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June 12, 2024 54 mins

Game developer and creative director of Stumbling Cat studio Renee Gittins joins us to talk about the challenges and rewards of developing an indie game like her recent game Potions: A Curious Tale and being a woman in the industry.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hey, this is Annie and Samantha. I welcome to stuff
I've never told your protective of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:18):
Today we have an amazing guest on the show. She's
a game developer and the creative director of Stumbling Cat Studios,
which she created.

Speaker 3 (00:26):
Hello. She was also Forbes a thirty Under thirty and
twenty twenty.

Speaker 2 (00:30):
I feel like I have to give that shout out
immediately because I'm like, yeah, there she goes.

Speaker 3 (00:35):
It is a Renee Gittens. Yay, welcome, Renee.

Speaker 4 (00:39):
Thank you really glad to be here.

Speaker 3 (00:41):
Can you introduce yourself to our listeners?

Speaker 4 (00:44):

Speaker 5 (00:44):
Absolutely, Hi everyone. My name is Renee Giittens. I am
a game developer. I currently run my own studio, Stumbling Cat,
and we just launched Potions, a curious tale, an adventure
crafting game. But I've done a lot in the games industry.
I volunteer for the IGDA and was previously the executive director,
and our missionists to support and empower game developers around

the world and achieving fulfilling and sustainable careers. I create
a lot of free educational content on TikTok and YouTube
to uplift the next generation of game developers, and prior
to my role leading Just my studio. I was the
general manager of Phoenix Labs Vancouver, creators of Dauntless and

Fay Farm.

Speaker 6 (01:27):

Speaker 3 (01:28):
Yeah, you have a lot under your belt.

Speaker 2 (01:31):
When I was looking through just your LinkedIn, I was like, damn,
Like this is her industry. She has been creating since
way back when you went into school for something similar
to this, obviously, Can you kind of tell us how
you got into this world?

Speaker 4 (01:48):

Speaker 5 (01:48):
You know, Actually I got in a lot later than
many of my peers because I didn't know I could
be a game developer growing up, and despite being absolutely
in love with math, I wasn't introduced to programming until college,
so I started a little late.

Speaker 4 (02:03):
So I actually went.

Speaker 5 (02:04):
To school to get an engineering degree with a focus
in mechanical engineering to become a biomechanical engineer with focus
in prosthetics. And I started my career in biotech, working
on on skin sensors for various companies. But it was
my senior of college that I learned I could be
a game developer. And I've been a gamer my whole life,

very passionately. I started playing video games at maybe four
or five, and unexpectedly it was mostly first person shooters,
at first because that's what my father was playing. So
like Wolfenstein three D, Duke Nukem three D, and then
Pokemon Yellow were my first four games. So I had
a bit of an aggressive start to video games, but

I truly fell in love with them and ended up
making cosplay, participating in forums, writing guides. But like I said,
it was only my senior of college that I met
game developer and went I can make games.

Speaker 4 (03:03):
Wait, game developers are like me.

Speaker 5 (03:04):
I can be a game developer, and so I decided
to work on changing my career trajectory from.

Speaker 3 (03:10):
There in your senior year, my senior year of college.

Speaker 4 (03:13):
Yeah, I was a little.

Speaker 3 (03:14):
Late never obviously, And honestly.

Speaker 5 (03:17):
That's one of the reasons why I'm so bigin to adcacy,
Because if I had known it was a career path
for me and been provided the tools to pursue it earlier,
like I would have been making games as a kid,
you know, a teenager, or even before if I could.
And so I want to ensure that no one else
is deprived from that opportunity of exploring a really great

potential dream for them just because they aren't aware or
don't feel like they're welcome or anything like that. Yeah,
and so I worked really hard end up breaking into
the games industry through multiple paths, and I am where
I am today.

Speaker 7 (03:52):
That is amazing. And also, you are pointing to a problem.

Speaker 1 (03:55):
Every time we talk about the gaming industry, we kind
of have to talk about that of you know, women
not seeing women, marginalized people not seeing marginalized people in
that industry, and that is something that you've been outspoken
about and that you're passionate about. Can you talk about
the experiences that you have had in the gaming industry

as part of that, and then also just maybe changes
that you've seen in it in the past few years.

Speaker 4 (04:26):

Speaker 5 (04:26):
Absolutely, So I am very lucky that I haven't experienced
much direct harassment at least from my game industry peers
and in general. Until very recently, I hadn't experienced much
harassment within the games industry and my career at all
as a woman who played video games, as a girl

who liked first person shooters, I can tell you I
was very excited to play counter Strike for the first time,
and the first time I spoke up in chat as
a twelve thirteen year old girl playing counter Strike, I
decided I didn't like online first person shooters, because that
was just, oh, that was toxic, and you know, with

my upbringing, like I wasn't a bad first person shooter player,
but it was just the sound of my voice was
enough to get really vile harassment. And I think that
that is a point where a lot of people stop
playing games, and I can't blame them for that.

Speaker 4 (05:25):
It is unpleasant.

Speaker 5 (05:26):
Throughout my history as a gamer and fan, I certainly
have received all sorts of weird death threats and stocking
and harassment, particularly when I got into cosplaying.

Speaker 4 (05:39):
That it was really big there.

Speaker 5 (05:43):
But when I started my game industry career, I found
the games industry in general to be very welcoming. Especially
indie developers are just so kind and willing to share knowledge.
The games industry might be somewhat competitive, but the way
that game developers treat each other is not in a
competitive manner. It's like we're all in this together, and

so knowledge sharing and support is all really frequent.

