We caught up with Lottie Bevan, Co-founder of BAFTA-nominated indie studio, Weather Factory, to hear her thoughts on all things gaming!
Lottie was a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit in 2018, a 2019 MCV ’30 under 30′, one of GI.biz’s ‘Top 100 most influential women’ and founder of Coven Club - a women in games support network. Prior to co-founding Weather Factory, Lottie worked at Failbetter Games as the sole producer of Fallen London, Zubmariner and Sunless Skies.
Weather Factory was established in 2017 by Alexis Kennedy and Lottie Bevan to make ingenious narrative games with a consciously indie aesthetic. Their game, Cultist Simulator was double-BAFTA-nominated.
What game(s) have you been working on recently?
We’re only a two-person team, but we’re working on two games at once, because why not?! We’re developing some new DLC for the second anniversary of Cultist Simulator, our Lovecraftian narrative card game, and we’re also working on BOOK OF HOURS, our upcoming literary RPG about running an occult library.
Women only make up 22% of the video game industry, despite 46% of all gamers being women. What has been your experience as a woman working in gaming?
A strange one! There are lots of women across the industry, even though we’re in the minority. Whether you feel isolated day-to-day depends on the culture and make-up of the studio you end up working in.
The big missing piece right now is women in senior leadership roles. Many of us get sick of the industry and leave, or we have children, and our careers suffer or come to an end. I think senior female leadership is the final problem we need to solve for equality in games.
What advice would you give to girls/women wanting to work in the gaming industry?
It’s a fast-moving, creative and rewarding industry where you can define your own role, set your own rules and focus on whatever specialism brings you the most joy. However, the indie scene, in particular, is unregulated. It’s sometimes a law unto itself, and it’s helpful to have a very clear idea of who you are and what moral compass you steer by to navigate games’ sometimes choppy waters.
What gaming stat surprises you the most?
It’s old news now, but I’m constantly shocked by how large and influential the Asian market is. We localised Cultist Simulator into simplified Chinese and Chinese players now make up around 20% of the game’s total player base. Many small indies like us - who usually don’t have the cash, the manpower or the connections to localise and release in Asia - forget about China, Japan and Korea, or at least write them off as impossible dreams for studios of our size.
Once you’ve got a foot through the door, though, you realise just how much you’re missing: not just the money - though the money! - but a whole separate gaming world of different audience tastes, different expectations, different languages and different ways of developing games. It’s fascinating.
How would you define a ‘gamer’?
I don’t like the term very much! It has connotations of teenage boys in basements eating crisps, and it also reduces a big, complicated human to one facet of themselves. We’re in an age now where almost everyone plays games at some point in their lives. ‘Gamer’ is really synonymous with ‘person’.
What aspect of gaming do you find most interesting?
I like the niche where gaming melts into a wider culture, particularly when it gets literary. Literature is my background, and I really love games that draw widely from other non-gaming influences. The widely and rightfully lauded Disco Elysium, for example, drew explicitly from Russian science-fiction writers, mainstream American TV, a wide variety of literature and modern and classical painters. It feels different to other RPGs because its DNA isn’t restricted to games.
How is esports impacting the indie gaming industry?
Honestly, esports seems to sit adjacent to the PC indie games scene like the cool kid at a party you’re not quite sure how to approach. The industry is certainly aware of the esports scene, but we seem to operate very differently.
As I understand it, esports revolves around big money, big events and big influencers. Indie PC games revolve around years-long development cycles and as much noise as you can possibly make on Steam when you launch. No indie has enough money to spend on big, televised events full of major YouTubers and streamers!
What is the biggest challenge in promoting an indie game?
Differentiating yourself from the crowd. There are so many other games out there, you need to separate your game from everyone else. It’s hard to do that when consumers see trailer after trailer of beautiful gameplay. Quality is no longer enough: you either need whack loads of money to spend on a large marketing campaign, or you need something other people don’t have.
This is why Weather Factory focuses on experimental, weird narrative games that nobody else is stupid enough to make. We’ll never be able to make the big bucks, but we will be able to show people something they haven’t seen before.
Where do you think the indie gaming market will be heading over the next few years?
We’re in the midst of a wholesome indie trend at the moment, with games like Untitled Goose Game and Ooblets generating a lot of buzz from a consumer base that often despairs of the world. Most artistic trends are pendulums, though, so I wonder if we’ll see a move towards dystopian or overtly political games again in the next few years!
What gaming and brand collaboration has surprised you the most and why?
Probably FFXIII’s Lightning appearing in a Louis Vuitton campaign. It’s great to see gaming culture merge with the wider world, but there’s a bit of an uncanny valley effect in seeing an evidently 3D model sell real-world handbags and clothing!
For me personally, the campaign also walked an uncomfortable line between fashion and women. Real-world models set an impossible weight and beauty standard for most women, and fashion has serious problems already with eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Replacing real-world models with fully computer-generated women - particularly a woman from a mainstream game, when AAA games have not historically covered themselves in glory with female character designs - feels a little like no real-world woman is good enough. But then I’m sensitive to this topic in particular!
Which brands would you like to see embrace gaming?
I’d love a closer relationship between games and the other major arts: film, books and visual arts. Games still exist at the sidelines of mainstream culture, though this is getting better with more widely played and accessible games like Pokemon GO and Bandersnatch. But the idea of a games exhibit at the TATE Modern, or a games collaboration with the BFI that’s not just about applying for video games tax relief, would be wonderful. Games seem on the cusp of finally breaking into mainstream culture - we just need one last push.