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Announcement: The Brunette Games Team

 

Shadows-265295_1280
There are 3 of us now, and we cast loooong shadows.

As many of you know, I've been busier than a hive drone for quite a while now as a number of career opportunities surfaced for me all at the same time. The good news is, now I have help, in the form of two super-talented students I had the pleasure of teaching this past year when I served as visiting professor at Webster University.

Tamsen and Dexter were two of my best students, and I'm over-the-moon excited to see what they can do with real-life game projects. 

With the new recruits, I also took the opportunity to articulate our unique standing in the industry. Here's the new "What We Do" statement:

We are specialists in narrative games. 

The Brunette Games team is passionate about story, and we love our stories best when they are interactive, when the person experiencing the story is not doing so passively but actively, interactively, as part of the story. A player is different from a reader. Players can shape their own characters and make decisions that affect how the story goes—and how it ends. Players want to solve problems, complete challenges. They want to win.

We are wordsmiths with a nerdy bent for logic, poets with pocket protectors, storytellers who know better than to let text get in the way of the game. We play a lot of games and read a lot of books. We also read a lot of games and play some books. We’re a rare breed in this industry and in the world, and that’s part of why we’re in demand and growing. The other reason is because we’re very good at what we do—some say the best.

We have design and writing expertise in the following genres: 

  • Interactive and visual novels
  • Chat fiction
  • Choose-your-own-adventure stories
  • Hidden-object puzzle adventures
  • Narrative match-3 builders and puzzlers
  • Narrative resource management
  • Hybrids of any of the above
  • Retail and party games

While our current focus is on mobile games, we also have experience on console and PC titles.

And here's an introduction to the new team members. They'll be joining me here on the blog, too, so stay tuned!

Tamsen_Reed_headshot

Junior Writer/Designer Tamsen Reed is studying for the BA in Games and Game Design at Webster University, with plans to graduate in spring 2019. Through her course work, including Brunette’s classes in narrative design and world design, she has written video-game scripts and game text as well as scripts for TV/film and radio/podcasts. She’s currently developing her skills in visual scripting and 3D modeling.

Reed has a near-perfect GPA and has consistently made the Dean’s List. Prior to joining the team at Brunette Games, her real-world experience included office management, events coordination, and ticket management for Harbor Duck Adventures. 

Dexter Woltman headshot

Junior Writer/Designer Dexter Woltman is currently a senior pursuing a degree in Scriptwriting at Webster University. He also has a near-perfect GPA and ongoing standing on the Dean's List. Through his coursework, he has written scripts for television, film, newscasts, radio, commercials, and games, particularly through Brunette’s game design and narrative design courses. 

Woltman is also currently interning with Coolfire Studios and has had real-world experience with event coordinating, client dealings, and production development, especially through previous employment at REM SouthCentral Services and at Escape St. Louis, which provides in-person escape-room games.

Join me in welcoming them to the team!

 


Insect Week at the Dragon Flower Mini-Farm

 

Grasshopper on mailbox
Is it trying to intercept our mail?

Those of you who follow me on Instagram probably noticed a recent obsession with insects. One of the great things about being back in the Midwest is that there seem to be more of them here. It was actually something my husband Anthony and I thought about when we contemplated moving to St. Louis in 2017: The bugs. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we certainly didn't miss mosquitoes. Or chiggers.

But butterflies are something else. Not that there aren't any in the PNW; there just aren't as many, or at least it seems that way to me (it's probably all the rain and cool weather). Above all, I missed that most royal of lepidoptera: the monarch. Missouri is prime monarch breeding territory, where new caterpillars gorge themselves until they turn into the gorgeous, black-vein-and-orange butterflies recognized everywhere. After that, they fly to one small forest in Mexico, a 2,000-mile journey, to overwinter, a feat made even more amazing by the fact that they've never been there before. The trip the previous year was made by their kin five generations ago.

I have fond memories of hiking at the Shaw Nature Reserve and getting dive-bombed by swarms of monarchs, and their lookalikes, viceroys. While twenty years later I have yet to experience that again, the butterflies I'm seeing while hiking and just hanging out in my yard are a truly happy sight.

 

Monarch on flower
Monarch on native bee balm at the Powder Valley Nature Reserve.

There's a Butterfly House here in Missouri, a colorful museum/info center/tribute to the lepidoptera, and perhaps more importantly, there are huge campaigns to bring back their waning food sources, the vast prairies lost to agriculture and development. Prairies here used to cover a territory the size of California, but they've been reduced by 96%. Which means that the very beings we rely on for our own food source - without pollinators, our crops won't grow - are getting starved out.

Sorry to be a downer... But now you see why the Dragon Flower Mini-Farm is so important (don't know what this mini-farm biz is? See here.) We're working up a plan to remove invasives that do little to help the ecosystem butterflies and other pollinators thrive in. We also want to include native plants in our revamp of this overgrown lot of boring, ecologically suspect grass and outdated ornamentals. 

That's why Anthony and I spent a recent Sunday afternoon with two people from the St. Louis Audubon Society, who answered our questions and shared their expertise with us. Through a totally awesome program called "Bring Conservation Home," they are giving our yard an assessment, with recommendations to make it more friendly to pollinators and other critters.

 

Praying mantis on window
OMG, this showed up in our WINDOW. Chaco the cat went berzerk.

When we nerd out on something, WE REALLY NERD OUT ON IT. So when our Audubon folks showed up, we met them with a list of questions and a paper copy of our property survey with some of the preliminary design sketched out. (I know, right? Overachieving even in the hobbies.)

It's a good thing I took notes, because some of what I thought about the yard turned out to be totally wrong. I'd been pulling out native milkweed, which monarchs LOVE, and tenderly making room for a white clematis that while lovely, acts like an invasive thug here in Missouri. It's not entirely my fault; some of the misinformation actually came from fence and landscaping contractors who bid on projects.

But one of the things our Audubon experts talked about was that insects should be welcome in a yard, not just pollinators, but other beneficials as well, from spiders to lacewings. A diverse crop of such insects is a sign of health.

When we moved in last fall, there were ladybugs everywhere. And this spring, when I saw the first firefly wink on at dusk, I knew I was home.

Want to read more on the butterfly theme? Check out my poem published by Town Creek Poetry, "Requiem for Lepidoptera."

All photos/video mine. Sources for some of the above knowledge bombs that I read and got stuck in my head: pamphlets/web sites/exhibits published and curated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, St. Louis Audubon Society, and the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center.

 


Women in Games, Story in Games: Two Videos

PixelPop
Image source: @Wallstormer

Those of you who saw the buildup (part 1, part 2) and recap posts know all about PixelPop 2018, the highlight of the summer for many a game developer. I spoke on a panel discussion on women in games - one of the best treatments on this topic of the many I've taken part in. I also delivered a presentation on game storytelling, the official debut of the acronym "CMC," for the three main elements of game storytelling, as I see it: 

  1. Conflict
  2. Mystery
  3. Connection

If you wanted to come to my PixelPop talks and couldn't, never fear. You can watch both on video right here! Catch me now before I trademark CMC, and it all goes into the vault. (Kidding... I think.)

Conference Presentation

Panel Discussion

Hungry for more? Watch other videos here.

Correction: At the beginning of my presentation, I mentioned Cesar Chavez but meant to say Hugo Chavez. I seem to have a habit of flubbing a bit in the beginning of a presentation... until I get my footing, and then it's relatively smooth sailing after that. While I've done a lot of public speaking, especially for an introvert, I still get wildly nervous at the beginning of every talk.