Speaker 4 (06:12):

Speaker 5 (06:12):
I've definitely had a few uncomfortable situations in networking events,
and more commonly, I've found that people make a lot
of assumptions based on my gender. Originally, before I became
well known in the games industry. If I was standing
next to a male near my age, I was assumed
to be a girlfriend, not a game developer, and was

like ignored in the rounds of introductions that happened a
few times. I'm a very sort of person, so I
made sure I was introduced anyway, even if I was skipped.
But again, that's one of those things where you know,
death by a thousand cuts. If you're dealing with that
while breaking into the industry, it can be really rough.
And then I've had situations where I've talked about my work,

my teams, you know, for stumbling cat on. You know,
I've said like, oh, this person's helping with art, this
person's helping with audio, this person does environment art, and
then I do everything else and the person's next question was, well,
then who does the programming.

Speaker 7 (07:12):
That's me, Like that's part of everything else.

Speaker 4 (07:15):

Speaker 2 (07:17):

Speaker 5 (07:17):
Definitely get exhumed to be an artist and such when
people meet me as well, And obviously it's it's just
their their biases, you know, they are subconscious biases, so.

Speaker 2 (07:27):
Right, and when you do tell them, yeah, it's made,
do you usually get the oh wow? Or is it like, oh, okay, yeah,
like obvious.

Speaker 4 (07:35):

Speaker 5 (07:35):
I think it's a lot of times people realize in
that moment that they had made a really poor assumption.
You know, they're just like, oh, y, yes, that's on me. Like,
of course, not everyone is self reflective, but for the
most part, in those situations, I've found people to be
a little embarrassed when they realize their mistake, right.

Speaker 6 (07:58):
I would hope.

Speaker 2 (07:59):
So, I mean at least very much acknowledged, like, yeah,
that was that was an unconscious bias that I have.
I need to learn that, which is a great lesson
at your expense. Sorry. You know, within the gaming industry
in general, especially when it comes to different especially larger
corporations that we've seen, there's been a lot of shakeups
me too. Movement has hit up some of the bigger

corporations because of this. Have you seen changes in the industry,
whether good or bad?

Speaker 5 (08:25):
Absolutely, I think the games industry is continuing to change
for the better, and it still has a long way
to go. With the rise of online digital games distribution,
you know, through Steam, the Epics Store, and even just
like through platforms, through online stores that are hosted by

Sony and Microsoft and Nintendo, it has really allowed for
a lot of smaller teams to rise up and for
there to be less weight in publishers and purely big studios,
and that has had both pros and cons. It has
allowed for like a shakeup and a broadening of the

people joining the games industry, and occasionally it has allowed
for teams where it's just a bunch of friends together
to suddenly explode in popularity and then turns out they're
like buddy buddy. Bro culture does not expand well to
a four hundred or four thousand person company, and that
can cause like some toxicity there. So the me too

movement and other advocacy efforts to call out these issues
certainly has caused a lot of intentional addressing of them.
So there are more knowledge amongst HR teams, amongst management,
there are more policies, but it's not perfect.

Speaker 4 (09:49):
It's still got always to go.

Speaker 5 (09:51):
And while the number of women identifying people are increasing
within the games industry, it's still a slow pace because
it's not just the games industry that has issues, right
Like STEMS still has issues about being welcoming to women,
and education does. Like my second grade teacher told me,

I didn't need to know more math because I.

Speaker 4 (10:13):
Was a girl.

Speaker 5 (10:16):
Beyond long division. It turns out long divisions cut off.

Speaker 7 (10:20):
I guess I had to happen to me. But it
was in high school.

Speaker 2 (10:26):
Right like second grade, excelling to be like, no, we
have to stop her. Now, she's going to be a
dangerous woman and she knows math like Terminator. But maybe
they were from the future. They're like, she's going to
own a company. We got to stop that. But you know,

I was talking about your childhood, and you kind of
mentioned the fact that as a young gamer, at first
the love was great and then you got into the
community and you're like, oh, oh oh, they're not as welcoming.
And obviously this has kind of formed how you run
your company as well as how you led as an
executive director. Have you seen good, hopefully good or worse?

I guess changes when it comes to inclusion, for whether
it's for gamers or whether it's for developers like both.

Speaker 5 (11:23):
Yeah, I mean I certainly have seen more inclusion, more
games with wider target audiences and not ones that are
reductive towards those audiences like that.

Speaker 4 (11:35):
That's often a concern of mine.

Speaker 5 (11:37):
I've also seen varying levels of toxicity I think it
sort of comes and goes in waves. I think the
things overall have been getting better, but I feel like
the pandemic and the rise of more anonymous focused engagement
platforms have caused another search of toxicity. I've seen a

lot more toxic behavior these last few years than I
think the few years before the pandemic. Now, admittedly I've
been a direct target of some of this, so I
could be biased there, but I've heard a lot of
people say in general that they feel like empathy has
gone down post pandemic and that there's there's just less
friendliness amongst society, and I certainly think that's true online.

Speaker 2 (12:24):
Yeah, you know, that's that question of like I wonder
if the people are having more time online and realize
that that trolling people is entertaining for them, and so
they've gone on full force because that's what they did
throughout the pandemic and it's just gotten worse, which you
would think they would stop, but they don't.

Speaker 6 (12:43):
Ever. That's a sidelog.

Speaker 2 (12:45):
But because we want to talk about all of that too,
Because you have developed a game hello, because I'm playing it,
but you had a lot of like bumps in the
road throughout, Can you kind of tell us first about
your game, the game, and so could lay the process
in developing this game?

Speaker 4 (13:02):
Yeah, absolutely so.

