Susannah Emery

Susannah Emery

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

My start in video games began with my university studies at the University of SA where I studied Media Arts. One thing I found particularly interesting was the power that elements of interactivity can add to a story or a game. It was also here that I made my first video games, and later I completed an honours degree looking at game development, and the ability of video games, and interactivity, to help players begin to experience and understand views which differ from their own.

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

I really feel as though the medium is ready for more serious and topical content, or content that can open a dialogue around some of the issues we face in society such as racism or gender inequality. For me this involves using design based elements of interactivity to engage a player in alternate life experiences, and to encourage them to think and question what it is to be in another person’s shoes. As author and game designer Jane McGonigal says, games can change the world!

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

In the project I’ve just finished, I looked a cross cultural collaborative game development with remote, Indigenous communities. As part of this, I developed a framework to support game developers and remote communities initiate respectful collaborative relationships, and maintain them across cultural divides.

In the project I’ve just started, I’m creating a chat-like video game based on my own experiences with domestic violence, and the role that friends can play in a person’s life at a difficult, and often lonely time. The player is drawn into this world, almost unwillingly, and is called upon to take on the role of emotional and moral support for a young woman experiencing domestic violence. The player becomes a friend to this woman, and plays a very important role in her journey.

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

Similar to any other art from, what can make interactive storytelling great are the messages, themes and metaphors employed to tell the story. The games that have recently struck a chord with me are ones that deal with moral choice and consequence, such as Life is Strange and the deeply personal and symbolic Ether One. The use of game mechanics (the rules of the gameplay) as metaphor in the latter I feel is a particularly good example of how games can be developed without the often violent and outdated mechanics that the medium has been associated with in the past.

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

I think like everything it comes down to the individual developer, but what we do know is that it is much harder for women to become involved in STEM industries due to the way society sees these industries and roles. We are starting to see some great initiatives to encourage women in the industry and it is important that women are given the opportunity to tell their stories, in their own way.

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

I just finished playing a really awesome game about a friendship between two awesome female characters both teenagers named Max and Chloe, one of which can turn back time and change things… The game is called Life is Strange and I highly recommend it!

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

I’m really looking forward to playing ‘That Dragon, Cancer’ which has just been released but I haven’t got yet. It was created and developed by a family who experienced the tragic loss of their infant son by cancer, and the game is about the journey of his life.

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

Start creating! If you want to be a developer, choose an engine and learn it. For interactive narratives, look at Twine or other interactive narrative engines. For 3D immersive games, look into the Unity or Unreal Engines. Whatever you want to make, there is probably an engine that suits. If you’re hoping to be involved with games journalism, start writing! Even entry level jobs in the industry will ask for a portfolio of your writing in the area.

Don’t be scared to try. There have been a lot of times in my life where I felt like I could never achieve even half of what I’ve achieved today, but I think the secret is just to try to do what you want to do and enjoy the process as you’re doing it: make that game, write that article, keep doing that, and see where it takes you.

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

My friend Jane Cocks runs a games writing website featuring reviews, commentary, ideas and suggestions written by gamers, including myself. It’s a great place to get some ideas around developing games, keeping up with what to play or looking at some research around gaming. You can even submit an article for Jane to look at if you like!