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A celebration of game designer Laralyn McWilliams: she was a stunningly intelligent individual.
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A celebration of game designer Laralyn McWilliams: she was a stunningly intelligent individual.


Game designer Laralyn McWilliams, 58, passed away on February 5th in Seattle, Washington due to complications from heart surgery. She was the creative director of Free Realms, an online world for families created by Sony Computer Entertainment. Additionally, she served as the lead designer for Full Spectrum Warrior in 2004 and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2021 Game Developers Choice awards.

McWilliams was born into a military family in Vicenza, Italy in 1965. Due to the nature of her family’s occupation, she moved frequently during her childhood. She found solace and comfort in the games she played, with Myst being especially influential to her. This virtual world became a place she would often revisit. After earning a BA in psychology from Vassar College and a JD from St Louis University of Law, she never lost sight of the happiness that games brought her. Her desire to share this joy with others led her to self-teach game design and become highly skilled in her craft. She went on to create games for prominent companies such as Disney and Dreamworks, showcasing her versatility by working on various genres from first-person shooters to casual games.

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Laralyn was a strong advocate for justice and prioritized principles over personal connections. She refused to compromise or remain silent, even when faced with severe harassment online. She used her voice to speak up for those who couldn’t and for those who were too afraid to speak for themselves. She never backed down from her beliefs and was a relentless fighter for what she deemed right and wrong. She tirelessly worked towards creating a more inclusive and respectful environment within the gaming industry, where marginalized individuals were appreciated and their voices were heard.

After being diagnosed with incurable and terminal cancer, she refused to give up. She took control of her health and actively pursued innovative treatments and sought out expert doctors. Despite the medical industry’s preference for younger and fitter patients, she spoke openly about her diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and remission, serving as an inspiration to others who found courage in her story and bravely shared their own journeys.

Laralyn was a stunningly intelligent individual. She was passionate about discussing intricate aspects of game mechanics and how they could impact gameplay. She also enjoyed delving into the player experience and ensuring that it remained the focus of game development. Whether it was writing a tutorial or balancing combat, she excelled at both. She was not only a mentor and a friend, but also a source of inspiration to those in the game industry. Her influence can be seen in the people she touched, the players she entertained, and the games she helped design.

Laralyn’s loved ones who survive her include her husband and closest companion, Charlie Hatley, as well as her mother-in-law Charlene, her brother Jim and his daughter Sophie, and her aunt Sandy.

Source: theguardian.com