Blanket Fort Chats: Game Making With Julie Huynh

Image courtesy of Julie Huynh
Image courtesy of Julie Huynh

Blanket Fort Chats” is a semi-regular column featuring women and nonbinary game makers talking about the craft of making games. In this week’s post, we feature Julie Huynh, an artist and interaction designer specializing in play and virtual spaces. Her work aims to make playful spaces using technology to create another level of interaction for users.

Miss N: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into making games?

Julie: When I was seven, I made a Monopoly-like board game with a KeroKeroppi (the frog from Sanrio) theme. I grew up in Sonoma County, California and I studied Studio Art and English during my undergrad at UC Santa Barbara, originally wanting to be an artist/writer or work in advertising. However, during my final year, I experimented with projected animations on my abstract landscape paintings and I haven’t turned back from art and technology since.

While I was working and looking for a graduate program, Parsons was the only design and technology program I applied to. All the other applications were for animation schools. So, instead of waiting on the waiting list for USC’s animation program, I decided to try out Parsons—known for their art and design interdisciplinary academics. I’ve played video games through my childhood growing up with console systems, and my favorites were puzzle, fighting, and adventure games. However, it wasn’t until graduate school through great teachers such as Kyle Li, Nick Fortugno, and Robert Yang that all those years of video games could direct me into telling stories through games.

Miss N: Can you describe your earliest memory of playing games?

Julie: The original NES 1985 edition. I think later that year my dad went to Japan and came back with 100 in one games, I was so stoked. Our original NES set also came with the original Mario and Duck Hunt with the zapper. I also got my first Game Boy a few years later, and still have it.

Shooting games stuck out because I felt so immersed playing Duck Hunt, Wild Gunman, and then Time Crisis.

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Blanket Fort Chats: Game Making With Hyacinth Nil

Hyacinth Nil
Image courtesy of Hyacinth Nil

Blanket Fort Chats” is a semi-regular column featuring women and nonbinary game makers talking about the craft of making games. In this week’s post, we feature Hyacinth Nil, a game designer, sound engineer, storyteller, and educator. They like using play as a way of exploring odd or unnerving bits of human experience, illustrating absurdity, and creating weird and multifaceted narratives. Hyacinth is genderqueer and neurodivergent and is most recently known for a narrative game called _transfer as well as a podcast about gender variance called Not Safe For Work.

Miss N: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into making games?

Hyacinth: I’ve been interested in a huge array of different things for as long as I can remember—games chief among them. However, I had a lot of folks tell me that games weren’t really something to pursue as a career while I was growing up.

I ended up getting a degree in applied psychology with a sort of split focus in human computer interaction-type study and gender therapy-related study, two things that would really inform my work later on. It turns out, though, that getting a job as a therapist is also particularly difficult and I wasn’t having a great deal of luck with it. I then went through a pretty bad breakup and thought, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to become a game developer.”

I have always made games, starting with terrible tabletop role-playing games, then moving to bad tiny digital artifacts and whatnot. But in those few weeks, I decided to knuckle down and try to learn the craft for real. I eventually got a master’s degree in educational game design from NYU because I also had been teaching for a while and wanted a way to integrate education and game design in a way that creates powerful contexts for learning. Additionally, though, I like to make odd little games about queerness and identity and possible futures in my spare time.

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Blanket Fort Chats: Game Making With Lauren Careccia

Image courtesy of Lauren Careccia
Image courtesy of Lauren Careccia

Blanket Fort Chats” is a weekly column featuring women and nonbinary game makers talking about the craft of making games. In this week’s post, we feature Lauren Careccia, an economy designer at Big Fish Games, having just moved there after spending five years at Disney working on games like Pixie Hollow, Club Penguin, and Inside Out: Thought Bubbles. While work is her excuse to continue her ongoing love affair with Excel, her free time is spent playing and exploring the design of narratives in games.

Miss N: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into making games?

Lauren: I’ve been “That Nerd” ever since I picked up my first Pokémon game in fifth grade. You know the type—the kind of nerd who’s so obsessed with games (and anime, in my case) that it’s their only means of relating to and engaging with others. I still send apologies to my high school friends for wasting our 85-minute free periods together trying to explain the entire plot of the Xenosaga series, completely oblivious to their eyes glazing over.

