We learned today that renowned fantasy author Terry Pratchett has died at the age of 66. As a longtime fan of his writing, as I’m sure many of you are, it’s a hugely sad day. Since first borrowing one of his books (Guards! Guards!) from a friend back in the 1990s, I’ve been not just reading his books but devouring them whole. His Discworld novels are a comical send-up of the fantasy genre, but serve as far more than simple spoofs. They contain clever and engaging stories, lovable and memorable characters, incredible humor, and brilliant satire on modern life, culture, and politics.
Most books I buy, I eventually wind up giving to friends or donating to our library, but never his. They’re too important to me, because in them I found more than just hours of entertainment. I found the desire to become a writer. I’m confident I would not be writing these words, nor any words, without him. There are plenty of authors who made me daydream about someday being a writer, but his books were different. They inspired me to sit down in front of a keyboard and actually become one. For this, I’m forever grateful.
It goes without saying that many connections can be drawn between Pratchett’s writing career and the rise of PC gaming. The most obvious, naturally, are the games themselves: The Colour of Magic, the text adventure from 1986; Discworld, Discworld 2, and Discworld Noir, all point-and-click adventures; and Discworld MUD, a text based role-playing game.
Terry pratchett, on the cover of the first pc gamer
In 1993, Pratchett appeared on the cover PC Gamer Magazine—the very first issue of the magazine, in fact. Inside, he was interviewed by Gary Whitta about his books and the upcoming Discworld adventure game.
Pratchett played plenty of games himself. He loved computers in general, and he told PC Gamer he enjoyed games like Wing Commander, X-Wing, and Prince of Persia. He described the addictive nature of Tetris as “a computer virus which human beings can catch.”
He was, interestingly, a completionist. “I get to the end of everything,” he said, on the topic of games that pose a frustrating challenge. “I sit there banging my head against the screen until I finish.”When approached to have his work developed into what would become the Discworld adventure game, he was wary, based on his own experiences buying games. “…you would buy a tape cassette with pictures of blazing robots and exploding planets, and when you played the game it was something where the graphics were just ASCII characters stuck together.”
He also jokingly described his involvement with developer Teeny Weeny Games: “Basically, I shout at them and threaten them a lot,” he said, though he went on to say the game captured the overall spirit of the books.
There are other connections between Pratchett and games. Rhianna Pratchett, his daughter, was formerly a games journalist and section editor for PC Zone magazine, and has written for games such as Mirror’s Edge, Bioshock Infinite, the Overlord series, and 2014’s Thief. She was the lead writer on 2013’s Tomb Raider, as well as its upcoming sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The most prominent connection, but perhaps hardest to define, is Pratchett’s influence over PC gaming as a whole, from the people who make them to those of us who just play them. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that most comedic fantasy games have been in some way been influenced and inspired by the Discworld novels. Scroll through any gaming forum and you’re likely to find passionate discussions about his books and the fervent hope of there someday being more Discworld games. Stroll through any fantasy MMO and you’re bound to spot an avatar named Sam Vimes. Rincewind. Angua. Cheery Littlebottom.
I know a lot of developers, gamers, writers, and readers are feeling the same pain of loss today. Our thoughts are with his friends, family, and loved ones. We’re all grateful for what you’ve given us, Terry, and we’ll all miss you terribly.
We’ve made a PDF of the 1993 PC Gamer interview with Terry Pratchett available below, which you can pop out and download for easier legibility. Interestingly, the interview even includes speculation about virtual reality games, a topic we’re still doggedly prattling on about today. Read and enjoy it: it’s a great example of his humor, his cleverness, and his incredible smarts. Then go read his books, if you haven’t. And even if you have.