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From Geek to Geekle: Presenting on Humor

Dexter Woltman

By Dexter Woltman

I always considered myself a geek—frequently opting to showcase my Star Wars or LEGO collections over fitting in with my peers. So, when a company named Geekle reached out to Brunette Games to present at an upcoming event, I knew I had to say yes. Over the week of August 31st, Geekle hosted an online Game Development Global Summit. Experts in game design came together to give valuable insight into the industry.

I had the honor of taking part in the Global Summit. At Brunette Games, I developed a growing expertise in writing humor for the casual game market. I decided to share these skills with the world by presenting how humor can bridge a player's investment in the game they're playing. The official abstract of my presentation:

At Brunette Games, we’ve always believed in three pillars of game storytelling: conflict, mystery, and connection. While there are various forms of connection, one of its cores is the emotional investment players form with the characters and story in a game. One way to bridge this connection is through the use of humor. This talk includes:

- How humor is essential to certain genres.
- How to write effective humor.
- How to use humor to bridge the pillars of storytelling.

To see my presentation for yourself, check out the YouTube link below!

 


Brunette Games Celebrates Five Years in Business

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It's been a wild, wicked, and sometimes, a bit of a wacky road, but this spring, we hit the five-year mark at Brunette Games. Here's a look back at our rise to become the industry's leading casual game storytelling studio.

2021

Brunette Games celebrates its fifth anniversary now as a team of 11, with six full-time employees and five voice actors on contract. We have written and designed 21 released titles for our clients to date, including top-performing games Sweet Escapes (Redemption Games), Lily's Garden (Tactile), and Matchington Mansion (Magic Tavern), with many more unannounced titles currently in development. Our latest release title credit is Uken Games' Ava's Manor: A Solitaire Story.

This year we've also created new content for the Fox IP Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff and Family Guy: Another Freakin' Mobile Game (both Jam City), as well as the high-profile Disney Frozen Adventures (also Jam City). Included in the list is work on Homicide Squad: New York Stories and Crime Mysteries: Find Objects for G5 Entertainment, our oldest client.

And we added Writer|Designers Sara Hardin and Jenna Faulkner to our team in 2021, too. Sara's our latest hire, joining us just this week and bringing five years' experience in publishing and journalism to bear on our clients' projects. Jenna joined us at the first of the year and has already put her MFA in Creative Writing to good use on several unannounced projects. 

Ava's Manor

2020

Just as we began making plans to attend the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, COVID-19 hit our shores, putting a halt to all in-personal knowledge sharing. But along with the rest of the resilient casual games industry, we persevered, growing at a healthy rate despite all the difficulties. We even managed to squeak in a local rendition of our GDC talk before the lockdowns went into force. 

In 2020 we created new content for a few of our clients' ongoing games, such as Sweet Escapes, Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, Homicide Squad: New York Stories, and Disney Frozen Adventures. We also saw the release of new titles Jane Austen Solitaire (Super Gaming), Solitaire Tripeaks: Farm & Family (Tuyoo), and Crime Mysteries: Find Objects. And we added Writer|Editor Amanda VanNierop to our team very early in the year. As our only part-time employee, Amanda regularly amazes us all by committing her considerable brain power to our projects half-time while attending university full-time. During the summer, she gives us her full-time attention, too!

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Notably in 2020, company founder Lisa Brunette was named a 'game industry influencer' by UserWise, and she also co-authored a piece with industry analyst Om Tandon that generated a lot of buzz, "The power of storytelling in blockbuster casual games."

Last but not least in 2020's epic growth: We added three more voice actors to round out our roster of offerings: Ernest White II, star of his own PBS travel docu-series, Marqui Maresca, AKA the voice of Silver in Angry Birds Evolution, and popular Chicago actress/comedian Nicole Perez.

2019

Over a period of two years, we had the CEOs and creative heads of several mobile game publishers flying in to St. Louis to court our interest, and the last of those happened in the summer of 2019. The upshot for us was a few experiments that didn't work out but many that did, and our company grew a lot as a result. 

This year saw the shift from contract status to full-time for both Anthony Valterra, serving in capacity as both business director and lead writer|designer, and Dexter Woltman, writer|designer and employee No. 3. Dexter had joined the team while still a student and was more than ready to step into a tailor-made writing job after earning his BA in Scriptwriting from Webster University, where he met Lisa when attending her classes in Narrative Design. Dexter brought us a signature sense of humor and uncanny ability to channel his mom and sisters when writing for the female audience. Anthony, who's also Lisa's husband in real life, brought 30 years' experience to the table, including brand management for high-profile IP such as Dungeons & Dragons and Avalon Hill.

