Hannah, 26, has been a writer for Hasbro games for nearly three years. She sets questions for Cranium, writes the rules for Taboo, watches test families try and follow the rules she’s just written, and really, really enjoys Cluedo.
I work on all the writing involved with the games - Monopoly, Cluedo, Trivial Pursuit, Cranium etc. So that’s the rules, the cards, the questions, and the box. It’s a combination of working with designers to make cards that function and writing rules so they can learn to play and then a bit of marketing.
We mostly do twists on classic games as opposed to launching new ones, refreshing the old favourites. You have to balance retaining the heritage of a game, and adding new things – people felt really strongly about when we changed one of the tokens on the Monopoly board! I like the hat, because it kind of rocks after you put it down on the board. I like that… I don’t think I’d ever have chosen the iron to go. Lots of guys love the boat but I would never consider using it myself – everyone has their preferences.
The most challenging, and fun, part is creating the rules. We have loads of families who come into Hasbro to test the games – we give them the rules and see if they can play. It’s so interesting to see how they interpret the rules and how they play the game. It ranges from not being able to play at all to them reading “snap something into place” and snapping the thing off completely. You have to be very clear, like “READ THIS ALOUD TO THE OTHER PLAYERS” or “DON’T LET OTHER PLAYERS SEE YOUR CARDS.”
It’s hilarious watching people play games. Every day we see people play something, I’m working on Taboo at the moment and it’s brilliant watching people say the wrong words over and over again. We’re usually working on a lot of stuff at the same time, and the work load is massive so it’s great to take an hour out of your day to watch people having stupid amounts of fun.
In terms of questions, we get experts to help. So for Cranium and Trivial Pursuit, we get lots of external people to give us content, those who are really knowledgeable about their subject, then we edit it and also write a few ourselves.
My favourite game is Cluedo because it’s fun for a writer – you get to write a bit of story, a bit of atmosphere and it’s one of the only games where the story is crucial. At the beginning of the rules booklet there’s a summary of the murder, and all the characters, weapons, rooms and also an insert as part of the pack which has descriptions of all the suspects. That’s creative, and fun to do.
The Game of Life is the most difficult to work on, I think. It’s hard making everything work together – to make sure the cards and rules make sense with the board. Life is so vast, it’s difficult to decide what should be included as they have to be in the realms of reality – you could put anything in there! And you also have to make sure it’s something that will trigger a meaningful conversation with a family.
I did English at uni and interned at a few random places, although I was getting copywriting experience without sort of realising it. For instance, I interned at the Tate and I wrote copy for their exhibitions before going on to get a job in publishing. That got me doing things for primary school, I wrote aids and lesson plans for teachers. Because I was coming up with interesting ways kids can learn, it meant I had a lot of good experience when I applied for the Hasbro job – they’re predominantly a family company.
HANNAH’S TOP TIP FOR BECOMING A GAME WRITER:
Get copywriting and marketing experience. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I did a lot of interning at a variety of places (working at the Tate especially helped) and the copywriting and PR skills I learnt there meant I gained good experience.