Minecraft Game Director, Mojang Studios
Head of Xbox Social Impact
Co-Host What's Good Gaming
[MUSIC PLAYING] REBECCA GORDIUS: March is Women's History Month in the United States, and International Women's Today is March 8. So I'm very excited today to be hosting an all-women episode for International Women's Day. I had the opportunity to chat with some really incredible women who are doing great work from a few different disciplines, which is really exciting. I think it's a good reminder that you can always find a role in gaming, even if you don't come from a technical background. But, yeah, so let's get into it. My first guest today is Agnes Larsson, who's a good friend of mine from the Minecraft team. Thank you so much for joining us.
AGNES LARSSON: Thank you for having me. It's so nice to be here. It's so nice to see you again.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I know. It's been so long. We were just talking, it's been, I think, two years since we've seen each other in person. I miss Sweden very much. And I would love to give you a hug but anyway.
So, obviously, I'm very familiar with your work. But if you wouldn't mind just sharing a little bit about your day to day and how you're contributing to the Minecraft team?
AGNES LARSSON: Oh, for sure. So as the Minecraft game director, I am like the creative lead of Minecraft, which means that I work a lot together with the team and with the community on the new updates for Minecraft for example and the creative direction, creative vision. I also get to do really fun things like Minecraft Live for example. So it's a lot of different things, but, yeah, I'm really happy I get to do it.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I feel like you get to do some really cool things on the team, just being in different videos. I know you got to go to China and speak on stage at our summit with some folks on the Chinese team too, which is very cool.
AGNES LARSSON: That was very exciting.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I think you have a pretty cool story. Can you just tell us how you came to have this role on the Minecraft team?
AGNES LARSSON: Oh, yes. Like, where should I start? So, first, I have always loved games. So I started to play games when I was three years old I think, and I started to draw my own games also as a really young child. So I always loved games and game development.
But I didn't think it was possible to work with it. Sadly, I didn't think that was a possibility. So I decided to become an engineer. And then my first job was as a software developer on the company, like a tech company, but it wasn't in the gaming industry.
But then I-- well, I guess I got lucky. So I met Jens, or Jeb, through a friend, and we started talking about Minecraft and coding. And Minecraft had already been my favorite game for many years. So he was like, well, you should apply. Like what? Should I apply?
I did. I was very nervous. So then I joined the Minecraft team as a coder and designer. And then, after some years--
REBECCA GORDIUS: And you were just very good at your job and yeah.
AGNES LARSSON: I love it so much.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Well, I don't think it's luck, and I'm very happy that he convinced you to apply. I feel like a lot of-- for a lot of people that I've spoken with just over the years who work in gaming, no one thought that this was going to be a viable career for us like 10, 20 years ago. I would have never thought that I would get to talk about video games on a daily basis and get paid for it, right? And I'm sure you felt the same. It was always a personal passion.
AGNES LARSSON: Definitely.
REBECCA GORDIUS: But how do you feel about-- I mean, I guess, how has your experience been working in the gaming industry the last, like, how long has it been now? Like, five, 10 years?
AGNES LARSSON: Yeah, it's almost six years in the game industry. And before that I was in the tech industry.
REBECCA GORDIUS: And can I just ask, how do you feel as a woman, especially, like, a woman who works in software and actually does have a technical role? Do you feel like it kind of helps you bring a little bit of something else to the job? Or how do you feel?
AGNES LARSSON: Yes, I mean, I think diversity teams are always so good. And there are many different kinds of diversity. And in many tech teams, I definitely-- like when I joined Mojang, for example, I was the first female developer. Now, there are more, which is amazing.
And I actually noticed a difference. I remember, maybe two years ago, I often were the only woman in meetings. And, now, I even have had meetings with only women. It's like, what? So it's much more women now, which I think is great of course. So but yeah, bringing in diverse perspectives is always a good.
And, for example, also, in developing a game, that can even be about how you enjoy playing the game, like how you enjoy playing Minecraft. And then if you have people in the team playing in different ways, that's really good.
REBECCA GORDIUS: That's a good point. Yeah, I feel like the studio has been looking at-- initially, it was just creative and survival. And now we've been looking at a lot of different ways that people like to play and enjoy Minecraft or can see Minecraft content. I think last time I had checked our players bit split was somewhere around 60-40 male-female, which is pretty great for a game. But I think it's also important that we have a studio that represents the diversity of that community and can kind keep an eye out for that part of our player audience which is pretty cool.
Well, how do you feel about-- do you have any kind of advice or tips for women who want to break into the gaming industry but aren't really sure where to start?
AGNES LARSSON: Yes. Actually, one thing, one of my favorite advice to give to others is that you should dare to apply, and you should believe that you can do it because, for example, I did not. I don't think I would-- it would at least have taken me many more years before I would have tried to apply to Mojang for example if it wasn't for Jens told me that I should. So that's one thing.
Research also shows that, for example, when women read what's called job ads, and it might be these lists, like, you should have this many years of experience or doot, doot, doot. And, then, many are like, oh, no, but I don't fulfill all of these, so I will not apply. But you should apply if you believe that you can do this job because often you can, even if you don't have as many years experience as it says. So that's like one thing-- believe that you can because you can. Like, if you're super excited about something, you're also probably going to be really, really good at it.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, that's really good advice. I mean, honestly, I think a lot of women do kind of shy away from applying to things a little bit more often than men because we're not really sure we meet the qualifications. But, yeah, you should absolutely just always go for it. I always try to tell my friends the same thing, and they're like, oh, I'm really sure.