Speaker 5 (13:03):
Potions a Curious Tale is an adventure crafting game. You
play as a young witch named Luna who's recently discovered
her ability to brew magical potions, and she can use
these potions as spells to solve puzzles and battle monsters
and overcome other obstacles on her quest to become a

potion's master. But you find that is your greatest weapon
and combat is not always the answer, and the world
itself is inspired by fairy tales and folklore from cultures
all across the globe. When I first came up with
the concept for Potions, it was because I wanted to
explore game design war but my inspiration was frustration around

games treating heroes as as slaughtering creatures. I feel like,
as a hero in so many games, it's like if
you slaughter every small force critter you see, it is
ultimately beneficial, And that just never felt heroic to me, Like, yeah, sure,

if you need a bunny fur, like yeah, the slaughter
of the bunny, But if you don't, it shouldn't give
you like golden experience, Like, there shouldn't just be this
reason to like slaughter everything that you come across, and
I wanted to figure out a way to temper that,
and that's when I came up with the concept of

potions as the engagement mechanism. You know, in potions, you
can be actively aggressive only with potents, like using potions
as spells. You can chase monsters into traps. You can
get monsters to fight each other without using potions. But
if you want to set something on fire, you got

to use a fire potion. And that causes sort of
a re source stress on the player because you know,
potions cost resources. You have to brew every potion you use,
and so it causes them to reconsider do I need
to kill this thing? Is this worth using one of
my potions? For I can only carry ten fire potions

at once. Should I use one of these fire potions
on this critter? Or should I avoid it until I
need something from it and go about and do other things.
And when I came up with this concept, it was
never intended to be a commercial product. It was just
intended to be a portfolio piece in the game's industry,
having a strong portfolio is really important for getting hired,

and so I just wanted to make this a little
sort of demo project for my portfolio. But the more
people I told about it, the more excited people seemed
to be. And when I ran into people at future events,
they would say, Hey, how is Potions going? Because that
was just sort of my default name for it, And

I ended up getting almost this fan following amongst game
developers for this concept because they all thought it was
really interesting. So at that point I decided to kickstart
the game and see if there was going to be
enough interest from the general public to make it commercially viable.
And it barely funded, like fifteen minutes left. So I

had this money, which was the bare minimum amount of
money I thought I needed to ship the game, and
I had to spend it all on like contracting out
art and audio. It's like the only thing I could
spend it on and physical kickstar rewards, and so I
was not able to quit my job and work full

time on Potions. I had to get side contracts and
other work. I actually was trying to consult and do
contracting for a long time before I realized the overhead
of consulting was just too much. It was just easier
to find full time jobs in the games industry and
work nights and weekends on post or mornings and weekends

was my preference. I'm a morning person, so morning brain
goes to creative work as much as possible.

Speaker 2 (17:08):
I like it, And you know that makes click a
little bit about why I like this game because I
used to, Like I said, I told you before we
record it, I'm not the typical gamer, and I just
really got into playing games like I have become a
fan of cozy games and the such. I always play
phone games because I am definitely like add enough that
I need that distraction. So all about swiping. So coming

into this where you're like there's buttons and there's combinations
and there's things you got to do, it's like, oh no,
I don't know if I'm going to do this. That's
the level. But the one thing I would do my
partner who was a gamer and loves it, was playing
Red Dead and that's one of the big things is
like killing all the animals, and I would actively root
for the animals to kill him.

Speaker 4 (17:53):
Yeah exactly, I mean literally, I was like, I.

Speaker 3 (17:54):
Hope that Barry, oh the Barry eat you good.

Speaker 2 (17:58):
I'm a great partner in that same realm in the
Potion's game, I'm like, oh, I can just run away
from that rat. Okay, great, I'm just gonna run. I'm
gonna run this way. Oh yeah, that thing's trying to
get me bad. I don't have to take it a hit.
I'm gonna run this way too. So I was like,
that makes a whole lot more sense and makes it
easier for me, so I don't have to do the
battle thing because again the combo is like I don't

where do I go?

Speaker 3 (18:19):
Where do I go with this?

Speaker 2 (18:20):
Instead of just oh, I can just go over there
and go with this mission and do this puzzle. I'll
do that. So I think for me that that makes
so much more sense of like, this is why I
enjoy this game so much, and the art is super cute,
thank you.

Speaker 3 (18:32):
It is is super cute.

Speaker 2 (18:34):
But all of that is like just clicking in my brains,
Like that makes it you purposely did that obviously.

Speaker 3 (18:39):

Speaker 5 (18:40):
I actually think that first time gamers occasionally have an
easier time with potions than people who've been playing video
games a lot. I feel like women are generally okay
with potions when they approach it. But it turns out
that a lot of the men that I've seen playtest,
they're like, ah, I have fire potion, ergo I should
burn everything I see, And then they'll run into like

running out of their potions, or they'll running into a
creature that you can't burn, or a creature that will
attack you and always when if you try to attack it,
And it's funny watching them come to the realization that, no,
you can't just murder everything to win this game. You
have to be a little bit more nuanced in your.

Speaker 2 (19:20):
Approach, like you have to save the fire potion to
get past the haystack to get to that resource. I
was like, Oh, I get it. I'm not gonna lie.
Like being able to think it through is so much
more fun to me. Hope, I'm not insulting anybody. I
love the I love the battle.

Speaker 4 (19:36):
Everyone can enjoy different types of games. But yeah, Potions
is certainly for a particular target audience, and it's resonated
well with them.

Speaker 2 (19:43):
Right, And I guess again, like talking about why including
people who aren't your typical or what people would see
as a gamer, why is that something that you think
is important.

Speaker 5 (19:54):
I think it's important because video games are just a
wonderful storytelling an immersive medium that everyone should be able
to enjoy, right Like, just like film and music, I
feel like video games.

Speaker 4 (20:11):
Are pretty much on the same level as those.

Speaker 5 (20:14):
And ensuring that there are games that are welcoming and
empowering for people, particularly people who don't often see themselves
in games, is important to me. And when I first
started creating Potions, I was just creating a game that
I wanted to play. I wasn't thinking as much about
a target audience, which is a terrible way to design

a game.

Speaker 4 (20:35):
You're always supposed to be thinking about your target audience.

