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Writing video games with Rhianna Pratchett

Speculative fiction is not confined to prose stories or even TV and film. Video games have long focused on science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. As such, this week, I interview master games writer (official title!), Rhianna Pratchett.

Writing a novel or short story can be hard enough, but writing for games is on another level. You don’t just have to think about charter, settings, and plot, but the gameplay and other interactive elements. There are so many elements to balance at any given moment. How does one even begin? Rhianna discusses the trade-offs between narrative and game play, and how writers are brought into the games design process.

The good news is the industry is changing. More women are working behind the scenes in games, more games are featuring female characters (that aren’t there for titillation alone), and studios are recognising the large numbers of women gamers. But there’s still a long way to go.

Games mentioned in this episode include:

  • Tomb Raider
  • Mirror’s Edge
  • Heavenly Sword
  • Virginia
  • Oxenfree
  • Inside
  • Mafia 3
  • Don’t Starve / Don’t Starve: Shipwrecked
  • The Last of Us
  • Farcry 3
  • Halo
  • Telltale Games
  • Firewatch
  • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
  • Thomas Was Alone
  • Remember Me
  • Watchdogs 2
  • Saints Row
  • That Dragon, Cancer
  • Civilisation 5
  • Age of Empires / Age of Mythology
  • Dune
  • Westwood Studios
  • Red Alert
  • Elder Scrolls: Legends
  • Hearthstone
  • Gears of War
  • Lost Words (work in progress title)

 

Rhianna Pratchett has been a professional writer for 15 years. Having written numerous features and columns on games, movies and books and originally cutting her journalistic teeth on PC Zone magazine and The Guardian newspaper, Rhianna moved into scriptwriting and narrative design in 2002. In 2007 her work on Heavenly Sword was nominated for a BAFTA and a year later she won a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain ’Best Videogame Script’ award for Overlord.

Alongside writing for video games, she has also authored the Tomb Raider: The Beginning comics with Dark Horse and the 6-part Mirror’s Edge miniseries with DC Comics and several of her own short stories. Rhianna has contributed to various books on games narrative including Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing (Edited by: Wendy Despain) and Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames (Edited by: Chris Bateman).

She also works with the IGDA Writers’ Special Interest Group, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and BAFTA Games to help improve games narrative and the lot of games writers everywhere.

Rhianna currently lives in London, with a couple of neurotic tabbies. True to British form, she drinks a lot of tea.

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