Well, switching gears, you're doing some really great work on the Minecraft team. So how does it feel working on Minecraft? What do you like about it?
AGNES LARSSON: Wow, I mean, so Minecraft has been my favorite game for more than 10 years, so I'm very happy that I get to work on it. And one thing is, of course, it's it is just my favorite game. It's so fun. It's so creative. And I get to tell my own stories, and then it's fun to also make the game better for everyone.
But then another thing I really love with Minecraft is that we are trying also to make the world a better place. Like, for example, like when we added bees to Minecraft, we were like, oh, but then we can take the opportunity to educate the bit about sustainability in a fun way because it's a game. And I think we always think about that. Like, what can we do to, of course, add as much player delight and joy as possible, and, at the same time, make the world a better place? And that, I think, is beautiful.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I totally agree. That's one of the things that I also really, really enjoy about working on Minecraft. I feel like I'm having a positive impact. Like, it seems like the Minecraft team always wants to help out from different sustainability cultural initiatives, like taking a stand, things like that, which is lovely to see.
All right, well, can I ask what's next for you? How is development coming these days?
AGNES LARSSON: Well, now we are working a lot on the wild update of course. So that is exciting to see, like all the features actually starting to get playable and really, really, really fun. And then, as always, there's so many things we want to do with Minecraft. We have so many ideas.
And I cannot tell you, but we kind of know what's going to happen after wild update too. And that's exciting. Lots of fun.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I know. I can't believe Minecraft Live is still many, many months away. But I always Look forward to seeing you on stage and talking about the next game update. So I hope we'll see you at Minecraft Live again soon.
But, otherwise, I think we'll move on to our next interviews now. So thank you so much for joining us, Agnes. It was really nice to catch up with you.
AGNES LARSSON: Yeah, thank you. It's so nice to see you again.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I'm very excited today to welcome to the show a good friend of mine on the Xbox team. We've been working together for a couple of years. We even got to meet in person last summer in New York, and we had Korean barbecue. And it was a lot of fun. So please welcome to the show Jenn Panattoni-- the head of Xbox social impact.
Hi, Jenn. It's been too long.
JENN PANATTONI: How are you? I know, it's so good to "see you."
REBECCA GORDIUS: "See you." I'm good. Next time I come out to Redmond, maybe we can get together.
JENN PANATTONI: Absolutely, not even a question.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, thank you so much for joining the show. I know you have a very busy schedule. But, first, I'm curious, what have you been up to lately? What have you been playing?
JENN PANATTONI: What haven't I been playing? I mean, there's been so many good releases in the last little bit, and it really depends on how I'm feeling. You know, am I playing Dying Light 2? Am I playing Elden Ring? Am I playing-- uh, there's just so much. I think this is actually the first time I've ever had the problem of, I have actually too many games. Like, I know everyone kind of jokes about that. But I'm actually there right now.
So I'll say, for now, I'm almost done with Dying Light 2. But there's, probably, I'm playing six games right now.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Goodness. I'm not really sure how you do that. I feel like if I do that, it's like two months in between me playing another game. But how do you like Elden Ring so far?
JENN PANATTONI: It's hard. It's a very hard game. Yeah, but it's fun. It's interesting. It's just interesting being frustrated by a game, but it's also so like you want to finish it. I've never actually been more motivated, so it's fun.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, nice, OK. We can talk more about that later. I'm very curious about Elden Ring. I still haven't gotten around to trying it yet. But, anyway, sorry.
So thank you for joining the show. As I said, we've been working together the last year and a half or so, two years. So can you just tell us a little bit about your work, the work that your team has been doing?
JENN PANATTONI: Absolutely. So as Rebecca mentioned, I'm the head of social impact. And what that team does is we oversee all of the marketing for cultural campaigns. So if you see Xbox celebrating International Women's Day, International Day of the World's Indigenous People, Black History Month, my team works across the entire business to centralize all the different amazing activations going on across the business and providing a few different marketing places for folks to go learn about how to celebrate these moments along with us-- things that you can go do, things you can go learn. So there's that element of what the team does.
We also do all of the charitable partnerships and fundraising. So if you've seen any of the live streams we do for Twitch-- Extra Life or any of the rewards programs that happen for a numerous amount of reasons-- our team drives all those. We have amazing non-profit partners that we work with. It's, honestly, probably one of the joys of, not even just my life, but to be able to leverage the video gaming community and video games in general to make positive change in the world is just a dream.
And then sustainability as well-- so if you see sustainability marketing coming out or any of that, my team deals with that as well. So it's all-- I like to joke I have the most wholesome role in the business.
REBECCA GORDIUS: No, but honestly, you do. I mean, you kind of have a role in all of the good things that Xbox is trying to do and give back to the community, which I love, and so I feel very fortunate to have been a part of that work with you too-- helping out with some of these cultural moments and just the different initiatives Minecraft is doing. So it's been very rewarding. It's been a very great aspect of the job.
So how did you get started in the gaming industry? Obviously, you're a gamer.
JENN PANATTONI: Yes, some of my earliest memories are actually video games. I know I've told this story before, but I have an older brother. And people would buy me dolls growing up, and he'd throw them away because he needed a player two.
But fast forward to getting in the gaming industry-- in 2015, I decided I really want to work in video games. It's been a passion for me for ever. And I applied to Xbox and got a position on the policy and enforcement team or now the Xbox safety team. So I was working over there developing features to keep people safe and promote safety on the console.
But, then, as I was working in that space, I saw that there's a huge power behind the gaming community and that the gaming community really wants to be stewards of the world and make positive change. And so I went to a few different leaders across the business and said, hey, there's a real opportunity for us to work with the gaming community to make positive impact in the world.