Speaker 5 (20:38):
And I figured I was like, well, it's kind of
a Zelda like so it's going to have a similar
audience to Zelda, which it does. But when I was
dembling Potions one of the first times I first demoed
at packs and it was.

Speaker 4 (20:49):
I wouldn't say well received.

Speaker 5 (20:51):
It was like some people are like, oh, that's cool,
I own nothing super exciting, Like nobody being like this
is the best game in the world. And then a
couple months later, there's an event here in Seattle called
geek Girl Con, which is a celebration of the female
Geek and I demoed it there. It was actually the
first video game to ever done a like GEK girl
Con because it only been tabletop games and board games

and my booth which just absolutely swarmed by all these
young girls because of course, it's like a twelve year
old witch is in a fairy tale setting, right, a
fairy tale fantasy setting. And the reactions that I had
from that group of fans caused me to rethink how

I was approaching the game, and honestly, thankfully I didn't
have to really change anything, but I made sure that
the game was for them because I had a little
like I had a girl who was like eight and
dressed up as a witch, and she just pointed at
the screen that was playing the trailer and said.

Speaker 4 (21:50):
Look, mom, it's me. Oh.

Speaker 5 (21:54):
And then I had another girl who was in second grade.
Her parents came up to me and they said, you know,
thank you so much for being here. Our daughter's in
second grade and she's getting bullied for liking Minecraft. So
it means because people are saying that video games are
for boys and that she shouldn't play at it as
a girl. So it means so much to her to
see a game here for her being made by someone

that she can relate to, and that that caused me
to really think about how I was writing the story
and how I was making the game because I want
I want an eight year old girl to play this
and be like, yeah, that is me, Like I can
solve my own problems. I don't have to be the strongest,
I don't have to be the most powerful, but with

my wit and my perseverance, my creativity, like I can
overcome these issues and save the world.

Speaker 1 (22:45):
It is I love that about because I also add
a similar story to you. I grew up like from
four playing video games and two brothers, so that kind
of colored my experience. And I also got scared off
of video games from online video games when I was
like twelve. But as I've been working through this on

the show several several years ago, there was a a
museum exhibit that was just like games women have developed,
And of course the history is longer than anyone likes
to give credit to huge popular games by the way,
but it was really cool because so many of them.

I love when a video game like kind of understands
what you think a video game might be and doesn't.
It was like, no, it's not that because it has
so long been Let's defeat this villain.

Speaker 7 (23:44):
Let's do the way forward? Is this way forward? And
I like when a video game comes out and it's
like what if it wasn't that though? What if it
was like a different thing? And so I think, like
this is so important in terms of representation, but also
just creativity because I am one hundred with you and

like the storytelling aspect of it. We've done episodes about
like the health benefits of playing some video games, like
they are real world important things that it should be
that a young girl can say, Oh, I see that.
I like that. I want to play that. It's better

for everybody.

Speaker 1 (24:28):
I don't know why, well I do know why people
get so upset about it. They're like, don't you want
more options or there than less?

Speaker 4 (24:39):

Speaker 2 (24:50):
And I know like getting this game off it took
you like ten years I guess from like when you
were originally thinking this is just gonna be an idea
for my portfolio, to Okay, let's actually create this game.

Speaker 3 (24:59):
Oh they want this.

Speaker 2 (25:00):
Let's give this an empower young girls, which I know
you've made comments about wanting to do a story about
a coming of age for young girls and witchcraft obviously,
and maybe a cat because Helius is awesome.

Speaker 3 (25:13):
Which, by the way, do I get more pets when
I keep going? Or is it just I just love
all the pets?

Speaker 1 (25:19):

Speaker 4 (25:20):
Too jealous? He wouldn't allow any other pets.

Speaker 3 (25:23):
He's so pretty. I was like, oh, cool, okay, let's go.
But all of these things.

Speaker 2 (25:28):
But I know with that there again, like when you're
beginning your launch, My introduction to your game as well
as to you was your TikTok video in which you
had concerns about the release in launch date, and I
know you made some headlines in different places, and honestly
it was like to me, I was like, yeah, this

is a very reasonable video. You worked ten years on
this project that you are in love with and then
things unexpected happened, And sure it may not have been
an attack. When it comes to big corporations versus indie games,
we know, we know, like there's a big bad.

Speaker 3 (26:04):
Corporations are a big bad. We're just gonna say that.

Speaker 2 (26:06):
We say that on our show in general, and idea
is that a lot of the things are not one
hundred percent. Again, we kind of talked about some of
the things that were happening at the beginning anyway.

Speaker 3 (26:16):
But with that you got a lot of good support,
but backlash as well. What was your initial reaction to this?

Speaker 4 (26:23):
Oh gosh, yeah.

Speaker 5 (26:24):
So to provide context for the audience, what happened was
I spent lots and lots of time in research picking
a launch date, and I chose to pick.

Speaker 4 (26:36):
International Women's Day.

Speaker 5 (26:38):
Technically in my time zone, it was the day before
International Women's Day because Japan is sixteen hours ahead, you know,
other places are ahead. And I researched that date to
ensure that there was no other great competing game launches.

Speaker 4 (26:56):
None were listed in any of the.

Speaker 5 (26:58):
Softwareys to to check that out, and that I was
going in with a really strong set of supporters, so
wish lists on Steam et cetera, and from my calculations,
I should have been on the Steam front page in
a new and trending for three or four days, which
is basically gets you one to two million impressions and

thousands of wish lists and hundreds to thousands of sales,
which for an indie developer is huge. Like that, that
is a make it or break it sort of thing.
And you know, I launched my game I was in
all sorts of celebration. You know, I launched Yay women
like gay list. This is empowering. And I actually stayed
away from looking at the sales numbers for a bit,

and then when I checked them, they were like thirty
percent of what I predicted with conservative.

