Video - Rhianna Pratchett at TEDx Transmedia 2012 - ‘The Future of the Videogames Writer’
Scriptwriter, story designer and ‘narrative paramedic,’ Rhianna Pratchett, is most well-known for being a 14-year veteran of the videogames industry. She went from being a journalist for PC Zone magazine and The Guardian newspaper into games development and has become one of the most respected writers and narrative designers in her field.
She has worked for companies such as Sony, Electronic Arts, SEGA, Codemasters and Square Enix, and her titles include: Heavenly Sword, Mirror’s Edge, the entire Overlord series and the new Tomb Raider reboot, due for release in March 2013. Her work in videogames has seen her nominated for a BAFTA and nominated three times for the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain’s ‘Best Videogame Script’ award, which she won in 2008 for Overlord.
Pratchett was named one of the top 100 most influential women in the games industry by EDGE magazine and has also worked in comics, short stories, non-fiction books, film and TV.
At TEDx Transmedia 2012, Rhianna talked about the future of the videogames writer.
Short film featuring interviews with TEDx Transmedia 2012 speakers
Interviews with kids’ philosopher Øyvind Olsholt, transmedia storyteller Alison Norrington, games writer Rhianna Pratchett and TEDx Transmedia Curator, Nicoletta Iacobacci, all feature in this English-Italian short made at TEDx Transmedia 2012.
Writers need to evolve to understand games, both as an entertainment medium and as creative constructions. Because games matter. Likewise, the industry must learn to evolve for writers and help grow the craft of games writing and not let old attitudes and prejudices hold it back. Because stories matter.
There’s an unfortunate attitude in certain sectors of games industry that writers simply equal the people who do the ‘word bits’ - and that words are cheap and can just be slotted in wherever and whenever. Attitudes like that are extremely damaging for the future of games narrative.
Fun and quirky facts about our TEDx Transmedia 2012 speakers
A collation of fun and quirky facts about our TEDx Transmedia 2012 speakers so you can get to know them a bit better. Enjoy!
SPEAKER FACT 1: Producer of ideas, Saku Tuominen, won a silver medal in the Old Timers (35+) World Championships in Ice Hockey. But not only is he an elite sportsman, he also has some enviable culinary skills and produces his own Olive Oil.
SPEAKER FACT 2: Peter Espersen, Online Community Lead for LEGO, is a huge heavy metal music fan, which might just account for the long metalhead hair style? He was once at a Rollins Band punk concert when the lead singer dived into the crowd and began biting the leg of the guy he was stood next to. Peter only noticed when the man started screaming.
SPEAKER FACT 3: Josh Shore, filmmaker, transmedia producer and founder of the Guerrilla News Network, practises meditation whilst scuba diving (!) and is a big fan of Minimal Techno…
SPEAKER FACT 4: Games writer Rhianna Pratchett has just launched Narrativia - a new film, TV and digital production company. The company is a partnership with her fantasy author father, Terry Pratchett, and collaborators Rob Wilkins and Rod Brown. First projects are the adaption of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and an adaption of The Watch, also by Terry Pratchett.
SPEAKER FACT 5: Author Alison Norrington left business cards for her character inside shoes in shoe shops to help attract an audience for her chick lit transmedia story Staying Single.
SPEAKER FACT 6: Robert Tercek, one of the world’s most prolific creators of interactive content, has had some really exciting work in his life. We are very enamoured by the fact he got to work on the visual design for the Rolling Stones Steel Wheels tour early on in his career. Wonder if he’ll have any inside gossip on the rock and roll worlds of Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie?
SPEAKER FACT 7: Ana Serrano, founding Director of the Canadian Film Centre Media Lab, has an unusual hobby: she sings in operatic style and often to her son Néo.
SPEAKER FACT 8: Philosopher for children, Øyvind Olsholt, is a pianist and currently learning Swan Lake to play for his young daughter while she practises her ballet dancing.
SPEAKER FACT 9: Maurice Wheeler, of the Little Big Partnership, gives a funny talk on goal setting and measurement inspired by the fact he lost nearly half his body weight in just over a year, going from a massive XXXL (20st 10lb) to a slight and lithe M (around 11st)! You can check out his talk ‘Using Measurement To Motivate’ here: http://vimeo.com/45510523
SPEAKER FACT 10: Derrick de Kerckhove, world-leading thinker on technology and mass media, has a fascination with the alphabet and once co-edited a book which scientifically assesses the impact of the Western alphabet on the physiology and psychology of human cognition.