The role didn't exist. The team didn't exist. And I just totally didn't expect anyone to say yes.
And the leadership here is fantastic. And they said, OK, go make it happen. So, of course, after panicking for several days, I started figuring out what this team needs to go do, how we can work with different partners across the business, across the industry, across the community, and here we are today.
REBECCA GORDIUS: So I know that your team has evolved quite a bit over the last couple of years. Like, initially, it was the Social Good Team, now it's Social Impact. When exactly did you get the start of this team? Because it has changed quite a bit for the better.
JENN PANATTONI: Absolutely, yeah, I would say probably the beginning of last year was when we really formalized and started. Previously, when I was in engineering, I went from being on the policy and enforcement team to the gaming for everyone team. And that's where I really just hunkered down for a year and figured out, how do I make this work? How is the best way to make this work across the business and make sure we have hyperinclusion of so many different teams and perspectives and people to make this really come to life in an authentic, genuine way.
We had a really good program there. But then we decided, you know, this actually needs to go to marketing because, ultimately, that's where a lot of the power is in communicating all this out. And so we got a roll over on marketing, got a placement. So I went over to marketing about summer of 20-- I don't remember. The last two years have felt like two years and a decade at the same time.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yes, we can all relate to that.
JENN PANATTONI: 100%. So it was actually a summer of 2020. And then I went over to marketing. And then beginning of last year when you and I started working together on this stuff, that's when it really became formalized.
And the team, as you mentioned, it does evolve and it does change just because there's so much going on and so much more that we can go do. So I always consider this team kind of an evolving program and evolving team, if you will, just to ensure that we are being as inclusive, as proactive for making positive change that we're able to.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I mean, just a little bit of inside baseball too. I've been working with the Minecraft team for the last six years, five years, something like that.
JENN PANATTONI: Amazing.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Thank you. Like, we always wanted to be like, OK, Hispanic Heritage Month is coming. What can we do? What kind of guidance do we have?
And I think that there were all these other teams across the studios who want to activate for these moments and they want to support the community, but then there isn't really anyone to kind of reel them in and say, OK, let's work together on this, or let's all centralize on this day or things like that. So it's been great having your stewardship and making all of these moments come to life. I think we really do need someone to kind of organize everyone, otherwise it's just all these studio people going wild. But that's very cool.
How would you describe the environment working on team Xbox? Was Xbox the team that you always wanted to work on? Were you a big Xbox gamer before this?
JENN PANATTONI: Yeah, I actually have a screenshot of this social post I think I did back in like 2011 or 2010. And I had just gotten done with a PAX. And I was like, OK, I am like manifesting this. My future career needs to be in the gaming industry. Like, I love video games. And, of course, no one liked it because I don't know why.
And that's fine. I think I had like, I don't know, a couple of friends on social at the time. It's always been something I wanted to be passionate-- or it was important to me and, specifically, the intersection of leveraging video games for good. That's always been kind of a passion of mine.
But, again, it almost kind of comes down to representation. Like, there weren't many roles. I think there were one or two in the industry at the time. And I'm like, well, how do I go do this?
And so when I joined Xbox, I always thought I wanted that role. But it never happened or I never saw it. And, then, finally, I just kind of-- as Rebecca knows, I'm one of the most patient people you'll ever meet. And I was like, you know what? I'm just going to see what happens.
I'm definitely a person who you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. And I love asking questions, probably a little too much. And so I just asked the question and said, hey, can we go make this happen? And that's how really, this came to life.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I would describe you as patient for sure. But also a go-getter. Like, you're not one to really wait for this to be handed to you. I think that you did a great job in bringing this team forward, and then I feel like every moment we have, there's always some kind of learning or thing that we can do better, which I really, really appreciate.
But, also, I just love that your hosts in 2011 and 2012 were so wholesome. I'm pretty sure mine we're just about like watching Jersey Shore and eating instant noodles. So that's very cool.
But, I mean, I think a lot of us never really thought that a career in gaming was so viable unless you were a developer or an engineer. I mean, obviously, I don't have a technical background, and here I am anyway. I mean, what kind of tips or like guidance would you give for people who want to break into the gaming industry or work for a publisher or a company like Xbox?
JENN PANATTONI: Don't be intimidated. Like, to your point, I know there are so many people who they think they have to have a technical degree. And, by the way, I think that was the one wholesome post. The rest of my posts that time and actually still to this day, are about my pets because they're actually way cooler than me. You can see one right there.
REBECCA GORDIUS: We're not mad at it. We like the pet posts.
JENN PANATTONI: Exactly, yeah. They're a lot cooler. But don't be intimidated. There's so many ways you can get involved. And you don't need a technical degree. I have a linguistics degree. And even then, sometimes I wonder why I have a linguistics degree because my ability to word correctly or even spell is sometimes debatable.
But just really kind of figure out what would be important to you. What is something that you want to go do? Do you want to work in video gaming? Yes, no? Do you want something technical? If so, go study something technical, like go take a course. See if that's even for you.
Some people I want to be devs. And they take one course, and they're like, absolutely not. Hard pass. So then just really exploring the breadth and depth.
Yes, there's roles in studios. There's roles in accessibility. There's roles in marketing. There's roles in business development. There's actually so many things that make video games come to life. And I think that's really, honestly, one of the most exciting things about this, right? There's just so many different ways you can leverage your strengths and skills to really make an impact in video gaming.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I totally agree. It was the same for me. I was looking at boring jobs, and then I had a professor tell me, follow what you're passionate about. And I was like, well, I really like video games. I've been playing a lot of Halo, and so here I am.
