Award-winning English video game writer, narrative designer and journalist. She has worked on titles such as Tomb Raider, Heavenly Sword, Overlord, and Mirror’s Edge. She is also the daughter of the late fantasy writer Terry Pratchett.
Q: What inspired you to go into writing for video games?
I wouldn’t say anything ‘inspired’ me to get into games writing, because I initially knew very little about how it worked. It was rarely discussed by the press or by developers. Most narrative in games was created by in-house designer-writers, rather than game-specific specialised writers. Independent, freelance game writer didn’t exist as an established job back then. I pretty made up my career as I went along.
I’ve been playing games since I was six. So, they’ve always been part of my life. I studied journalism at the London College of Communication, part of University of the Arts London, and started getting my first professional pieces published in my final year. I managed to get a bit of freelance work writing games reviews and then took on a full-time staff role on the late, great PC Zone magazine. Where Charlie Brooker, of Black Mirror fame, also got his start.
After a few years at the coalface of British games journalism, I left to go back to freelancing. I was dreading the endless rounds of pitching articles, but knew that an office-based job wasn’t for me. Coincidentally, I was contacted by Larian Studios (the Belgium-based developer behind the Divinity RPGs.) They were looking for a story editor for one of their games and knew I’d been a fan of their previous title. They thought of me, and I thought it sounded like a much more interesting way of paying the bills. After I finished the job, I started to approach other contacts I’d made as a journalist to see if they needed any help with their narrative. It turned out they did! I managed to get bits and pieces of work here and there, gradually building up my credits. Eventually, I secured work on Heavenly Sword, an early title for the, then brand new, Play Station 3. That really kicked up my career a few notches and put me on the path to eventually working on the likes of the rebooted Tomb Raider.
Q: How has the transition been from mainstream action-adventure games, like Tomb Raider, to a more creative Indie one, like Lost Words?
It’s not really a transition, since I started out working on small games. It’s more a case of going where I find the work most interesting and challenging. Every project you work on as a writer is radically different, depending on the genre of game, the narrative sensibilities of the team, the time-frame, budget and when you’re brought on as a writer.
Obviously, with the bigger AAA games [an informal classification used for video games with the highest development budgets and levels of promotion], there is usually more time and budget to play with and you have access to high-level actors and fellow developers who are at the top of their career. With indie projects, you are less beholden to the demands of publishers and have more creative space to push innovation and imagination. It’s likely that the people you’ll be working with are less experienced, but then a lot of AAA developers are moving into the indie world these days, as they are frustrated with the constraints of big-budget development. So, in indie there’s more freedom, but perhaps it’s a little less shiny!
Q: Will there ever be a video game version of Discworld?
There have actually been three point-and-click adventure games: Discworld in 1995, Discworld II in 1996 and Discworld Noir in 1999. We’d love to bring them to something like GOG, but unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of problems detangling the licenses, so I doubt that will ever happen. As for new games, we’ve never had the right pitch. Plus, I know how much work I’d have to personally put into it, and I have a lot of my own projects on the go at the moment.