Speaker 4 (27:46):
Estimates, and I was crushed.

Speaker 5 (27:48):
And I looked into it, and it turns out that
EA had launched eleven titles from their back catalog like
two hours after I launched my game, like immediately on
the tail of it. And so though I hit all
the thresholds and all the numbers, since that list is
date ordered by launch date, they all came and just

immediately knocked me off the list and all of that
potential exposure. And I found this on in my time
zone International Women's Day, and I was absolutely devastated. So
I posted about it, and I also made a TikTok
where you know, I've made many tiktoks speaking about my
experiences as an Indian game developer. I even mentioned the game.

I said, you know what sucks about being a game developer.
You can work ten years on a project, spend all
this time making sure you have a perfect launch date
to all the marketing and give you things set up,
and then EA can drop eleven titles unannounced and completely
ruin all your work. And then at the end, I said,
so happy as International Women's Day, and that last line

there that upset a lot of people. Obviously, I state
it because I was devastated for this to happen on
International Women's Day, being like an empowering women focused sort
of celebration, right like it's a game four girls about
a girl made by a woman, like I was kind

of hoping that that would be celebratory, and so that
TikTok went extra super crazy viral, which had at first
a huge outpouring of support, and then as the audience increased,
TikTok's algorithms found that there was also a lot of
engagement by really angry male gamers who were very upset

about me and mentioning International Women's Day.

Speaker 4 (29:44):
They were upset that I expressed emotions.

Speaker 5 (29:47):
They felt like I was being emotionally manipulative, and that
just escalated into beyond the worst harassment I've ever experienced,
like by magnitudes. I had death threats, I had people
spamming pornographic images in my game's discord, like really gross things.
I had people trying to review bomb the game on Steam,

trolling the Steam community forums. I had to put an
anti swatting notice on my house. Yeah, and that was
almost three months ago now, and it slowed down, but
it hasn't stopped, and it'll come. It'll spike, Like I'll

post a TikTok that will awaken algorithms, and then the
main one gets posted out again, and then I'll get
just like hundreds of hateful comments. And when I'm talking
about this, like there was like ten thousand hate comments,
like this is like a small number of things. And
on the launch of your game day, you're trying to
like hot fix and like put out fires right not

also deal with community management fires in right, people trying
to like abuse your community with graphic images and toxicity
right not to mention abuse you too. So it was
stressful for the first couple of weeks. I mean, in

a much more stable place now, a lot less of
being a harassed place as well.

Speaker 4 (31:23):
I've been able to release some hot fixes and updates.

Speaker 5 (31:25):
But yeah, I feel like I am almost now permanently
in the public eye for the better and worse.

Speaker 2 (31:33):
Right, right, I mean like this is there's so many
these A. Because you said it's International Women's Day, they're upset,
which is just International Women's Day.

Speaker 3 (31:43):

Speaker 2 (31:43):
But B they are not talking about the fact that
this multimillion dollar if not billion dollar company who doesn't
give us about no, not at all, you as any person,
let's just be honest, any person. And like they're defending
them like they are the victim. A. I'm like, you're
defending a corporation. One that's really odd. B. We also

know corporations like that use and abuse. I want to
talk about manipulation days like International Women's Day, months like
Pride Month for just getting money, Like it's not even
about being actually excited to work for or help women,
it's just using that name or whatever that day. So
like we have these two things and then these trolls
who just could ignore this, like why are you so

upset when this is a part of your career And
they're like, yeah, you're trying to manipulate us and make
us feel bad. What how's the same thing to do
with you, dude? Like there's so many things unpack of,
like why are you so concerned to the fact that
you have to put extra energy out to make sure
someone feels threatened.

Speaker 5 (32:48):
Yeah, And it's interesting because it's from these people. It's
very rarely one comment like yeah, it's often like I
see my notifications like the pain of ones and not
even on the same video. They like find me and
they get upset and then they go to my other
videos and then they're like.

Speaker 4 (33:06):
Upset those sort of like why are you hurting yourself?
Like if you don't like me, just go go.

Speaker 2 (33:13):
Fine, right, why are you taking this much time of
like why am I living rent free? In your head
like this, you need to calm down. But again, like
it comes back to like you're also doing this for
a million multimillionary corporation who will never know your face
and will care less about you in general, Like, so,
why are you defending this hard for a company? And

I guarantee these are the same people who also, mister,
you know you're being emotional, are the same people who
would throw their control at a wall and like you know,
like bust up something when they die or something like that,
or the same thing of like a person interrupts them
during a big moment and then they start screaming and
like pretty much having you know, like fights with people
because you're so upset over a gabe like that you

didn't even create, Like I'm just there's so much baffling,
like double standards in that. In that alone, it's just
kind of like, Wow, y'all really want to do this,
Like I just get bloan because I'm not gonna lie.
When I was looking through it again, from my end,
I think I was in that moment of like everybody
supporting you and understanding exactly what you're saying, and yeah,

we want to we want to see more women, We
want to see marginalized people in this in this role
because we want to be included or so that people
will feel included. As well as the fact that again
the people who are making all the money are the
people who don't love it, who just just wants the money.
So seeing people who love the game, who love this
job and want to bring other people up with them,
that's what we want to support. Why is it that

a bad thing? So for me, I was like, yeah,
we're gonna support this. But then when you start reading
the comments, and it had to be much later because
when I was initially seeing your video I think was
almost the day that you released it, it was mainly positive.

Speaker 4 (34:53):

Speaker 2 (34:53):
So when I came back to seeing the comments and
then seeing like they took it to Reddit, they took it,
I'm like, oh my god, what has happened? And of
course ninety eight percent were men were absolutely or young
boys will say young boys because I don't know. I'm
sure meant too, but you know what I mean. Like,
it just it was baffling how they really took a
hold of something and decided to run on their own

narrative instead of just seeing a woman, an adult who
was using her skills and smarts and about knowing about
the corporation and then realizing that it got undermined very
quickly and being disappointed in that, and seeing that this
is a part of the business, but also being disappointed
it's a part of the business too, and being able
to freely say I'm disappointed. It should be it should

be a standard, like it should be okay, like it
should be, Yeah, why is this a bad thing?

