Alayna Cole

Alayna Cole

  1. Could you tell us a bit about how you started out in the games industry?

I accidentally fell into writing for and about video games. I have been interested in writing from an early age, but until recently my focus has been on creative and academic writing, and sometimes book or movie reviews. I have always loved playing video games and occasionally wrote about them for little blogs or my own pleasure, but I generally tried to avoid games writing because I didn’t want to accidentally compete for positions with my partner (who is also a games journalist). My first published and paid feature arose because I was fascinated by Roach in The Witcher 3 and I wanted to write a crazy article about how his glitches create his personality. Originally I planned to post it on my blog like my other occasional article, but my partner encouraged me to pitch it to one of his editors, and here we are!

  1. What inspired you to join the industry? Was there a particular game you were obsessed with as a kid?

At EB Expo, I was invited to play a number of new and upcoming titles, one of which was Guitar Hero Live. I played Guitar Hero a lot when I was growing up and was fascinated by the changes that had been made to the guitar controller for this latest title. I simply could not resist writing about the experience, and I have not stopped writing about games since.

  1. What project(s) are you currently working on?

This is always a difficult question for me! I always have a lot of projects and ideas in various stages of development—only some of which are explicitly games-related. My primary focus at the moment is a Creative Writing short story collection and exegesis that I am writing for my Higher Degree by Research, which is all about queer representation in texts (specifically fairy tales). The research from this project has been influencing my games writing, as I enjoy looking at video games through feminist and queer lenses to explore how developers improve diverse representation. I also enjoy implementing these ideas myself, and currently have a diverse dating sim in the early stages of development.

  1. What particular types of games or aspects of interactive storytelling interest you?

I love playing with expectations and empathy. Interactive narrative has great potential for doing the unexpected, for making players more emotionally invested in stories, and for encouraging players to more deeply understand the issues that another person may be facing. Allowing a player to make choices about their progress through a narrative gives them more accountability and a stronger emotional connection to the subject matter, and I enjoy taking advantage of this.

  1. Do you think approaches to interactive storytelling differ along gender lines? If so, how?

To be honest, I’ve never considered the ways different genders may approach interactive narrative. It could be that minority groups (not just in relation to gender) see and make use of the empathy created by interactive narratives more frequently and specifically—as a way of increasing understanding of their individual experiences—but that is just speculation.

  1. What are some of your favourite games created by a woman or featuring a female main character?

Robin Hunicke produced Journey, which has to be one of my favourite games of all time. Also, Karla Zimonja was co-creator and co-writer of Gone Home, which is a powerful interactive narrative that struck a particular nerve because of my interest and investment in queer representation. There are many others, but these are some highlights for me.

  1. Which upcoming games are you most looking forward to being released and why?

For nostalgia’s sake, I’m very excited for the reboot of Ratchet & Clank, which is coming out in April. While we’re on the nostalgia train, I’m also interested to see how Yooka-Laylee goes in October.

  1. What are your tips for anyone wanting to break into the games industry?

Networking is key. Almost every opportunity I’ve found within the games industry has come from knowing the right person or seeing the right post appear on a Twitter feed. Going to conventions and meeting people face-to-face has also had a remarkable impact. Shaking hands with editors helps them put a face to a name, and this helps when pitching them new article ideas (particularly if those ideas are a little bit strange, as mine often are).

It can be nerve-wracking to put yourself out there, but you just need to go for it. Talk to people, send pitches, create games and release them. The more projects and pitches you have happening at one time, the less anxious you become about each one because you become less attached to them; this makes it easier to see feedback as a reflection on the work, rather than on you as a person.

  1. Are there any Twitter feeds, websites, Facebook pages, forums etc you could recommend for people who are interested in games and interactive storytelling?

I started networking on Twitter by following the people who wrote for some of the larger gaming publications in Australia, and then following the people that all of those people seemed to follow. Gradually I began to recognise names and interact with fellow writers, and then meet those writers I attended conventions.

For women in the games industry, WIDGET is a fantastic resource. There are also game developer Facebook groups for most capital cities in Australia. The #gamedev hashtag and #screenshotsaturday are other positive initiatives that game developers may like to get involved in.