SPEAKER FACT 11: Poonacha Machaiah, CEO at the Qyuki social network for creativity, rides his motorcycles as a means to clear his mind. He regularly braves Bangalore’s crazy traffic, on his classic 1950s-style 500cc Royal Enfield or Yamaha R1, en route to work. He’s explored most of south India on a bike and plans to take a long journey into the Himalayas next year.
SPEAKER FACT 12: Social Designer Andrew Shea has a wandering spirit and has been on many travelling adventures around the world. Some of his most memorable include: hitchhiking from Mexico to Memphis, and hanging out with a Bushman, in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, who was wearing the same Michael Jordan T-shirt Andrew owned as a kid.
SPEAKER FACT 13: Rosalía Lloret, Chief Digital Officer at PRISA News, worked closely with the Huffington Post to bring the American brand to Spain.
Fun facts sourced and compiled by Hannah Wood.
‘The heavy lifting lies in trying to find the sweet spot between story and gameplay.’ Q&A with games writer and TEDx Transmedia 2012 speaker Rhianna Pratchett.
Award-winning games writer Rhianna Pratchett has been named one of the top 100 most influential women in games and just been announced as the lead writer on the new Tomb Raider re-boot, one of the most successful gaming franchises ever made.
In this Q&A ahead of her talk in the ‘Geek’ section at TEDx Transmedia 2012, we chatted with her about everything from her love of facehuggers to what it’s like to get her hands on the First Lady of action gaming, Lara Croft.
It’s a great read for anyone interested in a from-the-trenches approach to the role of writing in games. Rhianna shares her industry pet peeves, her favourite projects and writing process, her thoughts on the dubious positioning of games writers’ as ‘narrative paramedics,’ the representation of women, race and sexuality in games and her early ambition to be a mermaid!
Don’t miss seeing Rhianna live at TEDx Transmedia. You can register here now.
Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get into writing for games?
I wrote a lot when I was a kid. But I actually wanted to be a mermaid, more than I wanted to be a writer. Unfortunately, my parents were unable to find a tail in the depths of rural Somerset, and so I turned to plan B. I studied journalism at university. Primarily, because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Journalism is great for uncertain people, because you get a taster of so many different things.
I’ve been a gamer since I was 6 and ended up going into games journalism (working for the UK’s late, great PCZone magazine) after I left university. After a few years on staff, I left to go freelance and was offered a job as a story editor on a hardcore role-playing game called Beyond Divinity. Suddenly I’d stumbled upon a career I never knew existed. After that, I utilise the contacts I’d gained as a games journalist and started to build my career.
You write for lots of different platforms, what are some of the differences in writing for games, film, TV, books and comics? Which do you enjoy most and why?
I enjoy them all in different ways. The games writing is always challenging and constantly changing, which can make it both very exciting and hair-pullingly frustrating.
The TV and film stuff is still relatively new, but I’m starting to really get a kick out of working with long form linear projects. If feels a lot like creating a narrative baby; from something blobby and half formed, right up to having a nose and fingernails! Writers are also taken more seriously in those entertainment fields than they are in games - although I really hope that will change one day.
I’m a fan of comics, so it’s always a joy to write for them. They have such a unique structure that it can be quite a jarring to go from writing a screenplay to writing a comic.
With the book stuff, it’s largely been short stories or contributing chapters to other books about the craft of games writing. It’s always great to take part in something that really feels like imparting positive and inspiring advice.
What’s your relationship with transmedia? What do you think of transmedia and what do you think transmedia can learn from games?
I feel that it’s more like what games can learn from transmedia; namely the importance of story and world creation. Keep that strong and central, and the possibilities are endless.
The theme of this year’s TEDx Transmedia, WEkids, is about harnessing child-like wonder and courage to make media that has a social impact. What do you see as the potential of that approach?
When it comes to games, we’re already reaching a broader audience than ever before. In fact the gamers themselves are becoming more diverse in age, gender and ethnicity, than the industry itself. Therefore I feel we have a responsibility to our audience to stretch ourselves to the very limits of our imagination and come up with absorbing gaming experiences, which entertain, enlighten, and even move, our audience. At this point in time we should be less about what they can learn from us and more about what we can learn from them.
The subheading is Dreamers, Geeks, Mindshifters; which do you most identify with and why?
