Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Brooke Maggs, Senior Narrative Designer at Remedy Entertainment. Read more about Brooke in this interview:
Hi Brooke! You are Senior Narrative Designer at Remedy Entertainment. How did you get started in the games industry?

It’s definitely been a process, working from project to project, learning, and making connections. After my university studies, I was employed by a university to teach game studies, user experience design and project management. I kept up with my own writing and also studied professional and creative writing. I always wanted to write for games but never quite found my way in until a friend recommended me to The Voxel Agents after she had read one of my stories. It changed my life. “The Gardens Between” (2018) was my first game project and I had to learn how my writing skills applied to a game. Turns out, it was by gaining skills in narrative design!

I began freelancing in the industry which allowed me to work with other wonderful studios on games like “Florence” (2018) by Mountains and “Paperbark” (2019) by Paper House. I then applied for a grant to further my skills by working overseas. That’s how I came to gain experience at studios like Double Fine, on “Psychonauts 2” (forthcoming), and Remedy Entertainment, who employed me to work on “Control” (2019).

You have written a medium article about the art of video game storytelling, in which you write about all the different aspects of being a game writer. What is an essential lesson you have learned throughout your work as a narrative designer?

Narrative designers often work with many other departments to consider and develop what tools they have to tell the story to the player (for example, a dialogue system or game mechanic where the player can investigate items in the world). Narrative designers need to be able to convey ideas, and often the story world, to other creative professionals of different disciplines who may not know how to make a compelling story, but know one when they see one. For these reasons, I’ve found it invaluable to learn to communicate my ideas visually and to provide clear, succinct written communication that considers the limitations and aspirations of other disciplines. It’s also important to learn about the tools and tech the team is using, even if you don’t need to use it yourself, to have some ideas about if the narrative design is possible.

The key is to be visual when communicating to the development team. Flow charts, diagrams, examples, text – all drive at different modes of the way we understand and learn. Use them in combination and with consideration to inspire the team with the story, and also, with how you intend players to interact with and receive the story. 

It’s our job, as writers and narrative designers (or story people in general), to advocate for the best story experience. Stand by your ideas for the best story experience, and also, be open to change. It’s an interesting, fun and tricky balancing act.

There are a lot of aspiring narrative designers and writers out there who may not know how to start out or present their work to potential employers. What would you say are some good first steps for someone searching for an entrance into the games industry?

I recommend attending game conferences or game meet-ups in your local area (which are often more affordable) and meeting other writers and narrative designers. Talking to others about their experiences will give you a fair idea of what the job involves, what challenges others face and where your own strengths lie. Jobs in games often happen through word-of-mouth and recommendations, so it’s good to be on the radar and also, have some work to show when someone asks. 

It’s important to be a practicing writer or storyteller in some way. Set small projects for yourself that excite you and inspire you. Finish them and learn from them. When people do ask to see your writing, you will have something ready to go. It will also help you hone other skills like script formatting, spelling, grammar, dialogue, characterisation, scene setting, editing, story structure and so on! 

Lastly, having knowledge of games (books, TV shows, movies) you like and why, specifically, in terms of the story and how it’s delivered will then help you discuss the techniques of storytelling with others. Really pick apart why you like a story or a game. Other story people will love to do this with you, and it can be the foundation for great conversation and connection.

Thank you for your time, Brooke!

Brooke’s Links: Brooke’s Twitter | Brooke’s Website | Brooke’s Medium

WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke