Be flexible and firm, author tells aspiring gaming writers

Dubai: Aspiring game writers have to be flexible but must also have the ability to say ‘no’ when the situation calls for it, an award-winning gaming author said on Friday.

Rhianna Pratchett, scriptwriter, story designer and general narrative paramedic, shared her journey on Friday, the second day of the 10th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

Pratchett shared how she became a gaming writer and how she is helping developers redefine video gaming storytelling.

With titles such as the ‘Tomb Raider’ series, ‘Heavenly Sword’, ‘Overlord’, ‘Overlord II’, ‘Dark Legend’, ‘Bioshock Infinite’ and ‘Mirror’s Edge’ to her name, Pratchett is one of the most influential women in the gaming industry.

During the session, Pratchett told aspiring writers that rewriting is a normal part of the process.

“You do that all the time and one of the reasons is that as a scriptwriter for games, you have to be flexible and the script has to be very flexible,” Pratchett said.

Scripts could be “finished for the moment” but could still be changed depending on who’s looking at it and how much influence they have on the production process.

Pratchett said most of the time, as is the case in the industry, a lot of script ends up being cut out at the eleventh hour, which could be upsetting.

In the case of the ‘Tomb Rider’ series, which she helped reboot, she had to deal with many character deaths that had a major impact in the story.

“I had to keep going back and killing off characters or removing them from the scene and it was interesting because that changed the tone of the narrative in a way that we didn’t really notice until the end because of the complicated deaths,” she said.

But Pratchett said it’s also crucial for writers to put their foot down to make sure that their story remains as is. Though it’s hard to do, Pratchett said saying ‘no’ to directors and financiers is becoming easier now.

“It’s my company, I have the rights to it so I can just say ‘no’. That’s a powerful gift that my dad left — the ability to say no. And we do end up saying no most of the time.”

A classically trained journalist, Pratchett said the practical skills she learnt in journalism — such as keeping stories short and meeting deadlines — have helped her in her craft.

But her love affair with computer games pre-dated her journalism career.

She was six years old when she was first introduced to the world of gaming — when characters were still pixelated and eerily awkward.

She got hooked, nonetheless, and for a time confessed that she also got addicted to gaming.

She then became a gamer and a games reviewer and was being paid for something she loved, although she admitted being “badly paid” in the beginning.

Now, Pratchett is known as a “narrative paramedic”, a fancy term for writers who are called in to stop scripts from bleeding to bring them back to life again.

The process has slowly changed over the last five years as the industry is now trying to fit writers in the production process, which traditionally was not the norm.

What: 10th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

When: March 1-10

Where: Intercontinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City

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