If anyone is curious about what I’ve been up to since leaving Telltale, I’ve been working with the lovely people at Glen Keane Productions/Netflix on a really charming kids show called “Trash Truck.”
I’ve known for a few weeks that I was going to have to write this but as I’m learning this morning; that doesn’t make it any easier. The short version, for you folks that want the gist and just want to skim the rest, is that after five crazy years at Telltale it’s time for me to say goodbye. Molly got a really incredible job offer down in Los Angeles (Can’t say anything publicly about it yet but trust me: It’s really, really cool) and so we’re going to be packing up our stuff, our cats, and moving down to SoCal in the next two weeks.
When I left Rhode Island and moved out to California for school in 2007 I wrote a list of “Dream Companies To Work For.” I don’t remember exactly where it ranked, but Telltale was definitely in the top 3. My dream was to write point-and-click adventure games and Telltale had been making a name for itself doing awesome things with licenses like Sam & Max, Monkey Island, Homestar Runner, and Puzzle Agent. So, a few years out of school and intent on joining this adventure game renaissance, I put together a crazy application to send Telltale’s way.
That application helped me get in the door, first on the cinematic team, (the quote was "We have no idea exactly where you'll fit, but we want you around.") and then making the switch to writing a few months later. It was a crazy leap of faith that not every company would make, and I am so insanely grateful that they were willing to take that chance on me. I was lucky to arrive at Telltale right after the first season of Walking Dead (ironically, the only Telltale title I hadn’t played yet when I applied) and so I got to be around for a period of time when the company was trying to find itself, then find itself again, and maybe one more time after that. In this brave new world where more and more folks are jumping on the "interactive, choice-based game" train, I feel really lucky to have been part of the team blazing strange new trails.
I got to ship somewhere in the ballpark of 20 episodes over 8 different games in my time at Telltale, and that is pretty unreal. I may not have gotten to write for Sam & Max, Monkey Island, or Puzzle Agent (Maybe someday. Still hopin’.) but I got to live a childhood dream and write Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and the Joker for Batman: The Telltale Series. I got to contribute to Clementine's story. I got to have a hand in creating cute robots and putting words in Scooter’s mouth for Tales from the Borderlands. And I got to be part of crafting a world full of heart and comedy for two and a half wonderful seasons of Minecraft: Story Mode - Those blocky dorks will always hold a special place in my heart.
But even more than the stats and figures, even more than the games, what I’ll always cherish about Telltale is the amazing people I got to work with every day. I made some of my best friends in those trenches - hell, Telltale is where I met and married my very best friend - and I am so proud of all the great stories we told together. The company is starting an exciting new chapter and I can’t wait to be just a fan again so I can see what happens next.
I’m still not 100% sure what my next chapter’s going to be yet. For now, I’m heading to LA with Molly and taking advantage of having some time to think about it. But I know that no matter where I go or what I do in my career, I'll always be proud of the time I spent at Telltale.
We had fun, didn’t we guys? I know I did.
I had too many mornings in a row where I'd pull my phone out from under my pillow, flip to Twitter, and immediately begin feeling stressed and miserable. Politics. Pop culture hot takes. All of it spewing at me from the literal hundreds of people I was following. At first I tried to cull my follow list. Mute anyone talking about things that stressed me out. But soon I realized that the source of stress wasn't linked to the topic being discussed - It was just straight-up, 100%, linked to being exposed to all that talking and thought-traffic at once. I'm ultimately a pretty solitary and reclusive person - I don't do parties, and I've had more than my fair share of crowd-induced panic attacks - and I'm starting to realize that Twitter is the psychological equivalent of standing in Shibuya Square during commute hour.
When we were in the planning and preproduction phase of writing Minecraft: Story Mode Season 2 I wrote up a document detailing some of the stylistic guidelines for how to write the characters, what kind of language was appropriate, etc. One of the sections that I spent the most time on was a section titled "On Comedy," which I thought might be fun to share below - It's a combo of thoughts on comedy specific to the MCSM universe, as well as some of my thoughts about interactive comedy on the whole. Hope you enjoy!
Comedy is an inherent part of MCSM, but the tone can be a little tricky for some folks to nail right away, which is why I wanted to do a section about Comedy in Minecraft: Story Mode --
Oh gross. Like a “How to Jokes” section?
Not exactly, but a section about some of the best practices for comedy when writing Minecraft: Story Mode. See, in a movie or TV show you could just pack every possible second full of gags, wordplay, etc. but in an interactive game it starts to feel like you’re just “along for the ride” if it’s a never-ending spree of jokes.
For example, imagine the player chooses to say “I want to go into the spooky house.”
JESSE: Come on everyone. Let’s go get up in that spooky house’s business.
IVOR: Ohh I know all about the spooky house business. Back when I was a real estate agent they were my speciality.
The player choosing to say “I want to go into the spooky house” became the setup for a funny line from Ivor which could probably get a laugh, but it kind of took the player’s input hostage. They hit a single button expecting to go to the spooky house but instead got an entire conversation between two NPCs. (A funny conversation, but not exactly what they were expecting from that button press.)