QD & ME – ADAM WILLIAMS, Lead Writer
Quantic Dream: Please introduce yourself! What’s your name, where are you from, and what is your role at QD?
My name is Adam Williams and I am Lead Writer at Quantic Dream. I was born and raised in London, although I now spend a lot of time in Paris and have been lucky enough to travel a bit internationally through work.
Quantic Dream: How did you come to work in the video games industry? Was it a lifelong dream, or did you luckily stumble into it?
I was working in UK TV when I decided to write to David Cage speculatively. I was curious about games in general and admired his efforts to write interactive stories in particular. So I asked my agent to find a way of reaching out to him, which she did, and then I just wrote a very honest email explaining my credentials and what I wanted to do. The rest is history! I remember my first day on the job: I had spoken to David many times over Skype, so we knew each other, but the first time I met him face-to-face he was bouncing a tennis ball and working on a narrative problem. He showed me around the studio and within 5 minutes we were talking about the scene he was working on. I liked that. In my opinion, if you’re not obsessive about working on this kind of stuff, why do it? I like to work with people who really commit to what they’re doing. It was my first time in Paris and my first time in games, but I wasn’t exactly nervous, more curious to see how different things would be from my usual work experience. Turns out it is very different. The culture in games is a lot more relaxed than TV.
Quantic Dream: Let’s talk about your job at Quantic Dream! Could you elaborate more on your role, and the role of your team?
I work with David on all aspects of the narrative – characters, themes, dilemmas, all that good stuff. Since David’s philosophy is that the player should be directing his own story, that’s a pretty different task than one might face in TV or cinema. Rather than finding a particular story, our job is to figure out a range of possible stories for the player to choose from. That range needs to be narrow enough that the story has personality and remains interesting, but wide enough that the player is controlling what happens. At Quantic Dream, story comes first, so another big aspect of what we do is collaborating with other teams and bringing them along with the vision. That way, when it’s time to execute, everybody is ideally on the same page.
Quantic Dream: Tell us more about the members of your team. Any fun story to share?
You’d be surprised how much time David and I spend talking about antique coins! My father has collected them for years, he has a beautiful collection with some fabulous pieces. David started more recently. A coin is a great way of making history more real, just because it’s physical. Holding it and thinking of all the other hands that held it, of the hands that made it, and so on, is a way of making you realize that history truly happened and was simply life for those who lived through it. That was one of the ways my father got me to engage with history and it’s a deep part of my psyche. So there you have some hints on the origin story of Connor’s coin trick! Which I don’t think ANYONE could perform it in real life, by the way, though I’d love to see a video proving me wrong (wink). Now, for the fun story to share… I’m sorry to tell you that I am not funny at all. (editor’s note: classic English humour ^^)
Quantic Dream: Can you describe to us a typical day for you? Does a typical day even exist for you?
When I arrive at work, I usually have a coffee with David and we talk about our priorities for the day, what’s on our minds, what leads we plan to follow. That conversation is quite interesting because it often starts off-topic. Perhaps one of us saw something interesting in the news, or is reading a new book, and we talk about that. Then the conversation will slowly morph into how we plan to use that in our writing. We both look at writing a bit like an investigation, where you’re trying to figure out what the best version of the story is and how the different elements are connected. The case is always in the back of your mind.
Quantic Dream: What are your external inspirations that are reflected in your job?
Almost every day I think about some incident from the life of Socrates. I really would love to think that his spirit of enquiry affects everything in my life, not just how I work, but I rarely live up to that aspiration 🙂
That being said, the first book I remember was a catalogue of Mythology called “Myths and Legends” (I think) that my mother used to read to me. It had short (2-3 pages) summaries of all the great mythic heroes from different cultures, from Thor to Theseus. Beowulf was my favourite at the time. That was a profound experience and I think that’s when I first started wanting to do my own stories. For movies, Jason and the Argonauts blew my mind as a kid, and still does today. There’s nothing wrong with a story that just has a powerful sense of adventure, especially because, to my mind, the desire for adventure is a very noble desire. I would put the Never Ending Story into that same category, Jackson’s LOTR films, and so on. In terms of series, I think modern series place too much emphasis on setting and novelty factors — gimmicks — and not enough on characters. The truly great series, which to me includes The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Buffy the Vampire Slayer — what they all had was a cast of characters you wanted to spend time with. Buffy going to prom is interesting not because of the prom or the vampires but because we like Buffy. The same is true for watching Tony drive around in his car listening to music. A lot of people in the TV industry feel they need a genre twist or some one-sentence high concept that will help them stand out from the crowd of other shows being made, but do audiences really care about that? Audiences stick with a show because of the people in it, and people can’t be summarized like that. At least, interesting ones can’t.
Quantic Dream: Be careful, BIG question… What are your favourite games?
I loved Beyond: Two Souls, which I can say because I didn’t work on it. When I was younger, I was blown away by Planescape: Torment. I like games with choices that have the potential to change the way you think, over games that just distract you. When I was younger. I was fond of strategy and management games, Dungeon Keeper remains the true classic for me. Despite the dodgy AI and other problems in the gameplay, the atmosphere in that game remains unrivalled among strategy sims, to my mind. But even then, Dungeon Keeper (the original) has a definitive ending, a narrative climax. It isn’t just a time sink.
Quantic Dream: Tell us more about your hobbies outside of work.
“I like dogs.”
Quantic Dream: All right! What does your perfect Friday night look like?
I’ll let you know when I see it.
Quantic Dream: Do you have a message for our readers?
To anybody who is ever thinking of posting a message about us, or sending us a letter or an email: do it! We get a lot of feedback, but we read everything sooner or later. I think most people would be surprised at what a big deal it can be for us. One player telling us that the games make a positive difference in their lives (however small) can totally change the tone of the day. It means much more than an award or a positive review, as nice as those things are.
Quantic Dream: Final question! Chocolate cake or Fruit pie?
I’ll take KFC! In my mind, it’s the people who DON’T like KFC that need to explain themselves. They must be lying.