Mary Goodden is a games writer and narrative designer. In 2018, she was selected for the ‘Zombies Run!’ training scheme under Naomi Alderman. On completing her training, Mary was kept on as a writer for the exergame, and her scripts have been used in the long-form audio narrative. She has also written for Failbetter Games’ Fallen London and Sunless Skies, and is now Senior Narrative Designer at Maze Theory, working on Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom, a virtual reality game based on the acclaimed TV series. Mary shares her experience of the training programme below.
I applied to the Zombies, Run! training programme to learn how to write for the game, but I had no idea I’d also be learning to adapt an exercise app for a pandemic, and how to take Abel Township’s values into the real world.
My experience began with a week-long writers’ room in which Naomi Alderman, Story Director Rebecca Levene, the other writers (all former trainees) and I plotted a new season of Zombies, Run!. After we brainstormed the main narrative arc, I wrote a mission outline and pitched it to the team for their thoughtful notes. I learned how to escalate tension, develop character arcs, and make those all-important emotional beats hit home.
‘I learned how to escalate tension, develop character arcs, and make those all-important emotional beats hit home.’
After I drafted my first script, Bex and Naomi talked me through which parts worked, and gave me ideas to improve the bits that didn’t (yet). Their edits were encouraging and supportive, and gave me the confidence to do my best work. The process culminated in the thrilling moment when I first heard my words come to life in the voices of Zombies, Run!’s incredible cast.
In the years following my first writers’ room, each member of the team has had the chance to explore their interests in standalone arcs set in alternate versions of the Zombies, Run! universe. Between us we’ve written space opera, historical fantasy, steampunk, and a pirate adventure. My own arc, set in a zombie-infested Victorian London, is still one of my favourite things I’ve ever written.
‘I heard my words come to life in the voices of Zombies, Run!’s incredible cast.’
During the pandemic, we devised The Home Front, a series of workouts set in the Zombies, Run! universe. Alongside the practical challenges of building exercises (and the odd dance move) into the mission format, we wrote scripts that addressed the real-life challenges of lockdown. Helping our players stay healthy and be kind to themselves helped me to do the same.
In Abel Township all contributions are valuable, and everyone is treated with kindness and respect. These values are also at the core of how Zombies, Run! is made. I’m now Senior Narrative Designer at Maze Theory, and everything I learned on the Zombies, Run! training programme helped me get to this point. Not only have I learned to write and edit scripts, but I also know how to run a writer’s room, which is an increasingly important process in games today. I’ve also learned how to listen to the people I’m working with, and give notes constructively and kindly. Zombies, Run! has given me values that I try to take to every piece of work I do.
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