Thankfully, I eventually grew out of that phase, but not before deciding that I was going to study game design in college. And that’s how I ended up in USC’s Interactive Media program.

Miss N: Can you describe your earliest memory of playing games?

Lauren: My earliest memory of games was watching my older brother play Myst—not that toddler!me had any idea what was going on. I specifically remember the sunken ship, but not much else.

However, my first memory of playing games is when I beat Bonk’s Adventure on the TurboGrafx-16. I remember being enthralled by Princess Za of Moonland (keep in mind I was four), planting the seeds of a love of royalty and space that eventually blossomed into a Sailor Moon obsession.

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Blanket Fort Chats: Game Making With Noeul Kang

Image courtesy of Noeul Kang
Image courtesy of Noeul Kang

[Trigger warning: mentions of death and drug use.]

Blanket Fort Chats” is a weekly column featuring women and nonbinary game makers talking about the craft of making games. In this week’s post, we feature Noeul Kang, a Montreal-based designer known for The Bad Cat Trip. She enjoys the simple pleasures of life: silence, being alone, movies, old mangas, TV shows, debates, UFC, anthropomorphic animals/stuffs, relaxing, summer, and nighttime.

Miss N: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into making games?

Noeul: I like a lot of stuff, but one of the things I liked the most was doodling. So I did Illustration & Design (at Dawson College), which helped me find a passion for visual narration, colors, and world creation. I have been working non-stop since then in different industries in the arts and was feeling stifled at work and bored by the dull, corporate limitations.

Around the same time, I felt I needed to find a path that suited me better as my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This was distressing, to say the least, and I was trying to find a way to occupy myself. I have been a gamer since a very young age (I think first, Nintendo) and was looking to learn something new.

So I then applied to an awesome game making workshop organized by Pixelles (amazing people) and found out I was accepted. The goal of the workshop was to help and mentor the participants through the creation of their very first game. I learned a lot with the workshops and it kind of made me feel a new sense of wonder and boosted my creativity. So I participated diligently and designed and finished making The Bad Cat Trip. I loved it and would like to stay in the game industry.

Miss N: What’s your earliest memory of playing games?

Noeul: Duck Hunt. Paperboy. BurgerTime. ‘Nuff said. Haha no, for real. Best first games ever. It’s like future FPS, RPG/adventure, and the weird surreal games. I always played games, mostly consoles. I grew up in a city that had like three channels on TV and stuff, so gaming on consoles was an important activity. My first memories are really, really fun ones, obviously.

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Blanket Fort Chats: Game Making With Lea Albaugh

Image courtesy of Lea Albaugh
Image courtesy of Lea Albaugh

Blanket Fort Chats” is a weekly column featuring women and nonbinary game makers talking about the craft of making games. In this week’s post, we feature Lea Albaugh, a research associate at Disney Research and most recently known for Threadsteading and Secret Agent Party. She designs and implements (“makes”) human interactions with the created environment (“things”) in a variety of virtual and physical media.

Miss N: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into making games?

Lea: I was a movies and special effects nerd as a kid, a theatre technician in high school (with particular emphasis on props and sets), and an architecture major in college. Alongside those conceptual interests in placemaking and design fictions, I’ve practiced a variety of physical making skills: notably sewing, but also woodworking, small metalwork, moldmaking, etc.

I played some interactive fiction (IF) in high school and college because turn-based games are just about my speed, and I loved the spatial exploration and environmental storytelling of genre parser IF. It turns out that the Internet IF community is full of folks who are at least as excited about writing new IF as playing existing games, so I spent a lonely Thanksgiving break learning Inform 6. Then, full of enthusiasm for the medium, I put together this thing that spring and learned Inform 7 in order to put together an IFComp game that fall.

Around that time, I was also learning Processing/Arduino for various school projects, and I learned a couple of other little systems (Flixel and Ren’Py) in the context of game jamming with my more computer science-y friends. And eventually “games” became a form that I was reasonably confident about working in, just like dresses or chairs or whatever.

Miss N: What’s your earliest memory of playing games?

Lea: My father worked in the arcade game industry, so I have fond memories of playing Gauntlet and Klax at a young enough age where I needed to stand on a chair to reach the joystick. I particularly liked Rampart because my comparative finesse at the wall-building stage meant that it was one of the few where I could hold my own against my older brother even though his cannon aim was better than mine.

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