Being LadiesGamers, we feel it’s time to give women that work in the gaming industry a podium in our series of articles, featuring ladies who are working in the gaming business! Interested? You’ll find the other interviews here.
A lot of avid gamers would probably love to have a job in the industry themselves and we think it’s especially important to encourage girls, in particular, to go for their dream job. This time we talk to Charlene and Bee from Samobee Games, developers of Princess Farmer.
Meet Charlene and Bee
Who are Charlene and Bee in everyday life? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Charlene: Hiii I’m Charlene (sometimes cee) (she/her), I’m a queer, trans, neurodivergent mom, living in the mountains with my wife and 10-year-old trans daughter (she/they). My everyday life is mostly working on our game (being my own boss and working from home means I work more than I probably should), but I love cooking with my wife, watching movies and playing games with friends/family to unwind. Oh, and being consumed by the constant horrors of the number of anti-trans and queer hatred in the world wow.
Bee: Hi! I’m Tobey (or Bee) (she/her). I’m 47, I like the colour lime green, I adore sparkles, I have fibromyalgia and I’m pretty darn neurodivergent. I grow several open-pollinated tomatoes, and am currently attempting to grow micro-dwarf tomatoes indoors! My favourite varieties so far are Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye, Paul Robeson, and Amana Orange. I homeschool our 10yo trans daughter, who is honestly the coolest kid I’ve ever met. I love to cook with my wife and play games with my wife and child, and I really really love to work on Princess Farmer!
What is your professional history when it comes to the gaming industry?
Charlene: I kind of stumbled into the industry but I’ve been in it for 15 years now (gosh). Mostly in kid’s games and free to play. I started as an artist (mostly backgrounds and comics) and then realized I was actually working at a game studio and that meant I WAS a game dev then I started branching out and ended up getting into producing and game design before going off on our own as a duo with Bee.
Bee: I used to work as an administrative assistant and recruitment coordinator at Disney Club Penguin, then took time off to care for our child. I taught myself to program, and I’ve dabbled in Unity but really connected with GameMaker so that’s what I’ve been using for Princess Farmer. Being self-taught, I don’t have the production experience so it’s been a bit of a struggle but my wife and our publisher have been fantastic supports (and so patient with me!)
Tell us a bit about your studio Samobee Games?
Charlene: I had game designs that I wanted to flesh out, but didn’t have a coder for them (and I cannot grasp coding). Bee was wanting to learn how to code, so we made a bunch of different game ideas together before we really started to gel on the princess farmer concept. It also turned out as we kept making this game that we really compensated for each other in ways we didn’t see coming. Like I write the story beats, but bee writes the dialogue, and I came up with the gameplay and controls, but she does the game balance. We kept finding the things we were just not good at or didn’t like doing the other person enjoyed AND was good at.
Bee: We just really love working together and we fill each other’s gaps perfectly. We hope to grow in the future and employ or contract under-represented folks remotely. Oh yes, and the name comes from Charlene’s favourite breed of dog, samoyed, and my nickname, Bee!
Does your educational background match your position in the gaming industry?
Charlene: Gosh no. I didn’t finish anything after high school but I did do a year or two of anthropology.
Bee: Absolutely not haha. I went to Jewellery Art & Design school and tried to make that work but I developed tendonitis in both wrists so I had to quit. I did complete an entrepreneurship course put on by the BC government, and that has helped me somewhat knowledgeable about the business aspect.
Do you feel the gaming industry is still very much male-dominated, or do you think that has changed or is changing?
Charlene: Oh 100% still male-dominated, but it’s starting to get better. And coming from the kids’ game space, I was constantly shocked how all decisions were based on pleasing boys first at all times. So not only is it still male-dominated in how it’s run, but it’s training the audience to expect male-first as well.
Bee: It absolutely is. We’ve been trying to connect with people in the cozy, queer, indie game niche, and have found some fantastic folks there. We’re both extremely introverted though so it can be hard to push ourselves to connect. We’re very grateful that our publisher relishes working with under-represented, small devs like us.
