Lisa Brunette has been a story designer in the video-game industry since 2008, with credits in hundreds of bestselling games played by worldwide audiences in the millions. It all started with a contract gig in Nintendo's legendary Treehouse, where she wrote dialogue for a fashion journalist character in the hit game StyleSavvy. Soon she was recruited to Cat Daddy Games, a Take-Two Interactive studio, where she wrote for the AAA Carnival Games franchise.
Two years later, she was recruited away from that gig to Big Fish, where she stayed for five years. At the Fish she amassed credits as a narrative designer in hundreds of bestselling games, built a team of game story experts, and established herself as a key figure in the casual game industry, with a headlining conference presentation covered by Gamasutra, references to her work in academia, and an appearance in the documentary Boys' Toys.
Brunette has presented widely on narrative design best practices. Industry people still comment on her 2012 Game Development Conference talk, which you can watch in its entirety through the GDC Vault. In 2016, she presented on game storytelling and served on an entrepreneurship panel at University of Florida's Digital Worlds Institute, where she taught courses in narrative design. She also served as writer on the WG Cells game Smash Squad.
She wrote the core narrative text for the 2016 iOS game Smash Squad. Here's a screenshot from the tutorial:
For a behind-the-scenes look at her writing process on this title, check out this blog post.
Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure (HOPA) Games for Big Fish
Brunette built the Narrative Design Team at Big Fish, growing from one to a team of four FT narrative designers, a strategy guide editor, and a crew of freelancers in just five years. As manager, she developed the skills and efficiency of her team, which played a key role in raising the quality bar on storylines across Big Fish's premium collector's edition games. She and her team reviewed, critiqued, and sometimes rewrote story design docs, and they rewrote and/or edited every word of text in most of Big Fish's titles.
She had the pleasure of working on Big Fish's flagship Mystery Case Files series, including the highly successful game Dire Grove, Sacred Grove.
When Elephant Games was looking for a new brand concept, Brunette suggested they create a Christmas-themed game. Since they're located in Russia, she thought a Nutcracker story would be a natural. Nutcracker turned out to be the bestselling third-party game in Big Fish history, and the series is still going strong.
She had a lot of fun with the villain's characterization in this surprise bestseller.
She was instrumental in helping Big Fish developers understand what makes a real mystery tick. The Final Cut series is one example, and she worked on every game in this series.
She also had the privilege of working on a Smithsonian game themed on one of her favorite myths, that of the Hope Diamond.
She worked very closely with Elephant Games on the Surface series, designated for greater risk and experimentation with plots and themes.
Early in her work with Big Fish, she engaged in some deep narrative redesign on a few memorable games.
A player compared her writing on this game to Ian Fleming's.
She remembers staying late a few Friday nights to thoroughly rewrite Shaolin Mystery.
This one taught her how to make a game on a relatively risky theme work for the player audience. A lot of sweat equity went into Chinese Healer.
For more, check out any of the Collector's Editions Hidden-Object Puzzle Adventure (HOPA) games on the Big Fish site. She's also had a hand in some of the free-to-play games.
Big Fish awarded Lisa Brunette the coveted "Unsung Hero" Award in 2014 for her work to build the Narrative Design team and contribute to the overall success and quality of the company's HOPA games.
Prior to her work in the hidden-object adventure game genre for Big Fish, she wrote for a few AAA console titles - games you can play on the Nintendo Wii and DS, the Sony PlayStation, and Microsoft Kinect. Here's a sampling of those.
She was the sole story designer for New Carnival Games, responsible for every string of text and VO in the game. Here's one of her favorite parts, a mystic she named "Zamzeer."
She had the same role on Carnival Games Kinect: Monkey See, Monkey Do.
She got her start in games as a lead writer on the Style Savvy team at Nintendo. It was an aspirational, sophisticated fashion game that was No. 1 in Japan and sold like gangbusters in the States.
The Society for the Preservation of Adventure Games (SPAG) published her piece "Evolving Storytelling in Hidden-Object Games" in Issue 64 of the SPAG Mag.
At Big Fish, she frequently wrote about her narrative design team's work for the company blog.
Argot Magazine published Brunette's short fictional piece with a game theme, "This Action Cannot Be Undone."
Interactive Exhibit Text
In 1999, the St. Louis Science Center hired Brunette to research and write text for a new computer-themed exhibition gallery called Cyberville. It had 44 stations of interactive exhibits and told the history of information technology and computer graphics.
Virtual Fish Tank
You can walk through the entire gallery here.