Dyson Alumna Nina Freeman ‘12
Indie Game Designer Makes Forbes' 30 Under 30 List
Darling of the indie game design world, Nina Freeman ‘12 never expected to graduate with a degree in English, and to go on to find success as an in-demand videogame designer. She’s since been profiled by The Guardian, Wired Magazine, and was named one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 In Games for her innovative work in game design.
Inspired by an English course taught by Charles North, Pace’s Poet-in-Residence, Freeman realized that the things she loved most about theatre, the rich characters and storylines, were really about the writing. “I started writing poetry and thought, ‘this is what I’m here to do,’” she said. “I took as many classes with Charles North as possible. He helped me get my internship at The Poetry Project and it is where I did most of my poetry work.” She also served as co-editor of Aphros, Pace’s literary magazine.
Freeman eventually found the world of indie games. “Everyone in my generation grew up playing video games, but I never thought of them as a thing to make,” she said. “The first indie game that inspired me to start making games was Gone Home, a story-driven exploration game about a young girl who returns to her home in Portland to find her family is gone. I saw an opportunity to take the storytelling I had been doing through poetry and apply it to something new.”
The first game Freeman worked on was her own creation, Cibele. The game tells the story of a teenage girl, engaged in a whirlwind online romance with a fellow gamer, and is based on a personal experience she had during her college years. She wrote the characters and story, and worked with the game’s development team to transform concept art, sketches, and models into rich digital environments and characters. The game has garnered praise for its relatable characters and intimate storylines, and received the Nuovo (Innovation) Award at the 2016 Independent Games Festival, the largest annual gathering of the indie video game industry. “More developers are becoming interested in making these types of character-driven, story-involved games,” Freeman said. “It’s exciting because that’s the type of game that I really enjoy making.”
Currently, Freeman is working at the Portland-based game studio Fullbright as a level designer on the game Tacoma. “It’s basically my dream job,” she said. “If anything has benefitted me, it has been my skill as a writer. Good writing skills are applicable to any career that you want. Right now, I’m happy just making games for people who want to play them.”