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Obituary: Laralyn McWilliams, game designer, passes away at 58

During her 30-year career in games, McWilliams worked on a number of games such as Gears of War 4, Free Realms, and Deal or No Deal.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

February 6, 2024

1 Min Read
Laralyn McWilliams hosting a talk at GDC 2019.
Image via GDC

Laralyn McWilliams, a longtime designer, passed away on February 5 after a long battle with cancer. She was 58 years old.

Born February 25, 1965, McWilliams entered the industry in the mid-90s. Her earliest contributions included beta testing for Elder Scrolls Chapter II: Daggerfall and Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.

McWilliams was lead designer on several games from the 2000s, including Disney's Stitch: Experiment 626, Full Spectrum Warrior, and Free Realms.

Her studio resume includes Disney, Pandemic Studios, and Sony Online Entertainment. She also served as Skydance Interactive's chief creative officer and principal design director for Microsoft.

At GDC 2021, McWilliams received the Lifetime Achievement award for her industry tenure. She consistently attended the annual event, and was featured in panels in 2019 and 2020.

2023's System Shock remake was one of her last works, along with 2020's The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners.

The industry remembers Laralyn McWilliams

After news of McWilliams' passing was revealed, developers shared their memories of her on social media. "I will miss you beyond words," wrote Bungie's Tami Lam.

"The world is a worse place without you, but you were always too good for it," Lam continued. "The game industry loses another legend."

Private Division's Kari Toyama called McWilliams "fiercely talented... [she] dedicated so much time to sharing her knowledge with others."

Romero Games director Brenda Romero remembered her as a "rare all-arounder. [...] She could write a tutorial script as easily as she could balance combat progression."

Like Toyama and Lam, Romero highlighted how McWilliams often "spoke for those who were afraid to speak. When it came to right and wrong, she was as flexible as concrete and a goddamn warrior."

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About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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