Gaming / Women in tech

Why game developer (and Brooklyn tech fixture) Nina Freeman is moving to Portland

The multi-talented programmer (GitHub poet, Kickstarter dev intern, feminist, etc.) is pursuing new opportunities in Oregon.

Nina Freeman. (Courtesy photo)

Nina Freeman is headed to Portland to work as developer on the Fullbright Company’s next game, Tacoma. She’ll be working from their offices in Oregon. We spoke to her by phone last week, looking back on her time in Brooklyn and forward to her work in Portland.
The Fullbright Company made the critically acclaimed Gone Home, a first-person game with a mystery and a house full of clues. We wrote a little about the game in our roundup from last May’s TWO5SIX conference.
Freeman is one of those fixtures in the Brooklyn tech scene that we’ve been bumping into ever since we started here, especially at anything games related.
We featured one of her games on Digital Art Friday, Space Dad. It’s a safe bet that you’ll see her at jams, demos and play tests. Not only is she an active participant in those community activities, she’s also been working to build up the talent pool by helping train new game devs through the Code Liberation Foundation.
You can see her in action, teaching videogame making to high school girls, in this video:

Plus, she’s been working on the dev team at Kickstarter. Here’s a piece Freeman wrote on Kickstarter’s engineering blog about email analytics.
Lasly, she’s been finishing up her master’s degree (now finished) at NYU Poly, where she wrote about vignette games — those focused on one character or space and more driven by making a person, place or thing three dimensional than by a big plot.

Her time in Brooklyn

She explained that she started to get involved with programming as an undergrad. Even though she came to New York from Massachusetts to study English lit at Pace University, she had a job in the computer science department, and that’s where she started to learn about programming.
We can thank the local music scene for getting her into gamemaking, though. “Thanks to the Brooklyn music scene I kind of ended up getting into games,” Freeman said. She met Emmett Butler and Diego Garcia at shows, particularly chiptunes music, and they started introducing her to the alternative games world, such as Babycastles.
She moved to Brooklyn after college, after four years in the Financial District. There was a time, she told us, when she thought she would never leave Brooklyn.
“A couple years ago when I just started living here, I was still writing a lot of poetry (which I still do),” she said “I used to write a bunch of poems about just living here, living in Brooklyn. I wrote a series of party poems, which were all about going to parties in Brooklyn.”
Some of these poems may actually evolve into personal games, later, Freeman said, as she often likes to work on games that speak to her life. Freeman posts her poems on GitHub. Like this one.
With regard to Kickstarter, she told us that, as a maker herself, she believes the company is the best possible team to help people make really creative work happen. “I feel like something crazy is always happening with Kickstarter,” Freeman said. “I am basically positive that more is going to happen with them.”

What to expect in PDX

The Fullbright Company said at TWO5SIX that they built Gone Home by renting a house that the whole team moved into and lived in together while they made the game.
Freeman said they’ve graduated to an actual office space now, so she won’t be living with her colleagues in Portland. “Though, honestly, I would move into a house with a game team and work on a game that way,” she said.
She already regularly collaborates with her partner, Emmett Butler, who will be moving with her to Portland. He’s taking part in helping her build the game she started as she began her master’s thesis, Cibele, which she says they intend to finish up and release this year.
During her one visit to Portland, Freeman was encouraged. “It just seems that there is a cool tech and art community there,” she said, “It’ll probably feel revitalizing to be in a new space, because I draw a lot from my life experience. I feel like I’ve been drawing a lot of creative power from being around so many creative people in New York, but this is kind of a fresh start with new creative people.”
She says that if you’re interested in good game development and people pushing the envelope for game-making here, keep an eye on Jenny Jiao Hsia and Alec Thomson, the two of whom made Stellar Smooch. Also, Secret Crush Corp, which just released its first game, Sunburn.

Companies: Code Liberation Foundation / NYU Tandon School of Engineering / Kickstarter
Series: Exit Interview / Brooklyn

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