Games, Retirement and the Future
On June 20th 2023, I made an announcement that I am going to retire from working in the video games industry from February 2024.
For those who don’t know (and there will be many), I have worked in the games industry for 30 years as a writer, artist and game designer. Some of my credits have included Beneath a Steel Sky, Broken Sword, So Blonde and The Witcher.
You can think about something for ages, worrying about whether it would be the right move as you look to your future, maybe giving you sleepless nights in the process. Such was the case for me as I thought about retiring from the video games industry. Yet as soon as I made my announcement I knew it was exactly the right thing.
It’s not that I regret having worked in the industry for so long and am desperate to get out, simply that I am ready for new and different creative challenges, which at sixty-five I find rather exhilarating. I also want to concentrate more on my own projects – writing and illustrating books, for instance – as I have so many exciting ideas I want to bring to life.
The games industry has been good to me, providing me with a career that has supported me over the last thirty years. Of course, none of that would have been possible without the start given to me by the wonderful people at Revolution Software. But that was only the beginning; during my time there I was also encouraged to push myself creatively and become more skilful with each passing year. And that’s something I’ve strived to do ever since, giving my very best to all the projects I’ve been fortunate to work on.
There was, of course, life beyond Revolution as I turned freelance in 2004, though it scared me half to death at first. In fact, I didn’t really find my feet for most of the first year. But thanks to initial clients who had faith in me and other writers that provided moral support, I was able to build my freelance business and soon began working for a regular stream of clients.
It has been enjoyable in different ways to work on all the projects I’ve been a part of, but there are some that will always hold a special place in my heart and mind. Beneath a Steel Sky for being the first game I worked on; Broken Sword for the groundbreaking game it was at the time; and In Cold Blood for being the game I first did any writing on. So Blonde, too, for being the first full game I wrote and designed after turning freelance.
One of the things I’ve loved the most over the years has been creating, developing and writing great characters, particularly when I get the chance to do so from scratch. So games like Special Enquiry Detail and Rhianna Ford and the Da Vinci Letter are also important for this aspect alone. Characters are vitally important to the way I approach my stories.
Turning freelance also threw up other opportunities, such as writing articles for online websites, which then led to the publisher A&C Black (later bought by Bloomsbury) asking me to write a book, Writing for Video Games. At the time of doing so, they and I were happy with the finished manuscript, but with hindsight and further experience under my belt I think it could have had a different emphasis. However, I know of at least one person who got into games writing after being inspired by the book, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so self-critical.
I’d always wanted to write books from being a teenager (though mainly a desire for science fiction) and taught myself to type on a small, manual typewriter my parents bought for me. (On a side note, it’s amazing how my spelling improved through not wanting to make mistakes that I’d have to correct with Tip-Ex.) So it was only natural I’d turn to writing fiction in the spare time I had between game writing and drawing online comic strips.
Juggling so many things meant that progress was slow and although I eventually amassed a substantial collection of stories and ideas, sketches and illustrations, I had nothing that would work as a book and had to switch tack a little. Devoting a little more time to my ideas, I eventually pulled a number of things together into the urban fantasy novel, Blood and Earth, the first book using the magician characters, Faye Bishop and Joshua Pope. This was published in 2020.
Although I fully intended to follow it with a sequel, my next two books were actually aimed at children: an illustrated novel called The Quinton Quads and the Mystery of Malprentice Manor and a picture book called Amanda Alexander and the Very Friendly Panda.
I wasn’t leaving games behind, though, and continued to work on a number of projects as well as writing two new books on game writing: An Introduction to Game Writing and 201 Things for Better Game Writing.
While I didn’t enter this year thinking that I’ll retire from games in 2024, the desire to work on my book ideas grew stronger all the time and (semi-)retirement felt like it was more and more the right thing to do.
I made the announcement with plenty of time to go because I didn’t want to drop a bombshell at the last minute on any of my current clients and I hope to finish a few game projects before it’s completely final.
I’m also going to publish one last game-related book in which I collect all of the articles I’ve written over the last two decades. If nothing else, it will serve as handy reference for myself.
My retirement is not about looking to the past, as important as that is, but looking to a future filled with further creativity. I have so many books I want to write, many of which I’ll also illustrate, from sequels of the already released titles to new ideas like the children’s book I’m currently working on about a young werewolf.
I’ll remain around on social media and I’m always happy to engage with people. I hope that those who have enjoyed my work in the games they’ve played will also follow it in the future by reading my stories.
Thanks to all of you.
PS: I won’t entirely turn my back on games as they’ll always be fun to play. So I’m hoping to return to Pixel Refresh in the future to share some gaming memories and pop into the Game & Gadget Podcast now and again. Keep your eyes peeled.