Every month, Jagex’s developers visit us from Runescape’s Gielinor to talk about their latest adventures. This month Emma Hall, senior technical developer, talks about her path into games and how that kindled a passion to create safe worlds
A long time ago in a bedroom far, far away, I told a friend that I would buy their PlayStation 2. This decision marked the official start of my journey into game development. My brother used to play quite a bit on the PSOne – lots of Command & Conquer, Tomb Raider and Doom. I would sit and watch him for hours on end. I mostly treated games like films, enjoying what was happening in front of me but not really interacting with anything.
It wasn’t until I saw an advert for Kingdom Hearts 2 that I actually started wanting to play myself. There was little chance of saving Disney princesses vicariously through my brother, so there was really only one option: I bought a PlayStation 2 and my very first game.
I was immediately hooked. I’d always been a big reader and wanted to be an author when I grew up, and this was just a thousand times better than any of that. Instead of reading about my favourite characters saving the world and the damsel in distress, I was doing it myself! My game library expanded quickly.
Getting into gaming also coincided with years where I was being systematically bullied by the people I called my best friends. It wasn’t an easy time, but gaming’s epic stories were an escape.
“I haven’t really worked a single day in my life since I started making games; I’ve just been living my dream.”
It was not long after I started playing games that I began thinking about applying for university. I wanted to help people in the same way that I’d been helped. I wanted to create safe worlds for others.
I was told I wouldn’t make any money and that I wouldn’t have any career prospects. But that didn’t matter… I wanted to help people. And it turned out I wasn’t too bad at programming. Well, guess what? You can make a career out of it, and they even pay you. I haven’t really worked a single day in my life since I started making games; I’ve just been living my dream.
As senior technical developer, my day job is creating game content for RuneScape. The projects are typically quite technically challenging, as is helping to maintain code that has existed since the dawn of time. My team (known internally as the Valkyries) works on a high-pressure schedule of rolling game updates. These updates are designed to bring the RuneScape community together. This means not just planning ahead, but also making sure we hit those deadlines – all while being creative and staying true to the game’s frivolous tone. But seeing communities interact in the playgrounds we build for them makes it all worth it.
I also have a role as a ‘wellbeing champion’, trained in mental health first aid, so I can help and support colleagues in times of need. I’ve committed myself to be involved with the company’s diversity group, celebrating and raising awareness of women and minority groups within the industry. I really do think the industry can and will be a better place, but it will take work – we can’t take this progress for granted.
It’s with all this in mind that I’ve been trying to increase awareness of the games industry. Too many people remain unaware that a future career is there for the taking. It’s a totally viable industry to work within, and there’s room for so many different people, demographics and passions. If you excel at something, no doubt there will be a need for it.
I hope and believe that over time the currently minority demographics, such as women, will prosper. The importance of women in the media industry grows every day, and the world is starting to recognise that talented, hard working people from every corner of life can find a home in video games. It’s our duty to spread this aspiration to younger generations.