Amy Hennig, writer and creative director on the Uncharted and Legacy of Kain series, is set to receive a lifetime achievement award at the 19th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards.
The awards ceremony kicks off on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 6:30pm PST, at the San Francisco Moscone Center. Hennig’s influence in games over the past 30 years has propelled the medium to brave new creative spaces, as she oversaw the production of award-winning games that focused heavily on plot, story, and character development.
“Amy Hennig is a powerful figure in the game world; her work exemplifies what good game narrative can be, with pathos, humor, suspense, and energy. She is truly one of the most influential developers in the games industry,” said Katie Stern, general manager of the Game Developers Conference. “These past accomplishments are just milestones in a career that we’ll be following for years to come, but for one night at the GDCAs, we’ll reflect on the hard work and artistry that makes game developers like Amy the heart of the industry.”
Hennig joins a prestigious list of former Lifetime Achievement Award recipients, including the likes of Double Fine’s Tim Schafer, Epic Games’s Tim Sweeney, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, Warren Spector, John Carmack, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Hideo Kojima, Sid Meier, Ken Kutaragi, Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk, Peter Molyneux, and more.
In a July 2018 interview with Geoff Keighley and VentureBeat, Hennig admits that her career in games began somewhat fortuitously while working on a master’s in film theory and production at the University of California at Berkeley. While doing pretty much anything she could to make money and pay for school, a high school friend asked her if she would be willing to help with the art and animation for an Atari game he was working on. With more an eye on the money than anything else, Hennig took the job, completing the game a year later.
While the game ended up being canceled, Hennig notes that the experience was a watershed moment for her, coming at a time when she encountered a certain resistance to her ambitions as a female filmmaker. Games, on the other hand, were a blue ocean of unwritten rules and promise.
“In film school, we were learning about the Lumiere brothers and Edward Porter and Sergei Eisenstein, people who had to figure out what film was. But then we were just following their lead. In games, we got to be those people. We got to figure out how we were going to make this stuff, what the mechanics and the language of these games would be. That’s what inspired me.”
Speaking to her role as a creative director on multiple projects dating back all the way to Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Hennig revealed that, while most people think a creative director rules with an iron fist, the job is much more about giving others creative latitude.
“You have to have enough humility to say — in your head, not out loud — ‘That’s not what I would have done, what I was picturing, but is it better than my idea?’ If so, awesome. Is it just as good, even though it’s not what I was picturing? Then that’s fantastic because they have a sense of ownership and passion. If it’s not as good, you have to have enough ego to say, ‘Here’s the reason I asked for it that way. Here’s a correction,’ And have the presence of mind – because we’re all human beings with flaws – to not react the wrong way in the moment.”
Hennig left Naughty Dog in 2014 before joining the now-defunct Visceral Games that same year. Following Visceral’s closure, she founded an independent game studio and consultancy firm and is working on an as-yet-unannounced title. Earlier this year, she revealed that not releasing a new title since 2011’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is “killing” her.