Welcome to Dames Who Make Games, Gamerwife’s interview series with the lovely ladies who make our video games. Whether you’re a QA tester or a company VP, we want to hear what you have to say. And remember to click “Continue reading” for the whole story.
I met this month’s Dames Who Make Games interviewee, Elize M., a games writer here in Montreal, at this year’s IGDA Summer Social, where we were rather mortified to learn that we’d actually interviewed for the same job. Any jealousy I might have had towards her was quickly dismissed by learning what a truly cool, smart and accomplished chick she is. I’m so glad she agreed to share her thoughts with all of you.
Gamerwife: Where did you go to school and what did you study?Let’s start at the beginning, what was the first game you ever played?
Elize: The very first game I remember playing was the original Legend of Zelda. I remember playing it with my parents way back when it first came out – and making the maps on paper because this was a time… before the Internet. The time before the tubes – and GameFAQs.
GW: What made you decide on a career in games?
Elize: My background is in TV, so games became a natural next step as I fell further and further down a digital sinkhole. It was that which lead me to working on the digital side of TV. I created two digital series and then worked on what the government likes to call “convergent” properties (and the rest of us just call “stuff on the Internet”). I found that I liked it, and more and more often that became games that I was writing – which lead me to working full time as a writer in games.
I earned a MA in Communication Studies at Brock University – did the literature world, which is a great background for writing. After that I went to CFC, where I studied TV writing, which was an even better background for writing. Basically, I learned that you can learn to write without going to school. It was an expensive lesson.
GW: What are the best/worst things about working in video games?
Elize: One of the best things about working in gaming is working with the team – other designers and artists who help to bring the world to life. They often come at problems in an entirely different angle – making the game even better. It can also cause some brilliant arguments – which also help to make the game better. So often working as a writer is a solitary affair – working with the team makes it a way to work with a lot of people to get a great experience overall.
The worst thing, for almost any industry across games or TV or film, is having a project ended early because of the “market”. It’s obviously understandable, but it can be frustrating when you’re working on the Best Thing Ever™ and because some other company bombs with The Best Thing Ever Done The Worst Way™ a project gets scrapped.
GW: Did you find it difficult to get your foot in the door in the industry?
Elize: It wasn’t exactly difficult. It was more of a slow and steady build. It wasn’t a quick jump into the industry with full time contracts – but the nice thing is that gaming is fairly transparent with their job postings, so there’s an easy enough way to apply for jobs.
GW: Have you ever had issues with harassment or discrimination as a women in video games?
Elize: I’ve not had issues with harassment or discrimination as a woman in games. But I know I’ve been lucky in that regard. That said, in my experience it can still be difficult to get female characters out of “trope” land (in any form of media, not just gaming), or to explain that no, for reals, women don’t react with Special-Bosom-Heaving-Action at every turn and motion – sometimes they can be just, y’know, people.
GW: What advice do you have for other women who want to be involved in game development?
Elize: Network. Make your own games or digital content. If you’re not able to code – there’s programs like Twine that let you make text-based games easily. Write a spec or some interactive fiction. Above all else – network at events and ask people for coffee to learn as much as you can from blogs and interviews. Then make another game. Also, play video games. There’s lots of people I know who want to break into industries who aren’t playing games or checking into the big new games – check out games you wouldn’t normally pick up.
GW: What games are you playing right now?
Elize: I just finished Bravely Default and Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies. I am looking forward to playing Valiant Hearts next. I also have an addiction to Civilization V that I’m sure Civilization: Beyond Earth will definitely heal.
Elize is the head writer at Hibernum Creations in beautiful Montreal. She is also the founder of Alpaca Vs. Llama, a production & writing company that works with the TV and video game industries. Notable projects include the ISIS Career Placement Test app for Teletoon at Night and development story editing on Orphan Black.