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Rebooting Lara: Rhianna Pratchett on Writing for Tomb Raider
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Rebooting Lara: Rhianna Pratchett on Writing for Tomb Raider

November 19, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

Here's an example of how complicated writing for games can be. "Pacing and structure is actually one of the greatest challenges in games narrative," says Pratchett.

The fact that even a familiarity with linear media doesn't necessarily translate in what's best when it comes to creating narrative for games helps complicate things. "You're no longer writing a story to neatly fit into 90 to 120 pages, or an hour TV slot; you're supporting a narrative over 10-plus hours," she says.

Even talking about how to write games can be tough. "I guess it's somewhere between a TV series... and book chapters," says Pratchett. But even though you're "often constructing the central narrative in a linear fashion," there's no guarantee that the player will "always experience it that way."

"There are so many challenges in writing for games that it really is a truly unique medium to work in," she says. The good news is that games are actually a fantastic structure for leveraging narrative, argues Pratchett.

"Humans are storytelling/story-experiencing creatures -- we're always looking for the narrative. So being a games writer is about using all those facets to create a cohesive narrative logic to the world, giving the gameplay context and meaning and helping players actually care about what's happening in the game, not just understand it," says Pratchett.

She is not alone in this opinion. Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner recently told Gamasutra that "the best cinematic storytelling in a game happens during the gameplay itself. The most powerful moments in a game are the moments we're playing ourselves; that's what we remember."

Extend Mechner's thoughts, and you have Pratchett's philosophy: that writing can join every element of the game together into a cohesive whole. Pratchett just wants to see writers get their due, and get the chance to help shape games into true narrative experiences.

"The real challenge is working out which of those limits (such as limitations of tech, space, and gameplay) you have to work within, and which you need to push back against and seek to change -- such as the need for writers to be involved earlier on, or given more space, agency and respect," she says.

While she recognizes the problems the industry faces in better integrating writing into its creative processes, she does see some hope. "A larger section of the industry, press, and gamers themselves do seem to be embracing narrative as an integral part of the gaming experience. There are far more articles, books and blog posts discussing the craft of games writing -- when it goes right, when it goes wrong, and why."

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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