This a long one, are you ready?

As a creative writing and international studies major, I had zero technical experience when I started games. I had made websites before, sure; and maybe took a couple Ruby on Rails courses. But I never really “got” code. It wasn’t until I realized I could make games that I finally “got it” and I’m still getting there.

As the industry changes, so do we. So how did I get into games? Well sit down, grab a cup of coffee, and let me tell you a story.

My story in games 

As an aspiring author, I devoted myself to writing to character-driven epic adventures. I pitched an open world, crowd sourced story to our business school. And they loved it! Now this playwright was enlisted in business. I learned UX/UI design while attending start-up weekends (like game jams, but for business) and developed skills to pitch, produce, and take a small app or game from concept to vertical slice. 

This led me to work with Microsoft Ventures, the Okoboji Institute in Iowa, and become an International Business Model Semi-Finalist. Pretty cool…

…but I wasn’t a business major. I was a writer. And a manga/anime fan… who to graduate, studied the intersection between American and Japanese pop culture. I wanted to show how being a fan makes you a better creator. (Read my research on Foucault and Fandom. It’s cool!) 

I graduated with a bunch of “skills,” but no idea how to use them. 

As a graduate of the Creative Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa, I was confident in my abilities as a writer. I ran a d20 campaign for my friends for a year, and thought about pitching it to “big-name” publishers. But had no idea what technical skill I needed to even get my foot in the door. 

Then, I played Journey. 

One night, down in the bottom level of a shared door-less apartment, I sat down, and I played Journey. My eyes were opened. magine, how much writing went into the game–and no text to be seen? The level of empathy and connection created from such a simple experience was actually incredibly complex to achieve. 

It changed my life. 

Games reinvent the way we tell stories. I needed to know how. And I’m still learning how.

And so I went to graduate school….

Under the carefully laid plan of an old Unreal Development Kit piece and a 25 page DND campaign, the gates of SMU Guildhall opened up and I was allowed to enter. With 24oz of coffee a day and the realization that an English Major like me could become a game developer, I set on my quest to do the one thing I saw for myself.

Level Design.

I became a level design focusing on environmental storytelling and ludonarrative harmony: matching game mechanics (or in-game actions) to story (world narrative). I’m still working on my model for other designers to use. Along with other game storytelling models, but that’s how it goes.

Game design is always changing; we need to make sure we grow with it.

I am a champion of narrative in games. While I work eagerly with systems teams to reinvent and improve on storytelling tools, my passion lies in telling the best story possible from hour 1 to hour 100. I am a game designer by trade, and a writer at heart.

My writing always aimed to drive the characters forward, through their choices, not my will. Now, my design philosophy empowers the player to be a hero and choose their own destiny.

Want to learn more about me?

Follow me on Instagram for more inspiration; and some lifestyle & coffee. Get a head start and follow Furidashi on Patreon for a 1:1 direct line of communication with me!

Open for digital (in-person once the world opens up!) speaking engagements, writing/business consultations, or general business inquiries. Drop me a line at or DM me on twitter.

New to game design?

Start here >  3 Life Lessons for new designers!
More advanced? > How to recognize ludonarrative harmony!

Lauryn Ash

Game Designer & Writer

About the Author

A full-time game developer and writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I analyze the world through video games and coffee. Sharing my experience in game design, coffee, and writing. All opinions are my own.

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