A Talk With A Geeky Girl Gamer: Michelle Flamm

16th April, 2013 - Posted by Mashupman -

Gamerweblog.com is putting together a series of interviews with gaming ladies of all walks of life. In an effort to put the spotlight on what many still believe is a rarity, the girl who is an avid gamer. Today we highlight: Michelle Flamm.

Hi Michelle, Can you briefly explain what you do?
“I’m a video Game Design and Development Major at Columbia College Chicago, I also lead an indie game team nicknamed “Outlier Theory.”  I started programming at 9 years old with the LEGO Mindstorms invention system and have never stopped, I know 9 different programming languages.  I’m also a model, cosplayer, IT support, wig designer, and general Jack-Of-All-Trades.”

Does that leave you a great deal of time to play games?
“I try to, insomnia helps with that.  Its less having time to play games, more finding games that do not flip me into developer mode.  When they say ‘don’t do what you love’ this is what you meant, a game has to be engaging enough for me that I don’t start ripping apart the physic models, game feel aspects (Camera movement, stride counters, jump distance, etc), shaders, you name it. The longer I can go playing a game sober, usually the more I like the game.  Though I do enjoy a good round of drunk gaming, I actually have a lot of fun doing that.”

Do you have a favorite game that you play to blow off stress? What about it makes it good for that for you?
“I actually have a few depending on the stress type and level!  League of Legends is a favorite just to play with friends, it’s free, the characters are interesting to look at, and all my friends play.  Okami has always been a favorite of mine to go back and replay, the art, music, and story fuse perfectly for me.  EVE I enjoy on a regular basis purely for the emergent storyline, I loved sandboxes as a kid, and EVE is a GIANT sandbox.   The other fact is the storyline in EVE is uniquely human, the computer does not direct it, we do.  Not to mention with Dust514, my friends are already asking if I will be around to space barrage for them!  If I really want to blow off steam, a round of Munchkins or a 10 hour Vampire session always cheers me up.”

Michelle Flamm, Photo by Eric Sahrmann

Michelle Flamm, Photo by Eric Sahrmann

What are some of the other games that you enjoy playing?
“I love non computer games! I’m a LARPer (Live Action Rolyplayer), and heavily enjoy Mind’s Eye Theatre.  Vampire: the Masquerade has always been a heavy influence in my game design, it was one of the first ‘games’ I ever played.  Heck, I have nearly every book published in book form by White Wolf/Onyx Path (and my version 20 of Vampire: the Masquerade is signed by Anne Rice).  What makes it funnier is my sophomore year in college I found out the head of the Game Design Department, and my professor at the time, wrote the dice system and portions of Vampire the Masquerade!  I dropped my rule-book in front of him and had him sign it of course he signed it “This makes me feel old, Tom Dowd.”  Munchkins was introduced to me many years ago and I LOVE it, the ridiculousness, the laughs, it’s just a great card game!  I used to play Yu-Gi-Oh! hard core too but, now as an adult I cannot justify buying $400 in cards.”

Do you tend to hop around between games, or do you tend to finish the one you’re playing?
“I tend to hop, for reasons listed above, something will bore me, or I will just lose the engagement factor.  I know I got a gem if I look outside and the sun is coming up.”

Are there any games coming out soon that you’re excited about?
“World of Darkness Online, I have been waiting for nearly ten years for this game.  CCP is making it which has me all kinds of excited, the sandbox aspect of EVE being translated into the World of Darkness and Vampire the Masquerade? Oh I cannot wait to see the diablorie and debauchery that will happen with this!  The art previews, updates, and everything have me so excited!!!”

Michelle Flamm, Photo by Tony Lawerance

Michelle Flamm, Photo by Tony Lawerance

What are some of your biggest pet peeves about video games?
”Separation of story and gameplay when its a story heavy game.  Most Bioware games are rendered unplayable by me due to this, especially when I learned they tell their writers: “Don’t worry about game play, they’ll fill that in later” and hire writers who don’t just not play games, they hate them!  If you don’t play them how can you understand the psychology of interactivity and how your writing will impact the player?  Answer: you can’t!  I play a game, not a game and a Harlequin Romance novel (Harlequin Romance novels are sort of choose your own adventure novels that tend to be badly written).  Even reading reviews they review them like the game play and story are separate and it just should not be that way at all.  They need to play off each other and envelop the player as a whole, the story should play off the gameplay and gameplay off the story.“

What are some of your all-time favorite games?
“Vampire: The Masquerade (Pen and Paper), Vampire: Bloodlines (PC), Final Fantasy XI (PC), Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Dos), AION (PC), Munchkins (card), any Elder Scrolls game, Braid (PC), EVE (PC), the list goes on…”

Do you have a favorite platform that you play games on? And can you explain why it is your favorite?
“PC, because I can always upgrade it.  I got a kick ass desktop with the AMD edition Coolmasters case, giant robot dragon on the side and red LED’s.  Xbox is great, and so is PS3 but, the fact that I can flip out a card and have 3D graphics just makes the PC superior.  And on my third monitor I can watch a movie!”

