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Irrational Interviews 11: Amy Hennig

on April 26 2012


In this episode of Irrational Interviews, we sit down with Amy Hennig, Naughty Dog’s Creative Director and writer. Amy is best known for her work on the groundbreaking Uncharted series, for which she’s won two Writers Guild of America awards.

The topic is, of course, storytelling. How does a writer create a complex narrative for a big budget video game? How does one drive the creative process of a large, intricate game development team? In this episode of Irrational Interviews, listen in while Ken Levine — Irrational Games’ own Creative Director and writer – has a reflective conversation with Amy about the unique challenges they both face in their individual, yet strikingly similar roles.

The focus of the conversation is the writer’s process. “It’s not the way films are made,” says Amy.  “I’ve described this to friends of mine who are screenwriters, and they just think we’re insane.”

The two also dig into their personal process — the act of faith involved in embarking on the journey of writing for a game. As Ken says, “Part of that act of faith is the faith that you have to put in yourself.”

The broad-ranging conversation also turns to the challenge of managing complicated production realities while maintaining the flexibility to take creative risks. As Amy explains, “We just sort of loosely plan what we’re doing, because that’s the best you can do with something that’s as iterative and experimental as what we do. We adapt, and we trust each other’s experience – to know that we’re going to make the wisest, most pragmatic decisions we can, while still trying to keep the quality of the product and stay inspired.”

Share your thoughts about this podcast in the comments below, or head over to the forums for a more in-depth discussion.

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Posted on April 26 2012 04:33 pm, under Insider, Irrational Interviews
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Comments (12)

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  • lasselund | April 26, 2012 6:14 pm

    Great podcast! So fun to listen to two creative forces who are so similar to each other, but bring a unique game creation approach to the industry.

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  • mojomonkey12 | April 26, 2012 9:40 pm

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    Oh wow, this is amazing! You are my two favorite industry people hands down! Uncharted is amazing and Bioshock is equally unbelievable. I do a tiny podcast and we are always talking about how our dream guests would be Ken Levine, Amy Hennig, and Miyamoto! Well, my cohost says Gabe Newell too!

    If, you know, you ever get bored and want to listen to a crazed fan make a fool of himself as he tries to ask questions, feel free to come on our podcast!

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  • batchick21 | April 27, 2012 12:03 am

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    Beautiful podcast! I could honestly listen to Ken and Amy talk all day. Probably two of the greatest minds in the industry today… I really loved this!

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  • icegrove | April 28, 2012 9:27 am

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    This is always so great to listen to.

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  • djdewitt | April 28, 2012 1:03 pm

    Fascinating conversation, and I’m glad both of you took the time to express your thoughts on lore. Now that a lot of games are really embracing the open-world sensibility that this medium is suited for I think there’s a sort of mentality that the only way to populate an open-world experience and make it feel believable is to overwhelm it with centuries upon centuries of lore, ignoring the fact that (and Ken got to this later in the podcast) believability doesn’t stem from the potential of what you can learn, but the integrity of the experience you have while you’re there. Whether it’s epic fantasies like Kingdoms of Amalur or Witcher, sci-fi tales like The Old Republic or Mass Effect, or even new IPs like Dishonored, there’s this push to craft every conceivable inch of the world. It’s a dangerous mentality to have as games become more open-world, so it’ll be interesting to see how a game like Dishonored and Bioshock Infinite compares in terms of nailing down honest, believable relationships with characters as opposed to massive, throw-away backdrop fictions.

    Anyway, great conversation with many words of wisdom to take away. Thanks everyone involved in making this thing happen!

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  • felixk | April 28, 2012 2:20 pm

    You are both terrific. But. Yeah, Michelalngelo was a kind of artsy-fartsy guy. Duh. Seriously, the way art is constantly treated on the internet is just mindboggling.

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  • juan29zapata | April 29, 2012 12:02 am

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    That was a very awesome podcast! My two favorite game writers talking to each other!

    I’m glad that things like this happen in the industry.

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  • blahz7 | May 1, 2012 10:58 pm

    Cool! Thanks for the post

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  • zakkerr | May 3, 2012 3:35 am

    Fantasic podcast! First one to lead me to a comment! The Guillermo cast should have made me comment but alas I was busy.
    As someone who is very into writing styles and depth of character, this was fantastic! I loved every second. I hope, small chances, that I can be as great as you all one day, and this is helping me. So thank you and I support both of your works full heartedly!!

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  • downtownboy99 | December 19, 2012 6:50 pm

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    UNCHARTED and BIOSHOCK my two fav series

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  • rdaddy | February 17, 2013 1:30 pm

    i always say: “I don’t know where i’m going till i get there”
    Sounds like the same in your theater.

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  • benp33 | April 19, 2013 2:09 am

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    I could listen to these podcasts for days.

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