I also think that the just knowledge of the gaming industry and just the public perception of the gaming industry has changed so much in the last couple of decades. I mean, you and I have seen this. I think gaming has become a more welcoming place. How do you feel about the gaming industry now versus like 2015 when you first came in?
JENN PANATTONI: I would absolutely agree that there have been many, many, many steps toward inclusion. There's been many, many steps towards making this a more approachable, welcoming place. And, obviously, there's always a journey, and it's always something that we will continue to strive to do-- kind of going back to the point of these are always evolving things. Like, I never consider anything final.
One of the ways to think about it, it's never a "if it's not broken, don't fix it." If it's not broken, how can I make it better? How can I make it more inclusive? How can I make things more approachable or welcoming? That's how I really look at things, especially in the gaming industry.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, there's never two similar days in the gaming industry. Things are always changing. Something new is coming out. Something big is happening.
JENN PANATTONI: Absolutely.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I want to get to the meat of it. So what can you tell us about Xbox International Women's Day, Women's History Month plans? Obviously, this is the special episode airing on International Women's Day. So what's in store?
JENN PANATTONI: So much-- we have so much. What I will say is, I can give a very, very, very high-level overview, but you will notice that we have an Xbox Wire post coming out. We'll have some social posts going out to kind of support that and drive people to that main place. That's really where we centralize all of the activities happening across the business.
We do this because we want to make everything really findable and discoverable. And then, that way, people can basically just go down the list of, hey, I played this game. Let me check it out. Or, oh, this looks exciting, let me go try this out.
But we have an amazing post that's been penned by Louise O'Connor who I think I'm probably her number one fan. She is the executive producer on Everwild. I met her at Grace Hopper, and I'm literally obsessed. She is amazing.
We have a lot of really cool stuff coming out. I think one of the things I really, really love, and we've actually been working across the world for this, we have a mentorship program coming out, specifically, kind of to things that you and I have been talking about of. Are you interested in working in the gaming community? If so, here's a mentor that you can sign up to get one-on-one time with on.
You can talk about your skills, your strengths, and then how can you work with this mentor and get some advice or some guidance on how to, potentially, approach working in the gaming industry. So that, to me, is incredibly exciting because we've been working very intentionally across the world-- people with different languages, people with different skills, backgrounds. Just because it kind of all comes back to that theme of there's no one way of really making this happen. So that, I think, I'm really excited for.
We also have our amazing, amazing family at Bethesda and ZeniMax included in that as well. So we really wanted to make this a big family effort, if you will, across the world, across studios. So I think that, to me, is really exciting.
A lot of the studios have some new lessons coming out. You have some esports tournaments. You have ambassadors coming out with stories of women in the gaming community and talking about what it's like.
I don't want to steal the thunder of The Wire post because I do believe it actually-- I mean, I love it. But my team helps drive and centralize this stuff. But I do think it is a good read, and I would encourage everyone to go check it out.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I think our Xbox Wire editors, they review all of the posts for readability and searchability and things like that, and then we get around to these posts and it's like, it is so fricking long because there's just so much that people-- between the movies, the TV, the different activities of the studios-- like you mentioned-- like mentorship opportunities to different like social programs, there's just so much going on. So, yeah, I also plus-one to that. Highly recommend people go check out the Xbox Wire post. There's a lot going on.
JENN PANATTONI: Also, don't forget, we have rewards on console actually. So if you have a desire to go spend those Microsoft rewards points in support of nonprofit supporting women in gaming and the gaming community, feel free to check them out. We have some nonprofits that are both local and international, again, bringing in the international theme. We've got some really cool stuff. So, yes, go check it out.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I feel like a lot of people even have rewards points available and they don't even realize it. So, absolutely, go check it out. See if you have any. Put them to good use. Love to see more women in gaming and women in tech, so whatever we can do to help.
JENN PANATTONI: Yes, please.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Well, let's see. So, yeah, I mean, there's rewards. Any other final words or thoughts about how people can join us in celebrating at Xbox?
JENN PANATTONI: In joining us, we have a bunch of programming on the Xbox twitch channel, so make sure to tune in for all that. You'll see some announcements on Twitter. God, too many things, starting with T.
But we'll have announcements of that on Twitter so you can go check it out and stay up to date. We'll have the nonprofits that we're supporting coming on. We have women content creators and streamers coming on and joining us, games that were developed by women studios-- a lot of really cool stuff. So if you want to just tune into those, that's another way to do it. Again, rewards is a way to help out.
But just go see what speaks to you. Go try something new. I would issue a challenge of if you haven't played Minecraft, which I don't know if there are people who have not played Minecraft at this point in time.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Not that many people.
JENN PANATTONI: But if you haven't-- exactly. But if you haven't, Minecraft has this amazing thing that we're announcing for International Women's Day. I'm not going to spoil it because I think it's pretty awesome. And, again, you should go read about it.
There's esports tournaments, so you can go spectate on those-- just really cool stuff. Or you can show your support with the new profile themes and gamer pics and avatar items that we made with the awesome visual ID that people came together with. I love it so much.
REBECCA GORDIUS: It is really cool. I love it too. All right, well, thank you, again, so much Jenn for joining us. It's always a pleasure catching up.
I kind of want to talk about Wordle. Let's talk about that offline. I know you mentioned linguistics. I'm like, I want to talk about wordle. But, yes, thank you again for joining us. Yeah.
JENN PANATTONI: Any time.
REBECCA GORDIUS: It's my pleasure today to welcome to the show self-proclaimed blonde nerd and co-founder of What's Good Games, Brittney Brombacher. It's so nice to meet you-- "meet you."
