(featured image from Orun. art credit: Julio Rocha)
I met local game deb Nell Raban at a meetup of game writers in downtown Chicago. We hit it off talking about the industry and what we love and wish would improve. It’s always fun to commiserate with other game writers. She has an impressive work ethic and lots of ideas. I want to thank her for taking the time to share her story.
Rebecca Rothschild: What drew you into the world of game development?
Nell Raban: I’ve been playing games on and off my whole life, but it never occurred to me that it could be a job. I ended up pursuing theatre, but burned out after a while. I’d been doing the day job and moonlighting thing in Chicago for a while when I realized my heart was in it anymore. One of my roommates at the time had an Xbox 360, and long story short I fell back in love with video games—the Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect games especially.
NR: I think I just have a lot of experience that speaks to adaptability, the willingness to push past “no” and the drive to do my best, no matter what I’m doing. And if I’m going to make something, either alone or with other people, I will find ways to make it the best thing and something everyone can be proud of. I think my theatre background helps a lot—there’s a work ethic you learn doing theatre, as well as empathy and creative rigor that you learn. And I like to think I’m really good at listening to people when they need to say something. Those kind of soft skills are just as important as the nuts and bolts, I think.
NR: I mentioned earlier that I’d attended GDC, which was a really encouraging and demystifying experience for me. But I just got back from a tabletop game design convention in New Jersey called Metatopia. In addition to being a really good working convention—like, it’s mostly playtests and panels as opposed to fan stuff—I found my people there, really. When you’re like one of very few women or people of color, maybe the only trans person (and yeah I tick all those boxes) in a given space, it’s easy to feel like you’re alone, even when you’re surrounded by people. The online community is great and has introduced me to a lot of my ilk, but getting to meet them in person and to talk about what matters to us and to cheer each other on has been a huge boon. I also got feedback on one of my projects, but that ended up being secondary to the other thing.
NR: Right now I’m on the writing team for Orun by New Agenda Publishing. It’s a science fiction space opera roleplaying game that’s heavily inspired by African, particularly Yoruba, culture. The Kickstarter is still going strong. We funded on the first day, which is amazing, and continue to hit stretch goals, but watch out for more before the campaign wraps up on November 16th.