Heidi McDonald

Contract Writer, Disruptor Beam

Heidi McDonald is a game writer, designer, creative director, musician, author, lecturer and workshop facilitator who has worked on 19 game titles (both entertainment and serious, original IP's and licenses) during her eight years in the games industry. A frequent GDC speaker who has covered topics including romance and emotional engagement in games, Heidi has won a few awards, worn some outlandish hats, eaten a lot of cheese, and generally had a wonderful time.

Her book, "Digital Love: Romance and Sexuality in Games" was released in 2017. Heidi has dedicated her career to the idea that games can make positive change, and better human beings. More information is available at deathbow.com.

Game Credits:
 - Star Trek Timelines, Disruptor Beam, Writer
 - (Unannounced title with popular IP), Disruptor Beam, Narrative Designer
 - Critical Strengths Engine, Creative Director, iThrive Games
 - Quilko's Song, Creative Director, iThrive Games
 - (Unnamed title about curiosity), Creative Director, iThrive Games
 - (Unnamed title about empathy), Creative Director, iThrive Games
 - The Sculptor's Journey, Creative Director, iThrive Games
 - Cycles of Empathy, Creative Director, iThrive Games
 - Companions, Creative Director, iThrive Games
 - Orion Trail, Writer, Schell Games
 - Orion Trail VR, Writer, Schell Games
 - Happy Atoms, Writer, Schell Games
 - The World of Lexica: Seeker, Systems and Features Design and Writer, Schell Games
 - The World of Lexica: Unbound, Writer, Schell Games
 - Tunnel Tail, Writer, Schell Games
 - Lionel Battle Train, Writer and Designer, Schell Games
 - GumTrix, Composer, Schell Games
 - PlayForward: Elm City Stories, Narrative Designer and Design, Schell Games

Public Speaking History & Web Links:
 - Silbersalz Conference, Halle, Germany, June, 2019
 - East Coast Games Conference, Raleigh, NC, April 2019
 - GDC, San Francisco, CA, March, 2019
 - GenCon, Indianapolis, IN, August, 2018
 - Lunch and Learn, Montreal GamePlaySpace, June, 2018
 - Gotland Games Conference, Visby, Sweden, June, 2018
 - East Coast Games Conference, Raleigh, NC, April 2018
 - Game Developers Conference (GDC), San Francisco, CA, March 2018
 - MagFest, Oxon Hill, MD, January, 2018
 - Powered-Up Digital Games Conference, October, 2017
 - Digital Media and Learning, Irvine, CA, October, 2017
 - PAX Dev and PAX, Seattle, WA, August, 2017
 - Serious Play, Washington, DC, July, 2017
 - WhedonCon, Los Angeles, May, 2017
 - Game Design Class: New York Film Academy, Los Angeles, May, 2017
 - Game Design Class: UC: Irvine, May, 2017
 - East Coast Games Conference, April, 2017
 - Queerness and Games Conference, April, 2017
 - Game Developers' Conference, March, 2017
 - Women in Games Panel, UC: Irvine, February 2017
 - MagFest, February, 2017
 - Powered-Up Digital Games Conference, February, 2017
 - Seattle Mobile Gaming Forum, October, 2016
 - Digital Learning Summit, October, 2016
 - Panelist at Los Angeles IGDA Event, September, 2016
 - Game Design Class at USC, September, 2016
 - Games and Learning Summit, August, 2016
 - East Coast Games Conference, April, 2016
 - Blizzard Academy, April, 2016
 - GDC 2016, March 2016
 - HEVGA, December 2015
 - Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, October 2015
 - PAX Dev, August, 2015
 - Confluence, July 2015
 - Diversifying Barbie and Mortal Kombat, April 2015
 - Montreal International Gaming Summit, Montreal, Quebec, November 2013
 - Grassroots Gaming Conference, Keynote Address, Philadelphia, PA, October 2013
 - K-12 Educational Conference, Keynote Address, Pittsburgh, PA, October 2013
 - GDC Europe, Cologne, Germany, August 2013
 - Gotland Gaming Conference, Visby, Sweden, May 2013
 - GDC Poster Session, March 2013
 - GDC Online, October 2012
 - Feminists in Games, Toronto, Ontario, May 2012
 - Media and Social Change Conference, Chatham University, April 2012


It's a 30-minute expansion of a 5-minute microtalk I'm giving at GDC that resulted from me doing some personal reflection about failed romances in my own life, versus successful ones, and realizing a pattern: partners with the same Hogwart's House, and the same D&D alignment, are more likely to be compatible even if their backgrounds are very different. Hogwart's House is "your values" and D&D alignment is "how you choose to live those values." In this version of the talk I not only find similar (but less geeky) romance experts who essentially say the same thing; I show famous movie and TV romances that were great because these things matched, and a couple that were awful because they didn't; and I will show one or more examples of how you might construct this in a game while creating compatible characters for a romance.

Panelists: Alexandra Lucas, Ashley Ruhl, Heidi McDonald

The game industry is losing experienced workers to the scarcity of remote positions, as many would rather leave the industry than have to move every 1-3 years or live in expensive, crowded locales. By taking advantage of existing technology and slightly revising worker management techniques, it is absolutely possible to allow for more remote workers in the game industry.

When it comes to building a more inclusive industry, remote work enables skilled people with disabilities and caregiving responsibilities to remain in the industry. It also empowers marginalized team members to contribute without having to contend with cliques and undocumented microaggressions. By working with remote employees, companies can seek out the expertise of native speakers around the world without having to internationally relocate or contend with a country's visa and entrance policies.

The following is a list of common issues that companies cite as “reasons they won’t allow remote work” as well as proposed solutions we will share and discuss during the presentation:

  - They are convinced that the “Writers’ Room” collaboration can’t happen remotely. Due to widespread access to existing digital technology, they’re wrong. Just because “the way we’ve done it has always worked” does not mean it automatically won’t work any other way.

  - Issues with documentation. Working remotely improves documentation, as there are electronic paper trails in the form of emails, Slack messages, electronic chats, Basecamp/Trello updates, and follow-up notes from teleconferences.

  - Inadequate supervision. If a company has delegated onboarding, clear task expectations, and structured digital communication, remote work can be held to the same standards as in-house. The challenge is building discipline in current communication practices.

  - Company tools and security. All the panelists have installed company tools on their local machines with confirmed security measures. In other cases, it’s as simple as using cloud-based tools that are accessible via password.

  - The applicant is unproven as a remote worker. Even people who have worked remotely with success for years sometimes have an issue with a company being willing to trust that they are able to do their job remotely. And for people who want to work remotely but never have: how are they supposed to GET experience if nobody will give it to them? With deadlines and other clear milestones, it should be easy for anyone to prove their ability to telecommute, or show that they aren’t cut out for it.

  - “The culture suffers.” As the game industry matures, employees want separation between their work and their social life. The definition of studio culture needs to shift from “social compatibility” to “workplace compatibility”, and remote work can help that shift by enforcing standards in digital studio communication. Healthy digital communication can also empower workers who might not feel comfortable speaking up in physical spaces, creating more diversity of voices in the room. Time difference. Many remote workers are happy to adjust to a company’s core hours, while some companies are flexible enough to arrange an individualized work schedule.