Brave New World(Building): How an Author Became a Game Designer

06/12/2015 12:16 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2016

Writing is scary.

To materialize one's ideas into words for the world to see is a daunting task, but a task I love. I've been a writer since my first child was born. During his nap time, I had all this creative energy inside me but not enough physical energy to muster a cleaning spree or a workout, so I started to write. I dabbled, I goofed around, and after about three months, I dove in full time and haven't come up for air since. I managed to write several books and acquire representation from an elite literary agency. I was happy with this write/revise/send/revise/wait for a deal process and didn't think anything would shake me from the gears of the traditional publishing machine.

That is, until my husband and I started talking about a blind girl.

My husband, Bill, has been a video game designer for more than 13 years. He's worked on some of the most critically-acclaimed games of all time (namely, Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite), but when Irrational Games closed a year prior, his creative wheels kept turning but had nowhere to go. Yet.

Bill and I had collaborated for years. He was a hugely helpful critique partner of mine throughout all of my novels, and I loved batting around prospective plots and premises with him all the time. I often chimed in about his games and contributed my ideas for him to pass on to his team. One night, we started talking about this incredible story about a blind girl whose dreams led her to a haunted estate.

It sounded like a cool project. My current project was out on submission with a number of editors, so it was time to do something new.

But he wanted me to write it.

Wait, what?

How the hell do you write a video game? There's no internal monologue, no memories, no impressions about the smells, sounds and details of a place.

It's, essentially, a script.

I agreed, but grudgingly. I felt stripped of all the conventions that I'd come to rely on, especially as someone who always wrote in first person. Pulling a story out of me this way was like trying to give birth through your bellybutton -- just not going to happen.

But then, as I'd done with all my drafts before, I began to look at the beats of the story. The motivations, the moments that glued the story together. Then, I was able to flesh out some backstory, and soon, along with Bill's help, we had a story.


But what kept me plugging away, aside from the lurking thought that oh my goodness this was going to be out there in the world at some point, was the basic tenet that a good story is a good story. We had a fantastic tale to tell, a charismatic and brave heroine, and a setting to beat the band.

And over the course of a few months, we refined everything, polished it, shined it up for the team to work with. And shortly thereafter the concept art and music began to roll in, along with auditions of over a thousand people reading my words and bringing our characters to life.

So it was scary. Still is. But to anyone who ever considered switching genres or media, I say this: If it doesn't scare you, maybe it's not worth it. We built our company around the idea of "scary fun," and I think that from its inception until now, that's exactly what we've dived into.


Perception is a first-person narrative horror adventure that tells the story of Cassie, a blind heroine who uses her extraordinary hearing and razor-sharp wits to unravel the mysteries of an abandoned estate that haunts her dreams. Amanda and Bill's Kickstarter for the project can be found here.

A life-long gamer, Amanda has been fully-immersed in the geek lifestyle for as long as she can remember. Amanda is excited to bring to you the story of Cassie and the estate at Echo Bluff, and has enjoyed transitioning from writing urban fantasy novels to writing video games. When she's not writing, she's chasing around her two children (while quite pregnant) and teaching English. Amanda also serves as the game's producer, a role she was born for, considering all she does is chase after people anyway.