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Sophie Mallinson

Writer, narrative designer

in designer, game, mac, windows, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Sophie Mallinson, I'm a writer and narrative designer. That's a niche job in the games industry that's all about helping every part of a video game - environments, mechanics, interfaces, sound - support the story and creative vision.

I've worked for companies like Arkane Studios, Magnopus, and Electronic Arts. I also have a background in localization, translating mobile mystery games from French to English. My favourite projects inspire hope and celebrate unique perspectives.

I enjoy cooking, solving puzzles, and writing fiction in my spare time.

What hardware do you use?

I use a work-issued MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) that runs Catalina. My phone is an iPhone XR in Coral. I also have a custom-built computer in a Corsair 380T Mini-ITX case that is my favourite shade of yellow, but I haven't found the time to set it up since moving. Colour is important to me, and I often have to be dissuaded from getting low-quality peripherals like a mouse in the shape of a turtle. I just wish hardware was more playful!

I have a collection of notebooks that I keep at my desk, because I tend to write things down throughout the day. I like to use them in a "least pretty to most pretty" order, so it's going to be years until I get to anything gilded or leatherbound. Right now I'm writing with a Hobonichi Techo 2018 ballpoint pen; it came with a pair of meal decider dice, which was what I really wanted. I'm a sucker for novelty dice with words or symbols on them.

And what software?

I use Google Drive for almost all my work; I love being able to pull up a document on any device. Sometimes I'll find myself taking notes in the bath because it's just so easy. In the past, I've used Notepad++ for directly manipulating the text files in a game. I have a misplaced adoration for this simple source code editor that I can't quite explain.

In collaborative scenarios, we create online whiteboards using Miro. They're perfect for exploring visual ideas, like a mood board for a certain character, or photo references for an in-game location. You can see other users dragging objects around in real-time, so recently a colleague of mine pasted sword cliparts into one of our boards, for virtual swordfighting purposes.

When I'm writing interactive fiction or prototyping a narrative feature, I typically use Twine. It's a hypertext-based game engine that is very accessible, and very popular among narrative designers. It lets anyone with zero coding experience write a CYOA-style story, but can also be adapted for more ambitious projects by bringing other programming languages into the mix. I've also used free software like Bitsy, Ren'Py, or the scripting language ink.

I listen to podcasts via Overcast every single day, and use Trello to keep myself organized. I switch the background to something representative of my dreams, like a cabin in the mountains, so I'm always focused on the bigger picture and what I want to achieve in the long-term.

What would be your dream setup?

Besides the cabin in the mountains, my dream setup involves a comfy chair and an obnoxious custom-made desk like Danielle Steel's.