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Waiting outside the station in London’s leafy Highbury to meet Rhianna Pratchett, I get a text: “I’m wearing a black T-shirt with Lara Croft’s climbing axe on it” – a suitable choice of garment for the games writer who helped reinvent the world-famous Tomb Raider heroine in 2013.Pratchett (40) arrives, dressed in black from head to toe, and suggests we find somewhere to talk in the nearest park.Stopping at an ice cream van, she orders what the seven-year-old kid in front of her is having: an electric blue scoop of bubblegum ice cream, dipped in sprinkles, with chocolate sauce.Two minutes later, sitting on a park bench, Pratchett tips the entire thing on to herself.“It looks like I killed a Smurf,” she says, trying to mop up the mess.You may not have heard of Rhianna Pratchett, and you may not have a clue what a “games writer” does.But you’ve probably heard of her work (such as the aforementioned Tomb Raider) and you have definitely heard of her dad, the much-loved novelist Sir Terry Pratchett, who died last year.To anyone who doesn’t believe video games need professional writers, Pratchett has heard it all before.
Her exasperated reply: “Well, you’ve got professional artists, why would you want a game not done by a professional?
” Slightly begrudgingly, Pratchett says, the games industry now hires actual writers in to help flesh out their stories and make their characters more believable. “They were written by developers, producers or whoever had the time or inclination to write the words,” Pratchett says.
But things are changing, and her reimagined Lara Croft is a prime example of a sympathetic character in gaming: human, relatable and likeable as well as ass kicking. So, after studying journalism (“I didn’t know what I should to do with myself, and journalism is really good for anyone who likes to write a bit and is nosey”), she went into games reviewing.
Landing an interview for a job with PC Zone, she “babbled at length” about her disappointment at its review score for the action role-playing “hack and slash” video game Diablo II.
Pratchett got the job and spent the next few years “bouncing around the world interviewing developers, reviewing and previewing games and attending games conferences”.