game reasons." Meaning, a player's decisions dictate the next steps. In The Wheelman, players must take on a series of missions to reach the next level but have some control over what happens when.
That interactive element means Wilkes has had to think in a nonlinear way about storytelling. Plots can go from A to B to D to Q—and back to B. He has also had to rely on programmers and designers; no tapping away in some lonely garret. "As screenwriters become more familiar with the game-making world," he says, "I think we'll get more involved and help to guide the whole design."
U.S. jobs supported by the entertainment-software industry
2009 (est.): 250,000
Source: Georgetown University Law Center
“I'm convinced that there is hidden genius, within a narrow range, in most people. It is the weakness of contemporary organization leadership that fails to expose that genius.” —Ed Brenegar
A version of this article appeared in the December 2006/January 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.