“Blanket Fort Chats” is a semi-regular column featuring women and nonbinary game makers talking about the craft of making games. In this week’s post, we feature Hyacinth Nil, a game designer, sound engineer, storyteller, and educator. They like using play as a way of exploring odd or unnerving bits of human experience, illustrating absurdity, and creating weird and multifaceted narratives. Hyacinth is genderqueer and neurodivergent and is most recently known for a narrative game called _transfer as well as a podcast about gender variance called Not Safe For Work.
Miss N: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into making games?
Hyacinth: I’ve been interested in a huge array of different things for as long as I can remember—games chief among them. However, I had a lot of folks tell me that games weren’t really something to pursue as a career while I was growing up.
I ended up getting a degree in applied psychology with a sort of split focus in human computer interaction-type study and gender therapy-related study, two things that would really inform my work later on. It turns out, though, that getting a job as a therapist is also particularly difficult and I wasn’t having a great deal of luck with it. I then went through a pretty bad breakup and thought, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to become a game developer.”
I have always made games, starting with terrible tabletop role-playing games, then moving to bad tiny digital artifacts and whatnot. But in those few weeks, I decided to knuckle down and try to learn the craft for real. I eventually got a master’s degree in educational game design from NYU because I also had been teaching for a while and wanted a way to integrate education and game design in a way that creates powerful contexts for learning. Additionally, though, I like to make odd little games about queerness and identity and possible futures in my spare time.