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: So nice to meet you too. I know-- "the e meet" is what it's been for the past couple of years.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I feel like we've probably like past at different like events. And I feel like I've definitely seen your name on emails before. And I've been watching some of your podcast episodes, so I'm really excited to talk to you. I've been like kind of giggling as I've been like listening to them and getting ready and stuff.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Yay.
REBECCA GORDIUS: But my very first question for you before we get started is, I love to meet fellow whiskey aficionados, so I'm curious if you have a favorite one that you'd like to share with us?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Oh, man, so my favorite go to on any rainy day it's just good old Maker's Mark. You just can't go wrong with a good old Maker's Mark.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Agreed.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: I have been diving into scotch a little bit lately. Maybe it's because we're getting some of that spring shower here in Western Washington. And just a nice glass of scotch just really helps you deal with it, you know? But I would say, yeah, Maker's is my go to for now. You can't go wrong.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, Maker's is a really good one. Yeah, if someone shows up to a party with a bottle of Maker's, I'm never like, oh, no Maker's. It's always like, it's nice.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Oh, no. I mean you can't say it off camera, but I do I did show you behind the scenes. But I have a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label that I have been nursing. That's a really good one too.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, it's good to keep one of those handy. I had a bottle of tequila back in my desk in Redmond when we were still in the office. But no one really needed to know about that so.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: No, no, no.
REBECCA GORDIUS: That's very cool. I'm also a big scotch fan. The peatier and the smokier, the better for me.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: What's your favorite scotch?
REBECCA GORDIUS: The peatier the better. So like I lay so any like a nice Laphroaig or Lagavulin is really nice. But my favorites are probably like Japanese whiskeys, which are kind of similar to scotch.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: I've just been also getting to that too. The Suntory has been something I've tried-- real good.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Nice, nice. Very cool. All right, sorry, I'm just excited to talk to someone else about whiskey.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: I live for that.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yes, OK, sorry. So let's get down to business. So do you want to just tell us a little bit about your work and kind of what you do in the gaming industry?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Oh, sure, yeah. So I am a co-founder of the What's Good Games podcast, and we launched in 2017. And the original founders were myself, Andrea Rene, Alexa Ray Corriea, and Kristine Steimer. Kristine Steimer and Alexa Ray have since left the show to pursue-- can I swear on this?
REBECCA GORDIUS: Um, try not to.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: I'll just kick butt.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I don't know.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Kick butt opportunities. I won't say A-S-S word just in case we're keeping it PG here. Anyway, they're just kicking so much butt over in other opportunities. Steimer is over with Riot, and Alexa is over with sledgehammer. But I digress.
So it's just still Andrea, Renee, and I. And we launch episodes every Friday. And we like to think that we are an upbeat podcast about video games in a sense that we want you to leave our show feeling a little happier, a little refreshed.
Like don't get me wrong, we're not afraid to criticize heavily if something needs to be heavily criticized on our show. But we like to look at things from a different angle instead of just saying, "things are bad." It's like, well, things are bad because of this, this, and this reason. We like to incorporate audience participation.
So our shows consist of the news of the week. And then the next segment is what we've been playing. And then if we have a lot of fun guests on, then we talk about our guests and introduce them to our audience. So that's primarily What's Good Games is. Yeah.
REBECCA GORDIUS: That's pretty cool. I listened to two podcasts today. One was yours. It was the episode where you guys were talking about NFTs. And then it was kind of a stark contrast because, earlier in the day, I had watched or listened to this podcast about-- ironically, it was a podcast about monitoring podcasts for safety and misinformation and things like that. And that one was-- it wasn't boring, but it was a little bit monotonous. I was like OK, they're bringing on this scientist and this expert now. And it's like, OK.
But then I listened to yours. I was like, oh, this is like really upbeat and it's really interesting, and these women are really well-spoken. And I was like I'm going to learn something from them.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Oh, yay.
REBECCA GORDIUS: So it's very cool to see you guys thriving. So I love it.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Thank you.
REBECCA GORDIUS: So I know that you mentioned earlier that your background is a collection of I guess things you've been like grabbing over the years. So I'm assuming that you've been a gamer for quite a while. But how did you actually break into the gaming industry? Because, I mean, you couldn't have just started as a podcaster, because podcasts have only been around for the last like so many years. So how did you get your start?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Yeah, so like you said, I've been playing video games for a long time. And my grandma actually is the one who introduced me to video games. And bless her heart, she's 80 years old, and she still plays video games all the time. I just love her.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Wow.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: I always have to plug her when I can. So I just come from a family of gamers. My grandma, all of my aunts play, and so all the women in my family have always played games. So when it came time for me at the ripe age of five years old to hop into games, I never had this like conception of, like, oh, I'm a girl. I don't belong here because all the women in my life played. So I just played my entire life.
And then when I turned around-- well, I guess I graduated from high school. I went straight out of high school to working for the Department of Corrections. I didn't work in the prisons or anything. I was more of an admin clerk-- such a weird contrast.
And while the work there was fulfilling, it wasn't getting my creative juices flowing. And it was around this time that I discovered that I loved-- I wanted to be in the game industry some way, somehow. And so at that time, IGN had their own community blogs that they would host on their website. So I started my own community blog there, which was fun. And I did that for a couple of years.
But what it really taught me is I love blogging about video games. I love talking about video games. I love belonging to a community of fellow gamers I can talk about and share my passion with.
And this small-knit group of bloggers-- community of bloggers and I-- we went to we road tripped the very first PAX East together. We started podcasts together. We had so much fun.
