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 Kimberly Blais, founder of gaming studio Mama Makes Games.
Meet Kimberly Blais at Mama Makes Games
As their website states, Mama Makes Games, LLC was founded by Kimberly in May 2021 to create games that are exciting, beautiful, and dramatic gaming experiences without violent and exploitative content. As the solo developer and game designer, she leads an all-female team that is currently creating a large open-world game, The Lost Weld.
The Lost Weld is an exciting, fantasy-themed action-adventure game featuring a compelling, movie-like script recorded by some of the industry’s top voice-acting talents, beautiful open world environments, and engaging game action. Set in a rich fairytale-like fantasy world filled with interesting characters and imaginative twists and turns, The Lost Weld’s main storyline will include about 6 to 8 hours of exciting game play.
Who is Kimberly Blais in everyday life?
I am a mom to four kids, two of whom are grown and launched. My two little ones are 8 and 10, and I homeschool them in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (United States). I am an avid potter, reader, entrepreneur, and game developer.
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
I love to learn new things and I especially enjoy learning about different places and people. I love art in all forms, but most especially video games and pottery. I have a pottery studio in my home and when I am not working on games I am often in my studio throwing pots on my wheel. I am “unschooling” my two youngest kids and I find the way they learn to be very inspirational. They mostly want to learn through games and that has been an enlightening experience; games are such an incredible tool and an amazing art form!
What is your professional history when it comes to gaming?
It’s fairly indirect as I’ve previously worked outside the traditional game industry. I helped found an e-learning tech start-up about ten years ago. It was mainly focused on developing various IP that we patented, and a number of the patents focused on inventions that related back to gaming. One patent in particular was oriented towards shaping positive habits through games and I used that patent to make my language learning game, RoboLingo.
I am currently working on a large action-adventure game called The Lost Weld that is using some of those patents for artificial intelligence, etc from my previous start-up. I’ve found that there are so many ways you can apply non-gaming experience to developing games, perhaps because games are often modeled on non-game concepts and systems.
Tell us a bit about your studio Mama Makes Games, what prompted you to found it?
I have always enjoyed playing games and remember playing as a kid on our Atari 2600. But when I was doing patent research on the power of games to influence the way that people behave and perceive in their daily lives, I realized what a force for change games could be! Although this piqued my interest, my biggest inspiration for founding my studio was my two young sons. They are so passionate about games and have found so many ways to learn, explore, create, and enjoy them that it has been very motivating!
What kind of games does your studio make?
I originally set out to make a third-person action-adventure game called The Lost Weld. It is a story-driven game that follows the main character, Piper, on a journey of discovery to help save her realm. Once I finished my prototype I talked to publishers and was not able to get funding to help pay my director, composer, and voice actors to complete the game. The publishers seemed concerned about whether I would even be able to finish the game. I got a lot of questions like “who are you going to hire to make this,” never mind the 45-minute long prototype I had already created. 🤣 So, now I am in the process of creating a few games to demonstrate that, yes, I can make games and understand game design. Regardless of the game, my focus is always on non-violent, inclusive, and artistically expressive games.
Does your educational background match your position in the gaming industry?
Hmmm, no! I got my bachelor degree from The University of New Mexico where I double majored in Anthropology and American Studies, then later got my master in Curriculum and Instruction. I have mostly taught myself to make games through reading, YouTube, Google, and trial and error.
Do you play games yourself, or have you played them in the past growing up?
Yes, I played lots of arcade games as a kid growing up. (This was back when real walk-in arcades were very popular.) I also had an Atari at home that I played on, and Asteroids and Pac-Man were my favorites as a kid. Currently, I really enjoy Fortnite. I also recently played Kena: Bridge of Spirits, but all the jumping puzzles got a little too hard for me. 🤣 I also like playing Fall Guys with my kids and I have really enjoyed playing the games in the game jams in which I’ve participated.
What is your favourite gaming genre and game console, and why?
I really like action-adventure games and multi-player games. There are so many possibilities that “emergent” behavior and other chaotic wonders start magically appearing (sometimes as bugs🤣)!
I usually play on my sons’ Switch if I am playing on a console, but I am mostly a PC gamer.
Women in the Gaming Industry
Do you feel the gaming industry is still very much male dominated, or do you think that has changed or is changing?
Absolutely! The gaming industry is still very much male dominated and exceptionally conservative. Not only is the industry comprised by mostly men in every power role, but publishing, distribution, etc are controlled by largely male gate keepers (including big influencers) that decide who will get the money for games and what kinds of games are worthy of being made. I have personally found it quite frustrating and often have thought that I would have an easier time if I was a man, especially with publishers. The industry does appear to be changing for the better, but quite slowly! By comparison, Hollywood has changed far more, and yet it’s easy to see how far the movie and film industry still has before establishing equal respect and opportunity for women producers, directors, writers, actors, etc.
Do you think a woman has a different approach when it comes to making games?
Yes! I have seen so many new types of games coming out since women have been more involved! So many more kinds of games and new voices being allowed in the world of games, and I think a key need now is networks, groups, etc of women and allies to bring them all together — like LadiesGamers.com!
What advice would you give girls who have a dream to one day have a job in the gaming industry?
Do it! There is so much to explore and learn, and the creative possibilities are endless! Make the game you want to play. Female voices need to be heard in this amazing medium!
If you could be a character in a game, which one would it be and why?
I guess I have to say that I am still waiting to find that ideal character in a game that I want to be, but I will keep you posted when I find her!