I identify with all of them for different reasons. I’m at heart, a geek. Always have been, always will be. But it’s important for me to give something back to geekdom; to contribute and shape that world. In some small way, I’m hoping to mindshift the games industry and improve its approach to (and use of) writer and writing. Hopefully that will improve the experience for the gamers themselves. And that’s the ultimate dream.
What do you like about fellow geeks? And what’s the geekiest thing you own?
Geeks are about passion - often unrestrained passion. Be it for technology, entertainment or experiences. And there’s something truly wonderful about that. I guess the geekiest thing I own is a life-size facehugger. I’m a huge fan of the Aliens movies.
What’s the geekiest thing about you?
I’m not sure what the geekiest thing about me is, since there’s so much of my life which could be termed ‘geeky.’ I guess it’s the fact that I will often go back and replay old games I loved, rather than try new ones. That means I play things like Dungeon Keeper 2 on a yearly basis. I was also such a huge fan of playing Age of Mythology online that I bought copies of the game about 6 times and ended up deliberately breaking the CDs because I got too obsessed with playing. Obsessed, but sadly, never any better!
What did you want to be as a kid? What were your dreams and aspirations?
It was pretty much the mermaid thing. I blame Splash.
TEDTalks are renowned for their inspiration, energy and focus on the personal. Can you give us a taster of what you want to bring to Rome?
My approach is very much a from-the-trenches one. My theories and ideas are all based on my direct day-to-day experience and also those of fellow game writers. I’ve been lucky enough to have gained a certain amount of exposure in my career and I like using that to try and make the industry a little better for everyone.
But I also want to educate people about what writing for games is actually like, because there are so many misconceptions about what it involves. The more people who know what to expect and how to prepare for it, the greater our narrative armies will become.
You’ve jokingly referred to yourself as a ‘narrative paramedic’ but the term has gained some currency amongst the games writing community. Can you explain what you mean by it?
It started as a joke. Then I made it into a badge. And then I realised that for me the joke wasn’t funny anymore – it was a real problem.
‘Narrative paramedic’ stemmed from the way in which writers are often only involved very late in the development process, when the story is basically bleeding from 1000 cuts - usually because a professional writer hadn’t been taking care of it. At that point there’s not much you can do to help the narrative, aside from basically patching it up, and hoping it lives. It’s rather a soul-destroying experience.
It is getting a little better. Development studios are involving writers earlier on in the process, but still not soon enough or regularly enough. We’ve got a steep road to climb, but at least we’re heading in the right direction.
What are some of the challenges you face as a games writer, what are some of the pleasures?
The main challenge is that you’re working in an entertainment medium which doesn’t put story first. This means that the needs of narrative will always be competition with the needs of gameplay. Much of the heavy lifting lies in trying to find the sweet spot between the two. You’re also working in a medium which doesn’t have a high level of narrative literacy yet, either. At least not across the board. Partly this is due to the fact that we’re still a relatively young industry. But also because there are not enough genuine narrative professionals in it yet - either working in the trenches or wielding power at the top.
It can be a real pleasure working with a truly dedicated and creative team, who are really keen to make narrative and gameplay shine alongside each other. The industry is evolving, which can make it an intensely challenging place to be.
TEDx Transmedia 2012: A taste of what the speakers will say…
The theme is WEkids: Dreamers, Geeks, Mindshifters and through it we seek to awaken the free spirit and courage of the inner child. We want to have fun and inspire you to create great media of the future!
The speakers are divided into Dreamer, Geek and Mindshifter session and each bring a unique energy to this special TEDx conference on September 28.
Alison Norrington: Storyworlds Inventor
Alison, a novelist and transmedia strategist, will open the event and highlight the narrative power of non-linear stories through her personal experiences and those of her colleagues in the industry, from Hollywood to publishing. She’ll demonstrate how you build a robust Transmedia IP.
Poonacha Machaiah: Spiritual Technologist
Poonacha, CEO of Qyuki, will focus on the need of the hour to have “purposeful technology” that can inspire generations to make positive changes in their communities.
Øyvind Olsholt: Kids’ Philosopher
Øyvind, a Norwegian children’s philosopher, will argue for philosophy as “evocative entertainment” and a focus on, not what “turns him on” in a physical or psychological sense but what challenges his intellect.
