In a survey of over 500 gamers, examining their romantic behaviors and preferences in real life and in-game when playing single-player RPGs, Heidi McDonald discovered a lot about what different types of players want in a satisfying NPC romance. Having used her data and scholarship in gaming, writing and psychology to develop the ICING model for writing better NPC romances, McDonald offers insights about how romance in single-player RPGs can perform important cultural work, by breaking down gender barriers and stereotypes, and functioning as a safe space for players who are experimenting with sexual identity.
Heidi McDonald is the Women in Gaming Rising Star Award Recipient for 2012. Specializing in Narrative Design and interested in the area of NPC romance in single-player RPGs, McDonald invented the ICING Model to help narrative designers write more satisfying NPC Romances.
Her work has been published in Well Played, and lectured about at Feminists in Games 2012, GDC Online 2012, and most recently, GDC in March, 2013 where her poster session, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Ferelden,” explored survey data about how and why men and women romance in single-player RPG’s.
McDonald is a Game Designer at Schell Games in Pittsburgh, PA, and a single mother of three who ended up in video games after a successful mid-life career switch.