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Rhianna Pratchett calls for more focus on game stories

Fresh from her Writer's Guild Award for Rise of the Tomb Raider, Rhianna Pratchett gave a DICE speech today calling for writers to be integrated more closely into the development of games.

In her presentation "From Overlords to Tomb Raiders: A Career in the Narrative Trenches," the lead writer of recent Tomb Raider games talked briefly about her work to date, including writing for Mirror's EdgeBioshock Infinite and Heavenly Sword. She then outlined her vision for development programs that place story in a central role.

"Story flows through everything in the game."

"Even if you're not putting story at the heart of your game, players are still looking for stories," she said. "We are narrative creatures. Stories engage the heart and make players care about your game."

Pratchett and her writing team recently won the Writer's Guild Award for Rise of the Tomb Raider, which focuses heavily on the story of Lara Croft as well as smaller stories about non-player characters.

Speaking to an audience of game developers and executives, she said that writers were often seen as marginal to the process of making games. "Writers are often brought in too late. They are asked to wrap a narrative around a game that has already been designed," she said. "It's a really frustrating way of working. We are like narrative paramedics."

She argued that video game makers can learn from other media, such as movies and theater, where writers are central to the creative process. But she added that gaming's power comes through placing players into the roles of characters. "You are the story," she said. "You are literally stepping into the character."

She said that the game industry should embrace writers and place them into a position of influence from the beginning of projects that make use of narrative. "Writers need to be engaged with the whole team and not left on the outside. When writers are on the outside, so is your story. Story is not just words. It flows through everything in the game."

Keep an eye out for a full interview with Pratchett, running on Polygon in the next few days, in which she talks in detail about the making of recent Tomb Raider games and about critics' reactions to Lara Croft's personality and storylines.

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