Rosalía Lloret: Multifaceted Journalist
Rosalía, the Chief Digital Officer for PRISA News, will explore how, when a new media is born and becomes successful, media gurus usually forecast either the deterioration of the human being and society because of the new media, or – if they like the new thing – the immediate death of any previous media industry. She’ll claim they’re wrong.
Maurice Wheeler: Youth Scholar
Maurice, with his 15 years of experience working with industry giants like Disney, Microsoft, Nintendo, Nichelodeon, Universal and Procter & Gamble, will analyze the different stages of child development, focusing in particular on the difficult generation tween (no longer a child and not yet a adolescent) and showing how difficult it is to communicate and create engaging content and success for this specific audience.
Ana Serrano: Experience Mastermind
Ana Serrano, Canadian director of the Media Lab at the Canadian Film Centre, will reveal how being a geek, a dreamer and charismatic futurist may contribute to the development of collaborative environments, useful for the creative transformation of our ecosystem.
Andrew Shea: Social Designer
Andrew, writer, designer and educator, will demonstrate how design and graphics can be used to disrupt our habits and make us more socially responsible.
Rhianna Pratchett: Narrative Paramedic
Rhianna, one of the queens of writing for games, will discuss how the word writer is quickly becoming an archaic term almost detrimental to the writers themselves, who should carve out a new role in the video game industry.
Peter Espersen: Play Leader
Peter, Online Community Leader 13 + LEGO Group, will present case histories on how Lego failed to attract fans adults, as well as how it’s creating and managing communities online, using all the resources of social media.
Saku Tuominen: Stargazing Idealist
Saku, a Finnish TV producer who has won more than 30 awards, will seek to understand the meaning of life through dreams. Despite “hating” the term transmedia, he’ll explore how passion becomes a bold idea and then how to work hard to make a passion happen.
Josh Shore: Catalyst Filmmaker
Josh, a filmmaker, television producer and a catalyst of socially transformative communities, will ask a series of challenging questions about transmedia products and how to make them indispensable.
Derrick de Kerckhove: Digital Visionary
Derrick, who worked closely with Marshall McLuhan and is currently Professor of the Department of French at the University of Toronto and the Department of Sociology at the University Federico II of Naples, will show that technology not only intervenes in our social relations, but also in our nervous systems, creating new connections between body and machine that will result in new responsibilities.
Robert Tercek: Creative Activist
Robert, one of the world’s most prolific creators of interactive content, will argue that we are waking up from a “60-year trance” where we have outsourced our storytelling and become “wasted” by consumption. He’ll show how participatory media has given back the power to tell stories and answer some of the world’s urgent questions.
Find out more about the speakers and register for the event at tedxtransmedia.com
BREAKING NEWS: World-renowned Games Writer Rhianna Pratchett Joins TEDx Transmedia 2012 Speaker Line-up
TEDx Transmedia is very excited to announce that world-renowned games writer Rhianna Pratchett will be joining us as a speaker in Rome.
The award-winning scriptwriter, story designer and self-described narrative paramedic will give a 20-minute TEDx Talk in the Geek session at TEDx Transmedia 2012, WEkids: Dreamers, Geeks, Mindshifters on September 28th.
Rhianna brings a practical and from-the-trenches approach to storytelling as someone who “spends a lot of time fighting narrative battles on a daily basis.”
Rhianna’s games writing titles include Heavenly Sword, Mirror’s Edge and the entire Overlord series. Most recently, she has been announced as the lead writer on the new Tomb Raider re-boot, which is due to be released by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos/Square Enix in March 2013.
As one of the most influential women in the games industry, Rhianna is concerned with how to improve the narrative potential of games and how we take the road to future media.
She said: “Having grown-up as a hard-core geek, it’s a great privilege to speak at TEDx about the industry I love and my hopes and dreams for its narrative future.”
Rhianna joins a diverse range of inspiring speakers that include philosophers, activists, journalists, artists, authors, educators and digital creatives.
TEDx Transmedia founder and curator, Nicoletta Iacobacci, said: “What really caught my attention with Rhianna was her use of the term ‘narrative paramedic.’ I wanted to add a ‘disruptor’ to the programme and Rhianna was the perfect choice. She is a brilliant writer and narrative designer and will bring a fresh and unique vision to TEDx Transmedia 2012.”
On top of her work in videogames Rhianna has also worked in comics, short stories, non-fiction books, film and TV. Read her full biography on the official TEDx Transmedia site.
Register for TEDx Transmedia 2012 to hear Rhianna talk live.