After fielding numerous client requests for voice-over services, we added two contract actors to our roster: Long-time game industry voice artist Andy Mack and the multi-talented actor, singer, and voice artist Cammie Middleton. Andy and Cammie can both be heard in Wild Things: Animal Adventures, Andy gives voice to dog Marlowe in Ava's Manor, and Cammie recorded the opening sequence for Jane Austen Solitaire.

In spring 2019, Lisa and Anthony flew to Helsinki, Finland, to work onsite with Kuuhubb on an interactive novel project, and in late fall that year, the two flew to L.A. to meet with Jam City's teams on various projects.

This year saw the release of Sweet Escapes, which we helped launch for our client Redemption Games, and we consulted on Jam City's released title Vineyard Valley. We continued to create new content for ongoing games Survivors: The Quest and Homicide Squad: New York Stories (both G5 Entertainment). But the biggest title credit for us this year was for the work Lisa did on a game called Lily's Garden

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2018

Tactile flew Lisa out to Copenhagen in spring 2018, and she continued to consult on the project until opportunity took her into building out the Brunette Games team over the option of remaining exclusively tied to one studio. The Tactile trip happened during Lisa's spring break from Webster University; she served as a visiting professor in Game Design from the fall of 2017 until spring 2018. She had every intention of staying on with the university, and they invited her to do so, but due to the commercial success of a number of games she'd had a hand in bringing to market, and the opportunity that presented, she made the choice to give up teaching to focus on building Brunette Games instead.

My Spa Resort

This year our client Cherrypick Games released My Spa Resort, Dexter's first title for us (see what we mean about channeling his mom and sisters?), and Anthony and Lisa continued to create content for G5's Survivors: The Quest and Homicide Squad: New York Stories.

While Lisa had previously done business as Sky Harbor LLC, a company she and Anthony formed together back in 2014, the name was already taken in Missouri, which prohibits two companies with the same name. After casting around for a moniker, she settled on Brunette Games, for the double entendre (and the inherent girl-power it invokes!). This time, she formed the company as its single owner.

2017

For whatever deep-seated, fantastical reasons, games seem to continuously find Lisa, as happened in early 2017, with three projects that would forge a huge new path in her career. G5 Entertainment reached out with a request to write and design for their long-running, successful title Survivors: The Quest. Marianna Shilina-Vallejo, the head of Daily Magic, a former colleague of Lisa's through their Big Fish association, invited her to collaborate on a chat fiction app. And most notably, Lisa was approached by a game designer in stealth mode to help design and write a new little title that became... Matchington Mansion

Matchington Mansion

Lisa's work on Matchington Mansion was pivotal to its success. Like a lot of the developers she'd encountered previously, the team's first inclinations toward character art and stories that would appeal to the female 35+ audience was pretty far off the mark. But together, they created a strong cast of characters and a good story that is well-integrated with the puzzle and play. She also helped them establish a number of match-3/narrative hybrid techniques that have since been endlessly copied across the breadth of casual games on the market today. And the name "Matchington Mansion"? It was a placeholder for the team, but Lisa convinced them it should be the game's actual title.

Another writing assignment Lisa secured that year was to write Pixelberry's first mystery novel for the Choices app. This became Veil of Secrets, which is widely regarded as a fan favorite.

Veil of Secrets

At this point, Lisa had an invitation to take a one-year visiting professorship in Game Design at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, her hometown. She accepted it, and she and Anthony moved their home and business to the Midwest. 

2016

In early 2016, Lisa left Big Fish Games, where she'd developed and led a team of narrative designers. Her aim was to pursue independent projects, and at first she focused on a series of mystery novels that she and Anthony had begun to publish back in late 2014 under the Sky Harbor Press imprint they created as co-owners of Sky Harbor LLC. She also authored the piece "Evolving Storytelling in Hidden-Object Games" for the Society for the Promotion of Adventure Games (SPAG) magazine, worked on a game for WG Cells, and made independent study of interactive fiction, which prepared her very well for all that would come next.

Dreamslippers

It's worth noting that back in 2013 or so, Lisa was sitting at a bar with a bunch of her Big Fish colleagues, and a writer from another company asked her if she'd ever thought about striking out on her own with a boutique game-writing studio. "I'd work for you in a heartbeat," the writer said. The idea stuck!

Thanks to all our clients for your continued faith in our ability to tell your game's stories, and to all the players out there who appreciate every word we write. You're sitting on our shoulders all the time, telling us what you want to hear.


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!