Announcing The Walk Game

You know what I haven't done in a while? A proper project launch announcement. But GET READY, because this one is awesome.

I'd like to (somewhat belatedly) announce I was involved in a game called The Walk, a fitness game along the general lines of Zombies, Run! --Which should be no surprise, because as with that game, it's a production of Naomi Alderman and Six to Start. Here's a description from the press kit:

The Walk is a smartphone fitness game and audio adventure released on 11 December 2013. It combines exciting gameplay with a high-octane thriller story, encouraging players to walk more every day. When you're playing The Walk, every single step counts in a journey that will save the world.

...

The Walk begins in Inverness station. Through a case of mistaken identity, you the player are given a vital package which must be couriered to Edinburgh, but as you're about to board the train, terrorists blow it up and set off an electromagnetic pulse! None of the cars or trains are working - you'll have to walk - but now the terrorists are on your trail because they want the device you're carrying, and the police are after you as a suspect in the bombing. To survive, you'll have to join up with other escapers from the city - but how many of them can you trust, and are they really who they say?

I am stupendously proud of the work that I did on this game (and in fact that the whole team did.) And I'd like to share a little bit of behind-the-scenes on The Walk, the production process, and various things that influenced me during writing.

What Did You Do, Andrea?

My credits are a little clunky; they read "Storylining, character creation, early drafts and additional writing." So what does this mean, exactly?

The process of writing the game was like this: Naomi Alderman and Adrian Hon came to me with a general seed for a story. Some things were clear from the beginning: it would be a walk beginning in Inverness; there had to be a reason you had to walk rather than taking any automotive transportation. We threw around a lot of ideas (fuel-eating nanobots!) and ultimately settled on an EMP blast that's disabled meaningful mechanized transportation.

Then Naomi and I talked generally about characters and overarching plot, and she set me free to write the first draft of about a dozen initial scripts. After I delivered that first draft, she went in and did a revising pass in which she changed almost every single word (literally!)

...Which sounds horrible, but I promise you wasn't at all. Most of the heavy lifting I did was preserved; the characters are roughly the same, the shape of the plot is the same; Naomi fine-tuned to add in additional depth and emotion, to revoice for authentic Britishism, turn some dials up to eleven, and so on. Her mid-season finale is soooo much better than as originally written, I can't even tell you. The combined result is, in her words, finely layered like a croissant, a blending of our talents that is arguably much better than either of us might've done on our own.

Naomi and I, we're a great team, is what I'm saying.

The rest of the scripts worked mostly the same way, except that the absolutely amazing Bex Levine stepped in to break story with me for the scripts on a scene-by-scene basis. She is brilliant and absurdly good at this, and I wish I could keep her to help me outline everything ever from now on. Also, I've become an evangelist convert to outlining; the scripts that were written from this tight outline were so much easier to write. (And indeed, I prefer writing in this kind of team-based collaborative environment, as well; I wish I could work with other talented writers on everything ever.)

Finally, I wrote a few of the extra pieces of story you can find along your journey -- the odd newspaper clipping or postcard. No surprise, this kind of storytelling-through-documentation is always one of my most favorite things.

So basically: I did a lot of writing but I wasn't a solo writer. Whew!

Living in an EMP

They say you should write what you know. In high school, I went to Scotland with friends for a week one fine April, and actually did a lot of walking through the countryside. (Freezing my tail off and listening to Pretty Hate Machine on repeat, as a matter of fact.) Alas it was not as thrilling as The Walk needed to be -- you can only make so many jokes about fields of sheep watching you pass by. Clearly my personal experience wasn't going to cut it.

So in the run-up to initial writing for The Walk, I did a lot of thinking about what it would be like to live through an EMP blast zone, and working through the logic. Some older cars would work, to be sure, but the roads would be clogged with electronics-driven cars stopped wherever they were when the pulse hit. Some electronics might be shielded, somehow -- cell phones, cameras, radios -- but a lot of the infrastructure to run them might be functionally dead: cell phone towers, radio stations, power plants and substations.

And then I had an experience uncomfortably close to what I'd been writing -- my delivery of the first batch of scripts for The Walk was cut short by Hurricane Sandy. Suddenly I got to see exactly what it was like when a major urban region didn't have power; we were out for nearly two weeks in my town.

As a result, I think the later scripts are richer in lived-experience-of-power-loss. I suddenly knew what it felt like to be cut off from the world, how lonely and isolated that feels. How local communities banded together for mutual good. How hard it is to do simple things you take for granted -- showering, washing dishes. That modern gas pumps need electricity to operate even if you could find a working car. How generators fail horrifyingly often, and how short a battery life seems when it's all you have. What happens when calling an ambulance or police for help isn't an option anymore. 

And that wasn't even an EMP.

I like to think this experience adds quite a lot to The Walk, especially as the season goes on and the impact of the EMP really sets in. 

In Conclusion

In the coming weeks, I'm planning on playing through The Walk myself with fresh ears. I've only just heard the first couple of episodes -- I have a lot of trouble listening to recordings of things I've worked on, performers making the story come to life makes me weirdly emotional and weepy.

I'd really love to hear what you think about The Walk, too. It's always a joy to see when an audience picks up on something small you put in, and an even bigger joy when they find things you didn't even know you'd left there. And... hey, I hope you love it.