Michelle Flamm, Photo by Tony Lawerance

Michelle Flamm, Photo by Tony Lawerance

To conclude the article, I’d like to use this set of ten questions that I have prepared to include in every interview. For this I have taken inspiration from Bernard Pigott and James Lipton (Inside The Actor’s Studio).

Here they are, the Trivial Ten!

1. What is your favorite word?
“Ethereal it’s one of those really beautiful words that’s got feelings of both steampunk and ghostly, I can almost see it in clockwork and ghostly wisps “

2. What is your least favorite word?
“Misogyny I feel stupid saying it, it feels like a giant wad of spit in my mouth, it looks like a misspelling  and it sounds like some whiny kid saying “massage my knee,” and a good portion of the time the mouth its coming out of is just as whiny.  What’s worse is it loosely comes from the Greek phrase”To hate the Queen,” it’s just as derogatory to women!  The word was invented by a man too, so basically its the most un-feminist over used feminist term.”

3. What draws you into a game?
“Art, if the art is pretty or unique I am much more likely to pick it up initially.”

4. What turns you off of a game?
“Separation of gameplay and story line, automatic turn off, as soon as that first flip happens, that jostle out of the 4th wall just turns me off.  Oh and bad cameras, I get motion sickness from time to time and a bad camera will make me hurl.”

5. What game mechanic do you love?
“Flight, I love it.  AION did it best so far, but I love the aspect of 360 degree movement and combat.  It adds another level and 2 more directions of difficulty to any situation.”

6. What game mechanic do you hate?
“Pretending your character magically can be killed by water or can’t swim/float.  Seriously?! You are a warrior/ninja/dragon/SOMETHING AWESOME and you can’t swim…”

7. What is your favorite curse word?
“Bitch is up there, it’s just so blunt and to the point, and Son of a Bitch is very effective when yelled too!  I usually get in more fights with women anyway so bitch is used more then ass or asshole.  I just generally curse…takes to much energy to censor myself.”

8. What game that you’ve not played would you like to pick up?
“Tera, I just couldn’t afford it at the time and AION is so similar and free to play I couldn’t justify buying it.  I still can’t at the moment either.”

9. What games do you steer clear from?
“Art games, and ‘games for good/change’ I HATE them.  When a game is designed to focus on a specific politically charge ideology or ‘making art’ they tend to forget the first aspect of games that makes a game a game: FUN. These game almost always fail in their objectives because they aren’t fun. Once in awhile you get a good one, like Super Faith Fighter.  Super Faith Fighter seems intolerant at first but, the thing is its fun.  After awhile you realize its stupid, like most fighting games each faith in it has its own advantages and disadvantages.  The big different in this game though the focus was on fun first, then learning and contemplation.”

10. If you were to design a game, what would be the name of the main character?
“Well since I do design games I’ll give a list of the names of a few of the main characters: Ryu, Stu, Hurricane, The Car Bomb Twins, Everlong, and Amy.  I’d tell you which games they belong to but, I’d have to kill you!  But seriously I actually can talk about Ryu.  Ryu is the main character in a puzzle game that started as a 2 week game project class (downloadable here for free: http://livelyivy.com/wp-content/download.php?get=FoldingDragon2.zip) taught by Erin Robinson of Puzzle Bots fame.  It’s a puzzler that forces you to fold paper into triangle to make your way through the maze!  This version was done very quickly in Unity 3D (as in 2 weeks from idea to finish) so its heavily bugged etc.  I’m currently working on making an updated version with a lot more levels, and A LOT less bugs.”

I would like to take this moment that thank you for answers. And would like to leave you some space for any final comments you may have for the readers. Is there anything in particular you want to share?
“Do your research before you come to me with a complaint about how something is done in the industry.  I don’t want to hear how something is wrong unless you have a suggestion on how to fix it, and are open to discussion.  I get brought into these situations where there are attacks on how women are portrayed in games but, no one wants to discuss how we can fix this without alienating the main purchasing audience, which is still the single white male (though by a slimmer margin).  Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing more curvy women in games, but I don’t want to see obese women.  We do have a weight problem in this country, but the old standards of beauty from Betty Page I believe is where we should be.  Convincing the higher executives and market researchers is another story though, if you come to me with an idea be prepared to hear how it is flawed and DISCUSS with me how perhaps it could be folded in or changed to be more successful.  The problem I feel now days is people want everything their way and forget there are 7 billion other people out there they need to consider (or something like 350 million usually in a target demographic?).  Sit down, grab a coffee and discuss, read, it makes it open and non hostile, I don’t want to punch you then, and you get better results.”

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Posted on: April 16, 2013

Filed under: Interview

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