I realize it's been the season of announcements here at Brunette Games, but I've got another one for ya, and it's a really good one.
Let it be known that Elisa Mader has joined the team as a writer/designer. I first met this talented woman when I worked with her significant other at Cat Daddy Games nearly a decade ago. Back then, Elisa was beloved by her coworkers in the banking industry, but she was looking for ways to defect to games. Since I'd taken a turn as an editor with a financial services firm in the past, I got where she was coming from. And I also understood how exacting financial services can be. I knew she'd be a crackerjack editor, so when I was in a position to hire freelancers at Big Fish, I brought her into the fold.
I've been her unofficial mentor ever since, and it's been awesome getting to see Elisa rack up experience points across her five years in games. She recently finished a stint at AAA studio Bungie, working on Destiny 2. Which is way more impressive to my brothers and most other hardcore gamers than anything in my strictly-casual background, so there you go.
Among other projects, Elisa will be pitching in on Survivors: The Quest, ensuring that we don't go stale on a title I've been designing and writing for two years and seven locations, including an alien crash-landing, jungle insurgents, a case of parallel dimension twins, and a volcanic vortex. I can't wait to see where she goes from there!
You can read Elisa's bio on our LLC page, but here are some questions I asked her to answer for you, by way of introduction.
How would you describe your writing voice--in games and elsewhere?
It's always slightly ironic, and I sometimes manage to keep the alliteration and wordplay in check (but not always).
I love banter between characters. I start by imagining my characters as real people, even creating character sheets with little details about their back stories (nanny turned cyberpunk hero!) and oddball obsessions (robots! an irrational hatred for chocolate!) that may never see the light of day. Then, with these personalities clear in my mind, I let them play off one another in situations ranging from the banal (where shall we put this lamp?) to the outlandish (why is my poetry bot trying to take over the world?). The quirkier, the better!
I also like parentheses.
What's your favorite game story, and why?
Must I choose just one? I played the heck out of Diablo II back in the day, and it remains a model of an epic linear story that built and built and built in excitement. Its fantasy setting felt large, wondrous, and worthy of exploration. My interactions with Deckard Cain convinced me I was unraveling a great mystery, yet smaller quests for ordinary people reminded me what I was fighting for. The saving-the-world scenario can be overdone, but this was the first time I saved the world!
To turn that question on its head, though, I have a special love for games that let me imagine my own story as I go: the Civilization games, Stardew Valley, Subnautica.
But if we're talking about a game story I wish I'd written, there's Until Dawn. So. Many. Choices.
What drew you to game writing?
It was a slippery slope from editing! And it was more or less a precipice after my first experience writing for a game, crafting some branching dialogues and Shadowland BBS posts for Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun: Hong Kong.
My job was to flesh out an already robust and fascinating world in a futuristic, cyberpunk Hong Kong, and I set about asking myself, "What ground isn't being covered by the main campaign and missions? Let me tell those stories."
So I wrote long, meandering dialogues inspired by real life sources: Filipinos I'd seen in Hong Kong (I'm half Filipina, holla), Craig's List, poetry slams.
Then the developers at Harebrained told me, "Yeah, you've got to make all of that much shorter."
But that's where the collaborative magic happened: when we cut up my ideas, they became more playable. Punchier. Richer with Shadowrun lore and Easter eggs that others added. Game writing isn't a solitary endeavor, but I feel like my best work is both very much mine and the product of interactions that I can only call galvanizing.
What advice do you have for someone just starting out in the industry?
Do the thing. Apply for the gig. Write for yourself when you don't get the gig. Talk to people and convince them that you can do a gig when they hadn't planned for one. Seriously.
There's no reason I should have found a niche in gaming. I'm an introverted woman of color with a background as an academic (French medievalist! Holla?) and a paper-shuffling real estate analyst. But the video game industry embraces all kinds of backgrounds. You can become a huge success without formal education, if you can prove you can do the job. I worked hard and I played well with others, though I failed plenty lots. But I believed that my weirdo background and my chops could make games better, so I kept doing the thing.
And now I get to share my stories with the world.
Join me in welcoming Elisa to the team with some supportive words below, especially if it's not about her hair.