Full Spectrum Warrior lead designer Laralyn McWilliams has died at 58

Game designer Laralyn McWilliams.
(Image credit: Laralyn McWilliams via LinkedIn.)

American video game designer Laralyn McWilliams, well known as the lead designer of Pandemic Studios’ 2004 real-time tactics game, Full Spectrum Warrior, has died at the age of 58.

As well as her work on Full Spectrum Warrior, McWilliams was also the creative director of Sony Online Entertainment’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Free Realms, which first launched in 2009 and ran until 2014. In more recent years, she was the chief creative officer at Skydance Interactive where she worked on the 2020 VR title The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners. Her career in game development dates all the way back to 1994 when she was almost 30.

McWilliams won multiple awards over the years for her impact on the games industry, including the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 21st Game Developers Choice Awards in 2021. At the time, she said: “I genuinely can’t wrap my head around this honor.” She added: “We’re all wizards, all of us. No matter how experienced we are, no matter what our role is, or what kind of games we’re building, or who those games are for. We all make magic.”

She also noted that at the start of her career, in most companies, she was “one of one or two or maybe three women in the whole company, and almost always the only woman in a leadership role.” Continuing, she said: “So, I know what it’s like to be conspicuously different. And yet, here I am.”

On social media, McWilliams was open about her health journey. Back in December, she posted on Bluesky that she was having open heart surgery in order to replace her aortic valve, due to having “severe aortic stenosis” as a result of “two separate rounds of radiation: head and neck cancer in 2012 then lung cancer in 2015.”

Other game developers have been paying tribute to McWilliams on Twitter / X today following the news. Doug Hill called her an “icon”, while Jake Simpson described her as “inspiring and amazing.” 

Catherine Lewis
News Writer, TechRadar Gaming

Catherine is a News Writer for TechRadar Gaming. Armed with a journalism degree from The University of Sheffield, she was sucked into the games media industry after spending far too much time on her university newspaper writing about Pokémon and cool indie games, and realising that was a very cool job, actually. She previously spent 19 months working at GAMINGbible as a full-time journalist. She loves all things Nintendo, and will never stop talking about Xenoblade Chronicles.