But then I quickly realized that if I really want to break into the industry, I can't link someone to my community blog on IGN. I should probably start my own website. So that's what I did.
So, in 2011, I launched BlondeNerd.com, which is where the Twitter handle comes from. And I did that for a couple of years, started earning media passes to cover PAX, to cover E3, to cover San Diego Comic Con. Really loved it.
And, then, I eventually, in 2013-- and I can't say I recommend that everyone does this unless you really have your stuff together-- I quit my job at the Department of Corrections, and I pulled out my retirement. And I found a part-time job, and I had really cheap rent on my back then apartment. And I was able to float myself for many years until we started What's Good Games in 2017. And now we're partnered with Rooster Teeth, and we're able to monetize with our in-podcast advertisements.
So it's been like a whole journey since 2009. But that's like the TLDR of it. Yeah, I've just been very fortunate. It's been really fun.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I think it's cool because we all kind of-- I think at least like our generation-- we kind of grew up thinking, like, OK-- at least for me, especially coming from an Asian family, it was like, OK, I need to either go to medical school or law school or I need to work in finance or one of these things. I don't think that any of us thought that we would be here 20 years ago, right?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Oh, yeah. No, and I think that's one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give someone is-- it took me from 2009 to 2017 to make a steady source of income from this industry. And I say study-- like, it's great and I'm fortunate, but it's not like I'm making bucket loads of money doing what I'm doing. But what I have is the passion, right?
We have our supporters on Patreon. We have our ads that we monetize. But if you hop into this industry just because you want to make a quick buck-- I mean, talk to anybody who works in this industry really. Like, it's not that easy. You have to love what you do, and you have to have the passion.
When I was working for corrections, I was commuting three hours a day back and forth to my job. I would come home and start working on my website. And I did that for years and years and years because I loved it.
And, yeah, it's just as simple as you got to put the work in. And if you really love what you do, it won't feel so much like work. It'll be fun. And the doors that open along the way are just-- it's amazing. Yeah, I'll stop being preachy, but that's it.
REBECCA GORDIUS: It's not preachy. I think it's nice to talk to other people in the gaming industry who are passionate because I didn't really feel like I found my tribe until I started working with other people who were in gaming. It was like, oh, you're also very nerdy, and we can talk for hours about XYZ game or anime or TV show.
So I think the gaming industry-- like, it is such a fantastic place to work for people who are passionate. And there isn't really like-- unless, I mean, there are some really traditional paths. Like you can go to school and learn how to code and then become a developer. But then there are other very non-traditional paths, like maybe yours or mine. So there is no wrong way to get into it, right?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: You just have to have the passion, and that's what it comes down to honestly.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Well, let's see. OK, so you've been in the gaming industry for a pretty good amount of time now. I won't say a long time because I feel like that's like insinuating that you're old or something.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Oh, no, it's OK. You know, I feel it. It's fine. Call it what it is.
REBECCA GORDIUS: How would you say that the gaming industry has changed from your perspective from when you first started working with the IGN community blog to where you are now?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Oh, that's a really good question. I think what's been the biggest changing factor that I've seen has been the introduction of social media. I think what we're seeing-- and, I mean, this could apply to the entire world, but just to focus on video games, for example-- when I first hopped into the industry, all eyeballs were on me because I was a woman.
And that was still a weird thing for a lot of people to see-- someone who was passionate about games who was hustling to like break into the industry. Oh, my God, and she's a woman too. Wow, that's great. Which I'll admit it, like that helped my career early on right because you're kind of like standing out. But what I love to see now is because the introduction of social media and I think just-- there's more platforms for people to get out there.
It's not a big deal anymore to see a woman run podcasts or a woman-ran website. And that's talking more about, I think, the cultural side of gaming. And I think that has just been really fantastic. And I love that.
I feel like there's just so much support and acceptance for everybody in this industry. I mean, it needs to get better, but I feel like we're making some really good steps. And I think a lot of different industries can Look at the gaming industry and take a lot of notes in terms of the acceptance.
And, I think, for the most part, those who are in the industry, treat each other incredibly well. Of course, you have your outliers in other major communities. We all know it. Like, let's not sugarcoat it.
But, for me, I think that's just been kind of the biggest thing and how the communities can rally behind something. If something needs to be changed or if there's maybe a sensitive topic that's not being treated with the delicacy it needs to be, I think those voices are so great because we can now communicate with the developers themselves, right? We can communicate with the publishers themselves.
And I think just-- I know I'm on an Xbox podcast-- but I think what Xbox has done specifically has just been so admirable. I feel like Xbox is no longer just this brand. And I've talked about this on the show, so I'm not just shilling right now, I promise. I think it's so great that--
REBECCA GORDIUS: OK, I'll pay you after the show. No, I'm just kidding.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Pay me in Chipotle. Like, that's all we need. I love Chipotle. Shout out and Chipotle.
But, yeah, like the fact that Xbox just feels almost like a human, a person that you can talk with, and it doesn't feel like it's a super corporate brand. I think that has been such a cool introduction and a cool new thing that we didn't have 10 years ago. It was like, if you want to get in touch with the publisher or developer, you had to send like a stuffy email or like a stuffy letter even, and then maybe you'd get a response. And, even then, it was all corporatey mumbo jumbo.
But, now, it's like you're able to have real conversations with the people who make your games and publish your games. And I think that's had a really profound impact on how those games are developed and launched and treated with their marketing. So very long winded answer, but that's--
REBECCA GORDIUS: No, it's OK. I think you made a lot of really good points there. Like, there are now two-way paths of communication between developers and their communities. The game publishers and developers are even fostering these communities. Like, Discord has been huge for the gaming community. My team uses it every day. The Minecraft Discord in particular is just huge.
