Skip to main content

Mary is a narrative game designer and writer. Before working in video games, she was a journalist covering crime, professional sports, corporate America, and politics. Mary joined Sunburned Games as a narrative writer on The Great Whale Road, an RPG set in 7th century western Europe, in 2016. She writes main quests, including the Franks and Frisians storylines, side quests, and character profiles. She represented the game at Unity's Unite LA 2016 conference. The same year, she joined the Game Center as an MFA candidate. Mary worked for two years as a magazine editor and writer in Chicago before moving to New York City to study and pursue a career in game development. Her bylines have appeared in The New York Times, Kotaku, Salon, and the Tampa Bay Times. Mary graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor's degree in journalism, certificate in public affairs, and minor in psychology. When not writing or playing a game, she can be found with a bow and arrows, hiking, or getting around to wedding planning.

Why are you studying games?
I want to create stories that matter. I want to write experiences that make people reflect on themselves and the world around them. I think there's no better place to do this than in the interactive, multimedia world of games.
Describe your favorite project made by a classmate.
Taylor Cyr made a game about living with an eating disorder. She built it in Unity and focused the gameplay on dialogue and interactions. The art direction of the game was dark, dreary colors that melted off the screen as you played. This, along with the eerie soundtrack, created a game that settled on your heart with dread. It was one of the most memorable games I've played.
Describe your most embarrassing playtesting moment.
The impossible hill: I worked with a partner on creating an exploration game. You controlled a tiny, hopping creature who explored a forest, looking for home. At the end of the level, we'd built a log bridge over a deep ravine. It was supposed to be an easy hop onto the bridge, then a leisurely stroll home. Instead, we built it so the bridge was impossible to hop onto. It was impossible to finish the level, and our players thought we were punishing them.
What's your secret weapon?
My business savvy. I covered corporate America for two years as a reporter and magazine editor, so I'm able to market and understand business needs.
Describe one memorable lecture, assignment, or exercise you've had at the Game Center.
Nothing is more memorable than creating my very first digital game. I had no computer science or programming background. But three weeks after starting at NYU, I had created a digital game, one in which you controlled a torch and hopped around the screen, setting leaves on fire. It only took three weeks, and I was already designing video games.
How has the Game Center changed your thinking about games?
I see more of the many pieces that make an entire game. As a writer, I used to focus primarily on the writing, dialogue, and story. Now, I also consider audio and artistic design, gameplay, and mechanics. It's made me a better narrative designer and team player.
What do you hope to accomplish after school?
I want to work as a writer and designer for a studio that focuses on narrative-driven games, combining good writing and evocative storytelling with elegant and deep gameplay.
What's the last great game you played and what's great about it?
Telltale's "Batman" series. It combines the cliffhanger endings of dramatic television with a deep, personal storyline that emphasizes the life of Bruce Wayne as much as Batman. The writing is tight and interesting, and the gameplay is fun while underscoring the narrative. The game also plays with the Batman mythos enough to be fresh while staying true to much of the source material.
What's your favorite New York City spot?
Tucked into a bench, surrounded by cushions, at "The Bean," a cafe in East Village. Usually working on a video game, of course.