Get to Know a GameDev: Tabby Rose

Tabby Rose GameDevCafeRunning a game studio requires you to take on a LOT of roles; and not all of them involve actually making your game. Tabby Rose is one game developer who understands this very well.

As co-founder and public face of Axon Interactive, she also juggles UI and art direction expertly – as evidenced by the team’s latest release, Quench. The story-driven puzzle game coming out this Fall isn’t only strikingly beautiful; it’s already award-winning:

This is only the latest of many digital projects under Tabby’s belt at Axon Interactive, and it’s one of the most compelling. First conceived at TOJam: The Sevening, Quench was inspired by the theme: the world is not ending. Having since rallied support from OMDC, a successful Kickstarter AND a Steam Greenlight campaign, we were eager to hear about how Tabby found her start & success in the games industry.

What would be your unofficial title, if you were describing your role in gaming?
I sometimes call myself the Front Lady for our studio. I have a lot of roles – cofounder, president, producer, art director, writer, UI designer, office admin, community and social media manager, PR representative… a lot of hats! I’m generally the public face of Axon though, since I attend all the events and do all the social media, so I find that Front Lady covers at least the “public” + “in charge of decisions” aspects of my role.

Did you always want to be a “leading Lady”?
When I was in university, I couldn’t even have imagined owning my own business (I was in biomedical science, studying to apply to medical school!) But by the time I was ready to turn my part-time freelance web design business into a full-time web and game studio? Yes, I wanted to be in a position where I could make final decisions on vision for our projects.

Awesome! Is it everything you dreamed it would be?
I didn’t originally anticipate how much of my job would be dedicated to either the nitty gritty of business administration or marketing, but I find that I enjoy both tasks. I’m fairly introverted but I’ve really enjoyed learning how to network and make friends, interacting with people on Twitter, and being able to travel for the sake of the game we’re making.

Is there anything weird about your job that most people wouldn’t know about?
I definitely didn’t realize when I was starting out, how much of my day would be dedicated to answering emails and interacting on social media. I still find it difficult to feel comfortable legitimizing those tasks in my head – they sometimes seem like distractions from the work of actually making our game. But they’re vital to keeping the business running smoothly and keeping on top of our marketing efforts for the game, especially because we’re doing all our promotional activities in-house right now.

When it comes to funding a game, where should you go first?
If you’re looking to raise money for a project and you live in a place where government support is available, I say go for that first. It’s usually worth more but, as with all funding, is very competitive. The benefit is that you can get funding before you go into production (or even at the concept phase), which means you can actually use the money for development.

Kickstarter on the other hand, has such a high quality bar for backers that it’s a lot easier to succeed once you already have at least a vertical slice of your game; but that means live already invested a huge amount of time and resources into the project. It’s better to target a Kickstarter campaign when you have a reason to do a big marketing push at the same time, as the campaign will require and facilitate that.

Excellent advice. Do you have any game industry role models?
My mentor is Alex Bethke, who lives here in Toronto. We met through Twitter when I was looking for a project manager for Quench and since then has been extremely gracious with his time and expertise in helping our studio get to where his is (Golden Gear recently released their first title, Fate Tectonics). He has a ton of industry experience and has been super supportive of the project all the way along. We really wouldn’t be where we are without him.

I also really look up to some of the community leaders and the people who were first to welcome us into the community here, including Henry and Jennie Faber, Jim and Em McGinley, Gabby DaRienzo and Andrew Carvalho (among many others!) We’re so grateful that the Toronto indie community has our backs, and that we’ve been able to contribute to a space where so many people can make so many awesome games.

Has your job ever forced you to be apart from your friends or family?
I’ve been really fortunate to remain in the Toronto neighbourhood I grew up in – Bloor West Village/Junction — pretty much my whole life, aside from university. So I’ve never had to leave either my Mom or Jeff for work. [But] lately I’ve been doing a lot of short trips to the US for conferences, though, and often alone (sometimes Jeff is able to accompany me).

I do get a little homesick, but I’m really enjoying being able to visit new cities and make new friends. It’s actually sometimes harder coming home and knowing that I’m not going to see those friends for a really long time, but there’s always Twitter and Hangouts.

When it comes to games, which titles have had the most emotional impact on you?
I have a lot of favourite games for a lot of different reasons – Okami, Journey, the Zelda series, to name a few. But I think the game that changed my life the most was probably the first game I ever completed, Final Fantasy VII.

I know it’s a popular choice for a lot of people, but it’s personal for me because it started my lifelong love of games, my relationship with fandom and creation (both art and writing), and it came to me at a time in my life where I was dealing with a lot of emotional stuff. It was both an escape and a time of intense bonding for me and my best friend, whose house I would sleep over at in order to play it with her.

Are there any games you’re looking forward to?
Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time to play games these days, and I tend to want to stick with short, intense experiences instead of getting lost in big open-world games. Right now I’m super excited about Night in the Woods, which is an indie adventure game about Mae, a cat who recently dropped out of college and returned to her run-down hometown to figure out her life. I played a demo at Gamercamp in 2014 and again at PAX East this year and I am so stoked to play through the whole thing when it comes out. The writing in it is hilarious and cynical; it’s going to be a real gem.

Do you know someone in the gaming community with a unique perspective, interesting project or creative take on the industry? We’d like to talk to them! Let us know who we should feature next:

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  • On July 15, 2016