Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Nina Freeman, Game Designer at Fullbright. Read more about Nina in this interview:
Hi Nina! You are a Game Designer at Fullbright. You started working there right after finishing your studies at the NYU, all while still working on your own game, Cibele. What would you suggest to graduates who are about to finish their studies and are ready to find their first job in the games industry?
My best advice for folks still studying is to take advantage of the time you have in school to do smaller scoped projects. The most useful class I managed to take during grad school was Bennett Foddy’s prototype studio class, where we made a small game every week. This helped me hone in on my skills as a designer and programmer, while also building my portfolio. I actually made the prototype for Cibele in that class. Taking advantage of any chance to try a small thing is really smart, because it always has a chance to grow into something greater, or just teach you a skill you didn’t realize you needed.
If you have any way to turn a homework assignment into a small game you can make over a weekend, go for it. Use every short-term opportunity to make a game, or even just a prototype. Participating in game jams, especially if there are any run in your local community outside of school, is really invaluable experience. I got the job I have today at Fullbright because I tried my best to make a lot of small games as weekend projects, or as homework. I took two of these small projects to GDC and showed them at a party, which is how I met my current bosses!
So, those projects directly affected my career in that way, but they also taught me how to better scope projects, how to work with collaborators, what kinds of games I even enjoyed making. You don’t need to make a long game, or even work on a game long-term, in order to learn about these things–you just need to make a game, and release it. On a related note, you don’t need long games in your portfolio in order to make connections and get work. I have seen many people get hung up on making their masterpiece before they graduate… you definitely don’t need to. Make a lot of little things, find your voice and develop your processes before you get deep into a bigger commitment. You’ll be much better prepared this way.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far as a game developer?
In my experience, one of the biggest challenges for a game developer is their closeness to their own work. Working on games is often pretty solitary, and even small games can take a long time to build. It’s easy to get stuck in your own bubble, and to be the only person playing your game for weeks. However, games are interactive experiences, so it’s super important to get out of your bubble and talk to players. Show players your game as frequently as possible. Play testing is your most valuable resource as a game developer. It’s honestly more important than having great art, unique mechanics or optimized code… because if a player can’t understand how to interact with your game, they won’t be able to appreciate any of that stuff. So, playtest early and often. Make sure players are playing your game and understanding it in the way that you intend. If they’re not getting it, iterate on your game until your ideas come across clearly. Don’t be afraid to share prototypes or really rough builds. It will make your game a lot better in the long-run, even if it’s stressful or embarrassing in the moment. Sharing things is scary but important.
For your personal projects you are focusing on short, yet very emotionally driven experiences. What changes would you like to see in terms of storytelling in video games?
This is a hard question to answer, because I see great work being done in game storytelling all the time. The most awesome work is definitely happening in the smaller game space–games made by individuals or small groups that don’t have the backing of a huge corporation. Red Candle Games, Nathalie Lawhead and Robert Yang are all game developers whose work you should check out if you’re interested in great storytelling in games. The change I would like to see in narrative games are mostly around how we talk about and value these games. Games that are about daily life, or personal stories, are not often given the same kind of funding or attention as bigger games. I hope that we can move towards an industry where these kinds of games are valued more, and that the developers of those games are given the kind of money and attention that they deserve.
Thank you so much for your insights, Nina!
Fullbright’s Website: https://fullbrig.ht/
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke