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Brunette Games Team Anniversaries

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Writer/Editor Amanda VanNierop, sporting her BG polo.

This spring's been an exciting time for us here at Brunette Games, with a slew of anniversaries across the team.

Amanda VanNierop, who joined Brunette Games just before COVID came to the Midwest last year, celebrated her one-year anniversary with us this February. It's been quite a year for Amanda, as she juggled her classes at Saint Louis University and many a Brunette Games project during shifting, uncertain times. She's had the enviable opportunity to write for such high-profile titles as Disney Frozen Adventures and Ava's Manor, with a total of seven released titles in her year on the job so far. She now has the polo shirt to prove it, but really, she's been a true team player all along. 

While during the school year, Amanda scales back to half-time, this summer she'll be dedicated to Brunette Games full-time. We look forward to having her around more often!

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Here in the BG jacket is Dexter Woltman, writer/designer I.

Hitting his magical three-year anniversary is Dexter Woltman, who joined Brunette Games in 2018. He's put his BA in Scriptwriting to great use as the main writer on Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, and his list of more than a dozen credits on released titles also includes such noteworthy games as Sweet Escapes, Homicide Squad: New York Stories, and Ava's Manor. Known for his meta jokes and simple, effective solutions, Dexter brings a fresh writing voice and quirky perspective to our clients' games. He's more than earned his BG jacket!

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Also receiving the "three-year jacket" is Anthony Valterra, business director/lead writer.

Also ringing in his third year with us is veteran brand guru Anthony Valterra. When he's not fielding prospective client calls or seeking out new opportunities as our business director, he pitches in as lead writer on a dozen released titles and counting. His wry sensibility can be found in such games as Sweet Escapes, Survivors: The Quest, and Ava's Manor. He came to us with extensive experience with high-profile tabletop brands (Dungeons & Dragons, Avalon Hill, and others) but has claimed mobile games as his new home, as cozy for him as his new BG jacket.

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Founder Lisa Brunette, showing off her award for five years of excellence at the helm of BG.

As Brunette Games officially turned five this spring, founder Lisa Brunette celebrated her fifth year at the helm. The team surprised her with an award for "Five Years of Excellence," a sweet glass sculpture as pictured above. Since going independent in 2016, Lisa's written and designed more than two dozen released titles, including chart-topping hits Matchington Mansion and Lily's Garden in addition to Disney Frozen Adventures, Choices: Veil of Secrets, and many others. As the team grows, encouraging their talents and development has become her primary focus, as well as pushing Brunette Games into new areas of innovation and insight.

Join us in congratulating the team on their anniversaries. We look forward to what the next five years will bring!


Meet the Team, Part 2: Our 5 Writer / Designers

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When Jenna says we’re writers, what she really means is we’re laptop jockeys!

Our core team consists of five people with the experience, skill, and training to both write and design games, whether that means coming up with the plan for each game scene's environmental art, designing a game narrative arc across several seasons, devising new characters, or writing character dialogue, tutorial messages, and other in-game text. We straddle the lines between creative and analytical as we draft hilarious jokes while designing a choice-based matrix or a statistics system. All of us have or are working toward degrees in writing or the humanities, three of the five hold master's degrees, and two of those are specifically in writing. We hope you like our stories.

Jenna Faulkner (above) is a welcome new face to the writing team at Brunette Games. With extensive experience in tutoring, flash fiction, literary journals, and news copy, Jenna joins us with a wide array of writing skills, not to mention a Master of Fine Arts in Writing. In her recent time here, she’s already taken the reins on hot titles such as client G5’s Homicide Squad: New York Stories and Crime Mysteries: Find Objects, as well as several unannounced games. When Jenna’s not breathing new life into Brunette Games, she’s breathing it into the natural world with her plants. While violets, cacti, and kalanchoe are her favorites, she’s hoping to dig her green thumb into a tree someday!

Fun Fact: Jenna once brought an African violet back to life after it had been completely dead for over a month. It's now her longest-living plant, at six years old.

What Jenna Loves About Writing and Designing Games

Being able to work on a project from the beginning of its development and fleshing it out completely in terms of character and plot can be really rewarding. Oh, and commas! There’s nothing I love more than transforming a sentence with a singular comma. That piece of punctuation can save lives!

Read Jenna Faulkner's bio.

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Amanda captures a year of working and studying through Zoom!

A rising star, Amanda VanNierop joined Brunette Games exactly one year ago and manages an often near-full-time workload while simultaneously attending Saint Louis University. She’s already racked up impressive credits on Disney Frozen Adventures, Crime Mysteries: Find Objects, Homicide Squad: New York Stories, Ava's Manor: A Solitaire Story, and more. Outside of hitting the books or writing for your favorite games, Amanda swings blades in the Saint Louis University fencing team. Trained in four weapons - the foil, épée, sabre, and small sword - Amanda is an avid fencer. When she’s not stabbing people for fun, she’s usually reading, writing, or watching movies.

Fun Fact: Amanda took a gap year after graduating high school to live in Germany as an au pair. Not only did she save money for school, but she got to see the sights traveling through Europe.

What Amanda Loves About Writing and Designing Games

My favorite thing about writing is creating a voice, both as an author and for your characters. When it comes to writing for mobile games, I love the process of seeing a story come to life. Every time we work on a pitch for a client, there's a possibility we're creating the next Matchington Mansion or Lily's Garden - and I find that possibility to be such an exciting part of the process.

Read Amanda VanNierop's bio.

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Dexter faces the workday with his personal assistant.

Dexter Woltman is a passionate writer whose history with Brunette Games began in 2018, when Lisa contracted with him after he attended her game design classes at Webster University. In his three years with the company, he's racked up an impressive list of credits on 15 titles and counting, bringing a fresh perspective to our work in casual games. His secret is he often holds his mother in mind as a representative player when writing and designing for the female 30+ audience. He's also a huge personal fan of Betty White, and her off-beat sensibility influences his comedic writing a great deal.

A representational face for the studio, Dexter attends a variety of events and conferences - or at least he did, pre-COVID-19. When he isn’t working on various hit titles such as Sweet Escapes, Ava's Manor: A Solitaire Story, or Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, he’s nerding it up in Dungeons & Dragons and rewatching all the greatest superhero films for the fourth time… this year.

Fun Fact: Dexter used to host storied week-long games of tag. Players had Nerf blasters, and if they got tagged, they became a zombie! If the narrative and characters he made for the game weren’t goofy enough, the costumes sure were.

What Dexter Loves About Writing and Designing Games

You get to challenge yourself with a variety of themes, storylines, audiences, and genres. When you can take an engaging world and make it your own, you know you’ve done a good job. To top it off, humor is my specialty, and never has a field given me so many opportunities to capitalize on dad jokes and puns.

Read Dexter Woltman's bio.

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Anthony has words with his guru and muse.

Anthony Valterra brought to Brunette Games decades of experience across tabletop, publishing, and brand management - to name a few! That makes Anthony Brunette Games’ go-to man for bringing in new and exciting work, as well as frequently pitching in as a writer and creative consultant on our game projects and coordinating the VO team. He has designed and written for G5's Survivors: The Quest, Redemption Games' Sweet Escapes, and Jam City's Wild Things: Animal Adventures, Vineyard Valley, Disney Frozen Adventures, as well as several unannounced titles. He also consulted on Ava's Manor: A Solitaire Story, for Uken/Mighty Kingdom.

He earned a degree in religious studies many moons ago, but Anthony is still fascinated by the variety of religious experiences in the world - both sacred and secular. He holds a deep fondness for traditional board, RPG, and card games.

Fun Fact: Anthony once owned a Black Lotus Magic™ card and sold it for $50. He thought it was a ridiculous price and figured he was selling it at the top of the market. Recently, the Black Lotus card was priced for $166,100 at auction!

What Anthony Loves About Writing and Designing Games

I love creating events, characters, and places. I like trying to say something through the story. Writing is the best way for human beings to communicate across vast periods of time.

Read Anthony Valterra's bio.

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Lisa lives the fantasy through artwork commissioned by a Magic: The Gathering illustrator. And now you can see, she used to be a literal brunette!

Lisa Brunette is Brunette Games’ owner and founder. She's effectively our CEO, though she doesn't use that title, and she not only steers the company's strategic mission but manages client relationships and directs the core creative team as well. Lisa's also actively involved in writing and designing herself, with recent work on several unannounced titles and for Ava's Manor: A Solitaire Story, Disney Frozen Adventures, Pride & Prejudice Solitaire, Tiles & Tales, and more.

Having designed and written narratives for multiple chart-topping games such as Matchington Mansion and Lily’s Garden, she leads the charge with 13 years' experience in games and 15 years prior in authorship and journalism. Even now, she can’t seem to turn off the need to write non-fiction outside of her daily work creating fictional worlds. Her side outlet is the lifestyle blog Cat in the Flock. That writing often dovetails with our work at Brunette Games, in the areas of gardening and home decorating.

Lisa also has an exciting background with Anthony Valterra. Though she is the owner of Brunette Games and Anthony is an employee, the two are legally married, turning our studio into a real mom-and-pop shop! They make it work, trust me.

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Lisa and Anthony—the king and queen of games!

Fun Fact: Lisa’s first job in the game industry was writing dialogue for a fashion journalist character in the Nintendo DS game Style Savvy. Tiffany was from the South and liked to call the player “sweet tea.” If the journalist character wasn’t coincidence enough, Lisa had also previously launched a fashion lifestyle section for the Seattle website Crosscut.com.

What Lisa Loves About Writing and Designing Games

It’s the perfect mesh of creative and analytical. You’re not just writing a story; you’re writing a story that supports the joy and challenge of playing a game. How to integrate narrative and gameplay is the question that most inspires both my writing and game design. For me, the two are inseparable.

Read Lisa Brunette's bio.

We hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into the lives of our team of writer/designers. We look forward to more exciting new releases in 2021!

 


'Power of Storytelling in Blockbuster Casual Games' - A Data-Driven Collaboration with Om Tandon

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Brunette Games Founder Lisa Brunette recently co-authored an article with popular industry analyst Om Tandon of UX Reviewer on the subject of why and how narrative fuels the rise of many blockbuster casual mobile games. "Power of storytelling in blockbuster casual games" is part of a series in which Om takes a deep dive into what makes top tier games in this space tick. In part 1, Om looked at how to crack the match-3 code, part 2 featured an interview with the Playrix team behind the Gardenscapes and Homescapes phenomenon, and here in part 3, Om interviews Lisa.

You can read the full article at GameRefinery, but here's an excerpt:

It's like the old saying goes: Trying to design a major hit game is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. If there were one sure formula, everyone would have a hit, right? While many ingredients make a game popular with players - from a well-designed match-3 puzzle to the right blend of customization and progression pacing in the decorating element - it's our opinion at Brunette Games that a quality story is key.

With so many match-3 games on the market, and so many decorating games as well, story could be one of the key distinguishing factors you have at your disposal.