Speaker 3 (35:40):
And they just ran with that.

Speaker 2 (35:41):
It was so baffling for me, And I'm glad you're
on that other end because I didn't know the rest
of the part because I'm not on the discord. All
I saw was obviously just me on the outside seeing
the comments, and that was bad enough. So I could
not imagine the toll, the mental health toll that it
took to see things like when they were at deply
coming after you.

Speaker 4 (36:01):
Yeah, I mean it's twofold right on one side. You
you know, to for.

Speaker 5 (36:08):
The most part, not take these people seriously. Obviously, Like
I said, I put an anti squatty notice on my house.
I was, you know, implementing proper precautions just in case
somebody decided to go overboard. But I recognize that, yeah,
these are people who are upset, maybe not at me directly,

but they're expressing their anger at me at least that
they're not my target audience. So it's okay if they
don't like me or my game, and that I should
not take their words seriously.

Speaker 4 (36:41):
And then on the other.

Speaker 5 (36:42):
Hand, each one is just like the littlest paper cut.
And then when there are thousands of them, it gets real,
real exhausted. It's it's really hard. I try to do
things like I create lists of positive things that people say,
like cut them out and put them in a document
so I can review them, and I'll use that to
try to keep my attitude positive, keep my head above water.

But yeah, it certainly it was still difficult, you know,
But I refuse to stop keep making games, keep making
educational content, keep showing other people they can pursue their
dream exactly, gender aside, right, I just want to inspire others.

Speaker 2 (37:25):
Right, And that's again you kind of already mentioned the
fact that you were like, I want to write a
good list of the people who are supporting me, because
obviously we know this in any industry, when you are
a face of something, whether you're leading a company in
creating games or any of that, you might go through
these hard times. And again, gaming industry, like gam or
gate was a whole thing, we know that a lot

of marginalized people get harassed. For you, what do you
do to persevere through those times?

Speaker 4 (37:53):

Speaker 5 (37:53):
I think it's it's a combination of actively dismissing hate
and toxicity, like I'm saying to myself, doesn't matter, like
these comments doesn't matter, It's okay. It's also surrounding myself
by people who support me and care for me and

love me. You know, the TikTok was by far the
most toxic platform when it comes to pretty much everything else.

Speaker 4 (38:23):
People who are generally really supportive.

Speaker 5 (38:24):
So Twitter, LinkedIn Facebook, I get a lot of support there,
and like through friends and family, you know, I reach
out to them. I've always been honest about my mental
and emotional states, so I'll be like, yeah, I'm feeling bad,
I'm really anxious right now because I'm getting all these
hate messages, or you know, in the past, when I've

suffered depression, I've been like, yeah, I'm not doing so well,
but trying every day. And I think that it helps
to be honest with the people close to you about
those sort of things, because it also makes that more
approachable if they're ever facing similar issues. And then, luckily,

I'm just really stubborn, so I do everything I can
to keep pushing forward. I like synking my teeth into problems.
I like, yeah, being involved with helping others, and so
if social media is too much at any point in time,
I have a lot of other things to focus on.
I have my game, I have mentorship, I have all

sorts of other things where I can spend my time,
and I try to only right now open social media
if I am like mentally prepared for some harassment, like
I only do what I'm feeling like good and stable.
I don't just like I don't allow notifications to come
to my phone from those platforms. They have to be
something that I pull and check.

Speaker 3 (39:53):
Actively, though smart.

Speaker 2 (39:54):
I made the mistake when I first started podcasting look
at reviews and I almost cry every day.

Speaker 3 (39:59):
Was like, we all told you not to, and they did,
and that finally learned.

Speaker 1 (40:04):
Well, you know, that's a good point, though it's so
frustrating because you do want to if there are like
legitimate critiques, you do want that of like, Okay, it
seems like some of them you might be okay, it
sounds like you just don't like me, and you're saying
it politely, okay.

Speaker 7 (40:23):
But some of them you're like, okay, I wish I
had known this and I could have improved. And that's
another thing.

Speaker 1 (40:28):
If you're getting like review bombed or all these negative comments.
It's something that women in marginalized people have to deal
with that a lot of white men don't, and it
does impact your job and that's ridiculous.

Speaker 7 (40:41):
But yeah, I had to make that same.

Speaker 1 (40:42):
I was like, I can't be on social media, which
is a place where a lot of us show up
and try to market our games. Or I don't make
games our stuff, but like that directly impacts your job
and your your mental health and physical health.

Speaker 5 (40:57):
Honestly, Yeah, and I I haven't done this too much yet,
but I plan on leaning on others to help me
sift through things like if you if you think that
there might be good content and negative reviews, have somebody
else read the negative reviews and tell you the like
important takeaways because.

Speaker 1 (41:18):
At point Idea, you know it's an important job.

Speaker 6 (41:23):
It's an important job, you know.

Speaker 2 (41:34):
But with all of that, you also did receive a
lot of support. Like I said, I was at the
beginning with like, oh yeah, everybody's like, yes, we're here,
we let we hear you, we see this, we want
this game. And with that big conversation of why supporting
independent gaming companies like yours is so important, how do
you feel in seeing this type of support.

Speaker 5 (41:52):
I was so thankful for the support, and I know
it's easy for me to get overwhelmed about the harassment,
but I recognized that the outpouring of support was honestly
really wonderful, and it did recover sort of the exposure
and marketing loss that that had happened on my launch

day and I've also I've got the very sweetest fan emails.
Like I was expecting to maybe get like one or
two fan emails, ever in the first week, I was
getting one or two a day, and like paragraphs long
talking about who they are and their experiences and why.