But I think you also made a good point about just, I guess, your experience coming up as a woman in the gaming industry, especially when things were kind of-- I mean, games have been around for a long time. But in the last like 10, 15 years, just the thought of gaming as an industry of its own has been becoming more and more socially acceptable. And I think that every woman who works in gaming has experienced-- like, they've been impacted by being a woman in gaming, whether it's for the positive, or we've all had like really negative experiences too right? Like, every woman can relate to that feeling in gaming, but I think that it helps make us-- like we kind of band together a little bit more and try to help each other.
And I think it really contributes to the overall environment in the gaming community, which is really lovely to see. And so I love to see you and Andrea on the podcast-- the What's Good Games podcast. It makes my heart happy.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Oh, thank you. And I think that's one of the most fulfilling things is we get letters from listeners-- from fathers who are saying I listen to the show with my daughter or maybe my girlfriend or wife doesn't really like games that much, but she can relate just listening to two women talking about it. And I think that's really important. And it makes our hearts happy too because that's what we want to do. We want to try to pave the way so we know when little girls grow up and they see this industry, that they have-- I'm not trying to put myself on a pedestal. I just want to be very clear, that's not what I'm trying to do.
But you can look at the industry and be like, OK, who are some of the top influencers in the industry? Oh there's women. Oh, they look like me. OK, cool. This may be a welcoming space for me. And it's worth all the negative comments. It's worth all of the uphill battles we've had to fight if they can make it easier for others to get into this industry and feel accepted. And I think that's really what really drives us.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, absolutely. Well, let's see. On a separate note, I'm really curious about-- you used to, I assume, go to like all the same trade shows and conventions that I used to. I guess, I want to talk about how your role has changed in the post-- like, this pandemic world that we're in. I mean, you were already kind of working from home most of the time, right?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Yeah, yeah. So I'm in Washington and Andrea and Steimer and Alexa we're all in California. So I had my in-studio set up. It didn't look this-- I air quotes here-- "professional" when I first started obviously. I just had the bare equipment or whatnot. But we've been doing this since 2017, so we've had time to upgrade.
But, yeah, so what I would typically do is I would fly to California about once or twice a month actually just to shoot some stuff in person. Before Andrea and I both had our children, we had monthly streams for our patrons, and we were able to do a lot more hands-on stuff.
And then, obviously, the pandemic hit. And then we had kids, and our kids were like a week apart.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Oh, wow.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Yeah, we didn't-- I don't know how we managed to pull that off.
REBECCA GORDIUS: You timed that well.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Yeah, not even intentional, I swear. But, yeah, it somehow worked out that way which has been good. Yeah, so as far as like how things have really changed post-pandemic, having our kids has obviously been the number one, huge thing. But we've been able to keep the show going.
We did go on a 2 and 1/2 month maternity leave for obvious reasons. But besides that, we haven't missed an episode since we launched in 2017. And that's just because we have built the business around working from separate states.
Yeah, I mean it's just, obviously, I miss going to the trade shows. I'm sure you do too.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I've been talking to some of my coworkers about Games Con a lot. And I feel like Games Con is one of those ones where you either love it or you hate it. I particularly liked it.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: I've never been to that one.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I really like German food and German beer. Oh, it's the one that everyone says is always the most chaotic because I think it's the most people. But it was really cool. I went in 2019, and they actually had an Audi that would drive you outside of the convention center if you needed to go from one hall to the other because it was just so crowded in the halls.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: What? Oh, my God.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah. And so I got to take this-- like I had this guy drive me from like the business center to this other hall. And I was like, no big deal--
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Look at me!
REBECCA GORDIUS: --just getting chauffeured around. Yeah. But I guess what's the next trade show or convention that you're excited to potentially return to after everything has kind of quieted down?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Yeah, oh, God. You know what I really miss? I really miss E3. I know E3 is kind of a mixed bag right now, but just the energy of that show was just unlike-- and don't get me wrong, like, I love PAX so much. That's my second favorite show. But there's just something so magical about E3-- the press conferences, the hype behind them, the Bethesda, the Xbox, and PlayStation.
Yeah, back when Nintendo used to do theirs, like, it was just such a fun time. You had the sunshine, and it was June. I don't know. I just loved it. They were long, long days.
But since E3 is kind of up in the air right now, I would have to say I guess PAX West. I mean, that's this summer. And, yeah, I mean hopefully all goes well and we can get all together and like resume things mostly from a normal perspective I guess. I just really want to go to a convention so bad.
But I do have a 9-month-old at home, so that kind of makes things a little tricky because I can't just go. And, like, if I get sick, I get sick, oh well. But it's like, now, if I get sick, I bring it home to my kid. And that kind of just puts your priorities in a different place, you know?
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, definitely. Have you found that having your-- son, daughter? Sorry.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Son, yeah.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Son. Have you still been able to play a pretty good amount of games, like, maybe when they're sleeping? No?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: I'm crying. No, I mean, OK, so thankful-- I mean, real talk. Like, I would be lying if I'm like, oh, yeah, I'm playing just as much as I used to. No, there's just no way.
But we're thankfully at a point now where he's on a pretty much predictable schedule. He has a very predictable bedtime. And we're able to get like five to six hours to ourselves at night.
So my husband also works from home. And so, thankfully, he and I are able to tag team. If he has calls or meetings or if I have something I need to do, it's as simple as just like plopping the child in the respective parent's office. I know, right? Chaotic people call their children "the child."