Do you think a woman has a different approach when it comes to making games?
Charlene: I absolutely do. But I think anyone who’s coming from a different perspective than cis, white and male are going to have a different approach when it comes to making games. And the smaller the teams who are more authentic with their message, the more different the approach is going to be.
Bee: I do, although of course, that doesn’t mean other genders can’t have a similar perspective. But I find that when a woman was in a position of power when creating a game, there is a different flavour to the game. More authenticity, more relatability, more emotional impact, and more diversity to the experience.
Advice for Girls
What advice would you give girls who have a dream to one day have a job in the gaming industry?
Charlene: Oh gosh don’t let people bully you out of it! You DO belong in game dev. Also just make stuff! Don’t wait for schooling or a job, but try to start making games/designs/art/prototypes/whatever-you-do no matter what. Having the knowledge and portfolio can be a lot more important than a degree to smaller studios.
Bee: I love this question sooooo much!!! Young Tobey would have been so thrilled with the resources that are out there right now to learn game development. Depending on what kind of thing you want to do, try out RPG Maker, GameMaker Studio (there is a drag & drop type of coding for it too!), Scratch, there are so many tutorials out there to follow. I personally used the GameMaker official ones, Udemy, and free videos on YouTube. And then make something! Make a thing! Do it with your friends, do it by yourself, but just, make the thing and actually finish it. Don’t make it big, use free assets, follow a tutorial and give it some of your own “flavour”. Then make another thing! Put them on itch.io!
Make connections with other people who are as passionate about games as you are. Don’t know how to find people? There are classes and clubs on Outschool.com! If you’re older, join Discord servers and stick around if the vibe is good and safe. I think the most important thing to have to get into the gaming industry is a portfolio of your work. And itch is a great place to house your games and get community feedback.
Unless your goal is AAA, getting a degree is optional (at least in Canada). A strong portfolio and experience working with other people are key.
Do you both play games yourself, or have you played them in the past growing up?
Charlene: Yes I still play games now and played them since I was a kid. I’m mostly from a console background (starting with the sega master system) and have a special love for handhelds, and then my wife introduced me to the PC world. Lately, I play a lot of live service games if I’m being honest cuz it’s easy to jump into some matches of Fortnite between working on things, and then Bee and I will play games with our kid too! I think I’m almost entirely playing on pc at this point, with a bit of switch before bed. Death’s Door was a real standout for me as far as recent games!
Bee: I’ve loved games since I first saw one on the Commodore 64 when I was 9 years old. My parents caved and bought me an Atari 520ST when I was 10 and I coded my first game “The Adventures of Super Pickle” in Basic. I played Rogue and the Temple of Apshai Trilogy for years until I acquired a PC. Then it was Diablo, Riven, and Heroes of Might & Magic III. I didn’t play many console games until Charlene introduced me to the original Playstation.
The first game I watched her play was Resident Evil II and it made a huge impact on me. Since then, I have played countless games and we’ve owned every console (until the recent ones omg those need to be more widely available). My current favourite games are Lost Ark, Picross, Mini Motorways, The Battle for Polytopia, Hundred Days: Winemaking Simulator, and PowerWash Simulator. I also have the updated Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne but I haven’t had the time to really get into playing it. It was one of my favourites when it first came out though!
What is your favourite gaming genre and why?
Charlene: Gosh I don’t have a single genre and go all over the place. I have a weakness for scrolling shooters and match puzzle games especially tho.
Bee: I think Japanese RPGs, MMORPGs and puzzles, but I also love tower defense.
If you could be a character in a game, which one would it be and why?
Charlene: honestly one of the reasons to make this game is that there isn’t much representation for a fat trans queer lady in gaming. So I would probably wanna be Gaia, from princess farmer, cuz she doesn’t really have to run around doing things as PF does but people still love her and want to impress her.
Bee: Gosh, all of the characters in games do such exhausting things all the time and never get a break. I’d be Sophie the cat in Princess Farmer so I can just sit on a warm windowsill and get cuddles sometimes.