Speaker 4 (42:33):
The game meant so much to them.

Speaker 5 (42:36):
I am tearing up actually thinking about it, because it's
just so sweet to know that you can connect with
others that way, that you can give them something to
connect with and that they appreciate something that you put
so much of yourself into. And that's that's just been
truly wonderful, and it's why I'm so excited to do
my next steps. I'm looking at bringing the game to

switch and PlayStation and Xbox, so I have my devocates
of working on Courting, just getting out one more patch
for PC that's gonna have a lot of quality life
improvements that actually are also partially for consoles, like making
font sizes bigger and things more readable.

Speaker 4 (43:14):
So I'm really I'm really.

Speaker 5 (43:16):
Looking forward to sharing this game with even more people.
And I am so lucky to be a game developer
in a time where indie developers can exist, where we
don't have to have publishers to make physical cartridges where
you know a smaller game can thrive. And right now,

I think indie development is extra important because it is
a wonderful storytelling medium and there is so much that
indie developers can communicate that other game developers can't. I
mentor a bunch of Indonesian game developers, and they are
making games that are bringing in their local culture and

lore and history, and that's really wonderful.

Speaker 4 (44:01):
In potions, I.

Speaker 5 (44:02):
Mean I intentionally brought in other cultures.

Speaker 4 (44:06):
You have Babby Alga from Slavic lore.

Speaker 6 (44:09):
You have like.

Speaker 5 (44:10):
Three of the four Journey to the West characters in
one of the sections.

Speaker 4 (44:14):
Of the game. You have Sindbad and the Sphinx. There's
all sorts of characters and stories that help.

Speaker 5 (44:26):
Make people more worldly just by playing the game, like
give them an insight into these other cultures and lore.
And right now, with how the game and industry has been,
almost all of the Triple A studios cut their research
and development teams that are on D teams that was
what they did before. A lot of the layoffs are

at the start of the layoffs, so there are very
few large studios that are really working to push boundaries
and create new ip So that's that's where indie devs
can shine right now. There's a huge gap in the
market for us to do innovative things, to break new
bounds in to bring players to new worlds.

Speaker 3 (45:09):
Yeah, I'm at the Sphinx in the game.

Speaker 7 (45:12):
You're saying it like you're haunted Samantha.

Speaker 4 (45:14):
I love this.

Speaker 5 (45:16):
She's got a great attitude. Does for anyone listening if
you get to the Sphinx say all the wrong answers first,
because she has a unique reaction to each of them.

Speaker 2 (45:29):
No, I think I did one. I think she was
really sissan Okay.

Speaker 7 (45:35):
I love this.

Speaker 6 (45:35):

Speaker 7 (45:37):
Do you have any speaking of you've been talking about
mentorship and all of this, do you have any advice
for people who want to get into the industry.

Speaker 5 (45:50):
Absolutely make a game. It doesn't have to be a
big game. It doesn't have to be a new game.
You can recreate pac Man that's fine. Find a tutorial
or a game engine. Learnt unity dot com is great,
and even just get out a piece of paper and
start sketching out ideas. There are tons of resources available

to teach you aspects of game development, but really the
joy of game development is coming up with something and
being creative.

Speaker 4 (46:18):
So just start there.

Speaker 5 (46:20):
And then gather the tools you need as you go
to sort of bring that first vision to life. Doesn't
have to be perfect, doesn't have to be complete, but
you'll learn so much along the way, and it will
guide you along your path going forward.

Speaker 1 (46:36):
I have to say it's also a fascinating experience in
like thinking about human psychology, like what will a person do?
You know, like, Okay, I've got to think about all
of the strange ideas that.

Speaker 4 (46:50):
I can tell you you absolutely can't.

Speaker 5 (46:51):
And play testing is super important. You have no idea
how much the start of Potions Curious has changed, not
even like the core like how it works, but changing
like camera zoom and making things sparkle and giving hints
like Potions tries to not hold your hand, but there

are so many hints and like visual cues in there
to help guide players because the first time they didn't
know what was going on, Like it requires a lot
of iteration. You can think you've designed a perfect game
and you'll put in front of somebody and they'll be like,
I have no clue what's going on, and I don't
know what to.

Speaker 3 (47:30):
Do, and it's like you and D and D.

Speaker 2 (47:34):
When you think you've predicted what they're going to do,
they do them being completely opposite and they make stories exactly.

Speaker 7 (47:41):
It's like a beautiful, annoying thing.

Speaker 1 (47:45):
I'm like, wow, okay, I never would have thought of that,
but all right.

Speaker 4 (47:49):
They're very creative.

Speaker 7 (47:51):
Here we go, and I love I like, legitimately love it.

Speaker 1 (47:55):
But it is an exercise of thinking, like they're going
to find some way to set this up on fire.

Speaker 7 (48:00):
I just got to figure out how apparently.

Speaker 1 (48:08):
Okay, do you have any advice to if someone's got
an idea for a game but they're not really sure,
like should I pursue this or what should I do?
Any advice for people like that who have like the
idea but don't really know the next steps.

Speaker 5 (48:24):
Yeah, So, once you have a core idea for your game,
I recommend generating a like Elevator pitch, two or three
sentences that capture the absolute core of your game, what
makes it special. So I actually gave you the elevator
pitch for Potions earlier. So something like that, you talk
about the genre, the story setting, what makes it unique,

and that will help you have.

Speaker 4 (48:50):
Your north star. It'll be sort of your vision there.

Speaker 5 (48:53):
Once you have that, think about your audience, who would
like that vision and is it going to be if
you want to be commercially viable, a large enough audience
to actually support the development of the game.

Speaker 4 (49:06):
And then if.