But, thankfully, if I do have a major review copy-- like, Horizon Forbidden West just came out not that long ago. I've had the game for maybe three weeks before launch because it was a review for me. So, thankfully, my husband put in overtime, and he was like, OK, I get it. You need to play this so you can review it and talk about it on your show. So I was able to put in a good solid like 30 to 40 hours over the course of a few weeks, which is just unheard of this day and age.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, back before I had a kid, it was no problem. Yeah, I could do that in a single week. But, now, no. So, yeah, I mean, I knew that was coming. That's OK.
But what actually has done though is it's helped me learn to prioritize which games I want to play because my time is so much more limited. And I have to give a huge shout out to every single person in there who puts pausable cut scenes in their games. You were doing the Lord's work. I can't tell you how many times--
REBECCA GORDIUS: I would have never thought about that. Yeah.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: And that's what I'm saying. You don't think about that stuff, right? I never really appreciated them. But you'll never-- it never fails. Like, I'll be in the middle of a super intense cut scene, and my kids like, hey, I want your attention, wah. And then I can just pause it, and it's great. Otherwise I can't watch it and it makes me sad.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Wow-- things that you don't think about. I mean, I'll realize it eventually. Let's see, what are you playing these days-- I mean, when you have time?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: When I have time, yeah. I'm still working on Horizon Forbidden West. That game is massive and I love it so much. So I'm playing that.
I am also playing Grim Dawn. That just came out to, I think, Xbox just not that long ago-- maybe a couple of months ago. And that's a game that came out in 2016. And I love it so much because it reminds me of the old school ARPGs like Diablo and whatnot. And I just have an absolute blast playing that with my husband co-op. So we play that after the kid goes to sleep.
I'm also playing unfortunately another game I can't talk about right now. But, yeah, I'm juggling a few different games-- so mostly Horizon and Grim Dawn right now. There's a bunch I really want to get into, but I just know the free time I have is so limited.
REBECCA GORDIUS: That's OK.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: I stare longingly.
REBECCA GORDIUS: There's more exciting stuff coming out this year too.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: I'll live vicariously through you. Whatever you're playing, I'll just ask-- get the vicarious thrill.
REBECCA GORDIUS: OK, well, it's been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. I guess, the last question is just where can people find you online? Obviously, I mentioned the What's Good Podcast. Anything else that you want to kind of close with or direct people to?
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Oh, sure, yeah. You can find her show at whatsgoodgames.com. Again, we release every Friday at 7:30 AM Pacific time, or you can find us on Twitter-- WhatsGood_Games. You can follow me on Twitter @BlondeNerd. And I would promote my other social channels, but I'm not active there anymore. So I would just say @BlondeNerd on Twitter it's probably your best bet.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Awesome. All right, well, thank you again so much for joining. It's been a pleasure.
BRITTNEY BROMBACHER: Thank you. This was fun. You're awesome.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Thank you to all three of my wonderful guests this week. This has been quite a big show for me personally, but I'm really excited to have the opportunity to host so many wonderful women who work in gaming. I even have my women in gaming t-shirt on this week. Well, not that I'm going to wear it all week.
But, anyway, so let's get into some news that you might have missed from this week and last week. So Forza Horizon 5 introduced American Sign Language and British Sign Language support for in-game cinematics, which is awesome. I know that the folks at Turn 10 and Playground Games really care about accessibility. So it's really great to see.
We also have some exciting news on the Flight Simulator front. They recently joined Xbox Cloud Gaming. So now supported mobile phones, tablets, lower spec PCs can have that same awesome experience as on Xbox Series X and S. This is also good news because Flight Simulator will now be available for Xbox One for the first time, which is great.
We also have some titles, which recently came to Xbox Game Pass or are going to be coming this week. So, now available, we have FAR-- Changing Tides, which is an atmospheric vehicle adventure that takes you through solving puzzles, going through mysterious depths, and navigating some really tough weather in a post-apocalyptic world.
And we also have Lightning Returns-- Final Fantasy XIII that arrived this week. And coming in a couple of days, we have Lawn Mowing Simulator. I don't think I really need to explain that one. Young Souls, which is an RPG with a great story and a beautiful, quirky universe-- very kind of cartoony. It kind of reminds me of like Adventure Time art style, which is pretty sweet.
And then we also have Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, which is a third-person action adventure game, which follows Star-Lord himself going through the universe and taking on some pretty explosive scenes. I'm actually pretty excited. Now that one's on Game Pass, I think I'm going to try that one out. I recently rewatched the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie the other day. And it was better than I remembered, so I'm going to hop back into that one.
We also have some titles that are going to be leaving Xbox Game Pass March 15-- NieR-- Automata, PHOGS!, Torchlight III, and The Surge 2. So if you wanted to play those, get it while you can.
Lastly, there's also been an update to the Xbox app on PC. So we have the Xbox Insiders group who give us really good feedback, help test out upcoming features, and they did some great work and provided a lot of really helpful notes for the team. So folks now have the option to choose which folders their games get installed to. They could access files for select games, options to repair and move them, and also the ability to mod more games. So never a dull day on Xbox-- always something happening, something coming and going.
But, yeah, I just want to say, obviously, I still feel like I'm kind of new to the podcast. It's been a little less than a year since I've been on. But thank you if you made it this far for tuning in and listening to a bunch of women talk about gaming.
I think there are some really awesome women in gaming, and I'm happy to be one of them. Shout out to the OG women-- my mom. Thanks for listening. But, yeah, we'll be back next week with a regular show. So thanks, everyone. Bye.