Scriptwriting and design in video gaming- a woman’s perspective

Starting out

Although I didn’t start off my career in this field, you could say that the roots of it date back to when I was six years old and played Mazeogs on the ZX81 – thus starting my love of gaming. I can’t say I really had a plan for my life, which is one reason why I decided to study journalism. It’s a great subject for people that like lots of things a bit, but can’t make up their mind! I was lucky to get a few pieces of freelance journalism work for a young women’s magazine called Minx. Rather unconventionally they decided to start reviewing games and knowing I was a gamer asked me to cover them. I think this experiment only lasted for about five issues, but it was enough to get my foot in the door of the games industry.

I then started freelancing for PC Gear magazine and later moved on to get a full-time position on PC Zone, The Guardian and The Sunday Times newspapers. My years as a professional games journalist definitely gave me great contacts and networking opportunities which became very important when making my next career move.

Changing careers

About seven years ago I decided to return to the more pyjama-based world of freelance journalism. Coincidently, Larian Studios were looking for a story editor for their next game. A hardcore RPG called Beyond Divinity. The timing was perfect and I grabbed it with both hands – and so started the second phase of my career. Gradually I started getting more writing work on games and leaving the journalism behind. At first I took anything, level dialogue, polishing work, whatever I could get a bit of money and my name in the credits for. These included things like a Spongebob game and a Pacman adventure game.

My big break

My big break came when I secured work as the writer and co-story designer on Heavenly Sword. I spent a year and a half on this project with the likes of Andy Serkis (Golem in LOTR) who was the dramatic director. Soon I began to develop a full-time career in games; developing the stories, designing the characters, writing the scripts and even directing the voice actors. After Heavenly Sword, I moved on to titles such as Mirror’s Edge and Overlord. The latter has become one of my main franchises and I’ve now written four games and an expansion pack for the series. The most recent being Overlord II (PC, 360, PS3), Overlord: Dark Legend (Wii) and Overlord: Minions (DS).

Tips

Being a gamer has been a huge help to me, as has getting to know the industry, games, and developers from a journalistic point of view. Networking and contacts are very important. Try and attend as many games events as possible (like Develop, Animex Games Festival, Gamehorizons or the Game Developers Conference.) There are now some groups that deal with games writing specifically, such as the International Game Developers Association’s Writers’ Special Interest Group. This is one place where you can find a mixture of those looking to secure their first job in games writing to freelance and in-house games writers, right through to veterans of the industry.

Rhianna Pratchett
Games scriptwriter and narrative designer

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