Speaker 5 (49:07):
Those two are checked off, make a simple prototype. Make
sure that what you think is going to be fun
is fun. Jonathan Blow actually has a really wonderful talk
on indie prototyping and talks about what is important to
prototype and what successful prototypes are like. I won't summarize
as like hour plus talk there, but definitely prototype core mechanics,

what makes your game special and see if that's actually
as fun as you think it is, and if it
is your set to go, you can build it out
from there.

Speaker 2 (49:35):
Okay, Now with all of that, as we are coming
towards the end, I need to know what are your
future plans.

Speaker 3 (49:41):
Do you have other games in mind that you're creating,
or what's happening in the world of Fumily Caz.

Speaker 4 (49:47):

Speaker 5 (49:48):
So I'm working on an update patch for Potions right
now that has some quality of life features and more
art asset updates, and then after that I will be
working on the console ports so that should take me
at least through October, if not into next year. Beyond that,
I do have another game idea. I'm thinking of doing

something that's a little more social. So when I grew up,
I had like Pokemon Stadium, and Pokemon Stadium had a
party game mode built into it. I never played a
ton of Mario Party, but I have as an adult,
and I really want to create sort of a really
fun party game, silly game. And the nice thing about
that is it is tight, small, fast iteration on small

game experiences. I love potions, I love story based adventure games.
I need a little bit of a break and do
some faster iteration, find the fun really quick. So I'm
looking forward to starting that next.

Speaker 3 (50:46):
I love it. Can I get?

Speaker 4 (50:47):

Speaker 3 (50:47):
I ask that?

Speaker 6 (50:49):

Speaker 2 (50:50):
One of the things that I cannot do in Mario
Party is when they have to run across things where
they can't. Can you do play sure that I can't
fall off of things? That's what I'm meaning's.

Speaker 4 (50:58):
Guardrails rails those games.

Speaker 3 (51:02):
I can't.

Speaker 7 (51:03):
We play a lot of Mario.

Speaker 2 (51:05):
Like every time I have to also Mario Kart. Why
do they let me fall off? This should not be
a thing.

Speaker 3 (51:10):
I don't I don't.

Speaker 2 (51:11):
I don't need this for my self esteem anyway, just
noted noted.

Speaker 4 (51:17):
Yeah, it make it friendly and accessible for sure.

Speaker 3 (51:20):
Just just bumber rails. That's all I need.

Speaker 2 (51:22):
Also, again, I'm talking about the fact that I am
a beginner essentially when it comes to like working with
different outlets and platforms. And I love a good like
cozy game. Like I've really gotten into those where like
there's a but there's still like mystery and still a
little gameplay in it. What would you suggest for me?
Do you know of anything that I could look into

or you know what I could be more advanced? Push
me a little more advanced. But what recommends me?

Speaker 5 (51:48):
I have the perfect game for you? Okay, this is
like a cozy game pre cozy games. Okay, It's called
Recitere an Item Shops Tale.

Speaker 3 (51:58):
Okay, I got write this, damn keep going.

Speaker 5 (52:00):
And so you play as the owner of an item
shop in a fantasy RPG, and you are the main
character's motto is capitalism ho. So yeah, it's a shop
running simulator. You're trying to like min max profits. There

is a dungeon diving aspect to it. I love it,
But you don't have to do the Dungeon Divy. If
you don't want to, you can purely do like Bilo
sell High Manipulation of the Market. And it's it's really
fun and it's really cute, very well done, and it's
it's pretty old.

Speaker 4 (52:39):
So I think you can get it on sale.

Speaker 2 (52:42):
What do you need to get like? Can I get
it through Switch? Or do I need to do it
Steam Deck the PC?

Speaker 5 (52:46):
I know you can get it on Steam. I don't
know if you can get it on modern consoles. It
is a pretty old game.

Speaker 1 (52:50):
I'll go find it. I'll find this is so great.
At the start of the pandemic, smanth that was like,
never play a game. Then as the pandemic has happened,
you know more games than get there. You'd give me
a lot of great advice. I love it. Can you
played this? This is fantastic? Well, thank you, thank you,

thank you so much for joining us today. Renee, would
you like to tell the good listeners how to find you?

Speaker 4 (53:20):

Speaker 5 (53:21):
Absolutely, you can find Potions of Curious Tale currently on Steam.
Just type in potions you should be able to find it.
If you want to follow me on social media, I
am Riku Ka t Riku Kat with a k on
pretty much everything, So I am very easy to find.

Speaker 4 (53:41):
If you want to find me on anything except for YouTube. YouTube,
just find me under Renee Giittens.

Speaker 6 (53:46):
I'll be there.

Speaker 1 (53:47):
I thought you were about to say, like, except for YouTube,
they won't have me up there.

Speaker 4 (53:54):
No, it's trying to be more formal.

Speaker 5 (53:55):
It's like, oh, Renee Gittens, because formality I should have
just stuck to the same handle.

Speaker 1 (54:02):
All good, well, listeners, go go check out all of
those things. Go check out the game. It's awesome. It's beautiful.
If you haven't already, and if you would like to
contact us, you can or email is Stuff Media mom
Stuff at iHeartMedia dot com. You can find us on
Twitter at mom Stuff podcast, or on Instagram and TikTok
and stuff whe Never Told You.

Speaker 7 (54:19):
We're on YouTube. We have a t pelg store. Hey,
we have a book you can get wherever you get
your books.

Speaker 1 (54:24):
Thanks as always to our superroducer christinaor executive Pducer Mayer
and our contributor Joey.

Speaker 3 (54:27):
Thank you.

Speaker 1 (54:28):
Thanks to you for listening. Stuff I Never Told You
is production by Heart Radio. For more podcasts on my
Heart Radio, you can check out the I Heart Radio
Apple podcast

Speaker 7 (54:34):
Or wherever you listen to your favorite ships,

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