For those of you who may not know her, Rhianna is a veteran of the video game industry, with several awards and seventeen years of experience in the profession. A video game writer, narrative designer and journalist, she has worked on titles such as Tomb Raider (2013) and its follow up Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015), Heavenly Sword, Overlord and Mirror's Edge. In addition, she is the co-founder of Narrativia, the production company which owns exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works, the famous British author Terry Pratchett.
Well, now imagine having her as a guest of honor to the Eurocon, the annual European science fiction convention that has been held since 1972 and this year took place at the Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) on the 4th, 5th and 6th November. The event, named "The pixel narrative: Rhianna Pratchett in conversation" was presented by the technology, video games, Mobile economy and startups specialized journalist Gina Tost.
Accompanied by a Spanish translator, Tost started the meeting by encouraging Rhianna to talk about her passion for video games. Pratchett went back to her childhood surrounded by consoles and computers to tell us some funny anecdotes about her virtual adventures.
The audience listened carefully and only broke the silence to laugh at Rhianna’s sense of humour and the comical situation of the translator, who struggled heroically to keep up with Pratchett's long answers and translate every single word into Spanish.
Tost then talked about Pratchett's early career, when she started working for Minx in 1998 becoming a pioneering woman writing video game reviews, or when in her later work for PC Zone she travelled around the world and met all kinds of people in the sector.
Regarding her career as a videogame writer, during the conversation of course there were mentions of the success of the Tomb Raider series (on which Pratchett felt especially "relieved" since expectations had been very high) or the award-winning saga "Overlord” which was enjoyed even by those people who were not in favour of Pratchett's narrative style.
Gina and Rhianna debated why video game stories are so important, how the simplest games have a plot line, the challenge of finding the balance between gameplay and story...
"And what do you think of those players who, like me, just like to play and shoot anything that moves on the screen?" Tost asked. It was not necessary for the interpreter to translate when Rhianna exclaimed, "Get out of this room!" Once the laughs faded, Pratchett clarified that there will always be players who don’t want to know more about the world in which they are playing "You can’t really do anything about players that don’t care about your story, you’re just focusing on the ones that do."
As the talk progressed, audience could also hear Gina and Rhianna talking about other narrative styles in video games (like the "walking simulators"), the evolution of techniques such as motion capture or the differences between cinema and the video game. To go even further, Pratchett claimed the importance of learning more about the mechanics of theatre rather than imitating cinema, since the sixth art is quite similar where creating the environment, the characters and interacting with the audience is concerned.
Finally, one of the most anticipated moments came, the intervention of the public, at which time I did not miss the opportunity to ask Pratchett what advice would she give those wanting to follow her steps and becoming video game writers. If you want to hear your entire answer, go to the 52nd minute of the meeting’s video. In short, Pratchett recommended:
1. Play a lot of games to discover all the possible ways to tell stories through them
2. Attend all kind of conferences and talks about video games to meet the people in the sector.
3. Be sociable and make lots of contacts (you never know what doors will open to you in the future!)
4. Polish the writing skills and read a lot to achieve it.
The round of questions also had very emotional moments, as when Pratchett, answering a question from the public, explained how she had built Lara Croft based on the relationship with her father. There were also those who tried to make Pratchett talk about any possible project underway for the third instalment of "Tomb Raider", but Rhianna was totally hermetic. Even if there was an idea, Rhianna stressed that such projects take years to develop.
Once the meeting was over, another awaited moment by some came... The signatures! Personally I was lucky to be the first one and get Rhianna to sign my copy of "Mirror Edge", a game I immensely enjoyed playing with my family and which was a personal challenge to finish. ^.^ After taking a picture together, I couldn’t help telling her that I was a great fan of her father Terry Pratchett and that I was so glad to have been able to meet his greatest creation.
When I left the CCCB I still trembled and a few tears of emotion almost ran down my cheeks. My heart was filled with a whirlwind of happiness, joy, and enthusiasm, while my head kept thinking about what had just happened. However, among all of them one stood out with special strength: "I need to change my profile photo NOW!"