Blanket Fort Chats: Game Making With Elaine Gusella

Photo courtesy of Julie-Chantal Boulanger
Photo courtesy of Julie-Chantal Boulanger

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 Elaine Gusella, a game designer and storyteller currently working as an indie dev in Montréal. She is the co-founder of a startup studio specializing in gamification and life-size video game installations. When she isn’t making games, she enjoys playing RPGs and spending time with her partner and beautiful baby girl.

Miss N: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into making games?

ElaineI studied classical music for years, and then went on to get my BA and master’s in ancient languages and literature. Nothing that would bring me to game making, although it’s now proving very useful. After that, I worked in book publishing where I had the chance to participate in some very interesting digital publishing projects. As fulfilling as that was, the book industry is hard, and I eventually decided that I wanted to go in another direction. I had been writing scenarios for LARP games for about ten years by that time. I decided to make the transition into game making as a career. That’s when I heard about Pixelles for the first time.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making some kind of game, to be honest. It’s always been a huge part of my life. I met most of my friends and even my husband in LARP games, but I had never thought of it as a career path before being selected for the Pixelles Game Incubator. I gained a lot of confidence through it. After that, I went back to school to do a postgraduate certificate in Game Design where I met my friend and now business partner Véronique Bouffard.

Miss N: What’s your earliest memory of playing games?

Elaine: My mom used to make games out of everything to help me learn. I remember that she had made cardboard squares with different syllables on them to teach me how to read and had me match them to form words. I must have been three or four. Soon after that, we got a NES and I started playing Super Mario, but the real hook was when I played Final Fantasy the very first one. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Miss N: What’s your creative process like? Where do you get your ideas?

Elaine: From everywhere. I try always to stay alert to new ideas. I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go. I stopped doing that for a while actually, using only my computer, but I went back to paper. There’s something more direct in writing things out that I enjoy. I find that the more I spend in an iterative process, the easier ideas come to me. Often, game jamming is part of that, too. It keeps me in that creative mindset.

Like everyone, I do get creative blocks. When that happens, I’ll go have a walk, change my environment or talk with other people about what I want to do. It’s usually enough to get me back on track.

I often hear people say that creativity is a talent that some people have and others don’t. I can’t disagree more. Creativity is something that can be cultivated through exercises and changes in perspective. I use many tools not only to get ideas, but also to test them and make them better. I like to use design patterns, for example, to break down ideas to their simplest expression. It helps me see if there are ways to improve the game design and the experience of my games.

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An Interview With Rooster Teeth Rigging Artist Gio Coutinho

Gio Coutinho

Gio Coutinho is a rigging artist at Rooster Teeth. She’s been involved in projects such as RWBY, RWBY Chibi, and Red vs. Blue, and somehow finds time to record Autodesk tutorials about the techniques she uses for people wanting to follow in her footsteps. I recently had the chance to talk to Gio about her work, and how she came to be one of the most prominent professionals in her field.

Alayna: Hi, Gio! It’s awesome to have a chance to chat with you. Tell us: what does a rigging artist do?

Gio: Hi, Alayna! It’s great to chat with you, too.

I like to think of a rig as a marionette. Imagine a stiff, motionless doll with no articulations — that is a 3D model. It’s a completely static figure that is made from a 2D concept. As a rigging artist, I take that doll or 3D model and give it strings, which allow it to move and articulate however it needs to, so I work closely with animators to ensure all their requirements are met.

That being said, not only do characters need rigging — anything that moves, including props, sets, and vehicles often need rigs in order to come to life. A good rig is easy and intuitive to use, taking work away from animators since they are the ones responsible for making them perform according to a script and/or storyboard. A bad rig, however, imposes limits on animators, which in turn decreases the overall aesthetic potential of whatever they try to produce.

In more technical terms, a rig is often composed of a skeleton, controls, constraints, and a number of other features that help something move the way it needs to. There is a lot of problem solving involved in order to find the optimum way for something to move, and you must have a very keen artistic and technical eye to reach creative solutions to specific problems and challenges.

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Blanket Fort Chats: Game Making With Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan

Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan

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 Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan, a Berlin-based game maker who’s teaching herself how to make experimental games. She loves ideas, creative expression, and french fries.

Miss N: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into making games?

Marie: My path was not straight. My work is mostly in social enterprises. I’ve done work in alt-education with high-risk youth, created social arts experiences, and used my hands and hours on community building. I’ve led small, scrappy DIY organizations.

I founded Wyrd, a national non-profit dedicated to encouraging, documenting, and connecting creative expression across Canada. I am the Editor-in-Chief of Weird Canada, a website that celebrates and documents do-it-yourself, experimental, and emerging music, books, ideas, and art. I also made a day for the celebration of drone music.

A year ago, I felt like there was no more room in my life for me. I decided to move to Berlin and make experimental games. I had made one game, Þink, with DMG four years before, but otherwise had no exceptional background or experience playing or making games.

For a long time, I thought I hated games, but I was just playing the wrong games. I’m generally not very excited about competitive, complicated, disempowering, rule-heavy experiences where I am enacting a vision that fundamentally misaligns with my being. I’m into experimental narratives, soft experiences, deeply transformative ideas, ritual, and strange expressions of play.

In my very first days in Berlin, I signed up to volunteer at the Wikimedia Free Knowledge Game Jam, and they asked me, “Why not participate?” I said, “I have no idea what I am doing,” and they gave me a name tag that said “Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan: Game Designer.” That was that.

I pitched an idea at the jam, found a team, and made TexTiles, a paper prototype of a pattern-matching game using textile samples from the historical archives (and we actually won third place!).

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Blanket Fort Chats: Game Making With Philip Jones

philip-jones

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 Philip Jones, a nonbinary games professional best known as the editor of the queer cyberpunk adventure 2064: Read Only Memories and the expo hall director for the LGBTQIA+ games convention GaymerX.

Miss N: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into making games?

Philip: I’ve known I wanted to be in games since I was very young; I’d been writing and podcasting for fan and news sites since I was twelve. I first launched my own podcast project at 16 and went on to have the subject of the game’s creative director on for three exclusive interviews. Kept a couple contacts and soon met Toni Rocca [GaymerX Convention President] online.

I was barely 18 and just came out as gay, and was fascinated by the potential of queerness in games, especially professional work. She enlisted me and I haven’t looked back since. Before that, I was a theater kid dealing with a sad queer life in Texas, doing whatever I could to put off the “grow up and get a real job” future staring me down that I knew I’d never survive in.

Miss N: Can you describe your your earliest memory of playing games?

Philip: Plenty of them. Playing the Ms. Pac-Man machine they had at the laundromat. Random babysitters that had N64s or computer games, mostly car racing or Disney. Lots of educational games. The SEGA Pico. All the late ’90s PC games. Fuzion Frenzy on Xbox. Tony Hawk and Mario Tennis on the N64 they had at McDonald’s.

By the time I was six or seven, I got a computer and was playing pretty excellent games, Roller Coaster Tycoon and Need for Speed, lots of LEGO games haha. Eventually, my best friend got a Gamecube and introduced me to games like SSX Tricky, Pikmin, Super Monkey Ball, and XG3. When I was nine, I finally got my own Gamecube with SSX 3 and Mario Kart Double Dash. Then, a Gameboy Advance SP with Golden Sun, Pokémon FireRed, Yoshi’s Island, and Sonic Advance. Soon, Harvest Moon, Smash Brothers, Mario Sunshine, and Animal Crossing.

Most of what I’ve mentioned remains on my favorite games list. Then I got a Wii, found the internet, and I was in deep. Some of favorite memories are the late ’90s/early ’00s SEGA arcade machines they had at Chuck E. Cheese. Crazy Taxi, Emergency Call Ambulance, Jambo Safari, Magical Truck Adventure, and Wild Riders. All very influential.

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Blanket Fort Chats: Game Making With Camila Gormaz

Image courtesy of Camila Gormaz
Image courtesy of Camila Gormaz

Blanket Fort Chats” is a semi-regular column featuring women and nonbinary game makers talking about the craft otf making games. In this week’s post, we feature Camila Gormaz, an indie developer best known for developing Long Gone Days, a 2D character-driven modern day military RPG that combines elements from visual novels and dystopian fiction.

Miss N: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into making games?

Camila: I’ve always wanted to make games. Since I was 11 or 12, I started trying out Flash and other software to make my first games. It was so rewarding to tell these stories to your friends, having them play, and [seeing] how much fun they had. I wanted to keep doing that forever.

[As I grew older], I worked on commercial projects, but they were mostly visual novels. I was in charge of the visual aspects of those games like character design, UI, and stuff like that. And I also made some games during game jams, during college too, and personal projects. But [Long Gone Days] is probably the biggest project I’ve made so far.

Miss N: What were your first games like?

Camila: They were really short games. I made a lot of dress up games, platformers, and stuff that wasn’t too hard to make. Also, I had learned to code in HTML so I made some kind of visual novels where you kind of click on links and it was like a story.

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