How I Made It

Brie Code, Video Game Designer

Brie Code is the Toronto-based CEO and creative director of TRU LUV, a video game design studio focussed on self-care. Here, she tells FLARE how she made it

Brie Code; @briecode

How do you describe your job to your family?

I’m the CEO and creative director of TRU LUV, a design studio that makes relaxing experiences for your phone: not quite video games, not quite apps—we call them companions. Our first product, #SelfCare, is a companion where you take care of a character through relaxing interactions.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I went to the University of British Columbia. I have a bachelor of science in computer science with a focus on artificial intelligence and psychology.

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

I graduated just before the dotcom crash and the only programming jobs left in Vancouver were for online gambling, porn websites or big banks. I asked to keep my student job writing software for two professors in the faculty of commerce at UBC, which bought me an extra year to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

What’s the weirdest gig you’ve ever done solely for money?

As a student I worked the night shift at a veterinary lab. I started at 9 p.m. and worked until 5 a.m., Monday to Friday. I’d receive medical samples from veterinarians from across British Columbia and the Yukon, enter them into the computer and send them off to their different sections of the lab. There was a radio in there, and I was alone so I’d get to listen to my favourite underground electronic music show on UBC’s student radio station.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

After I got my degree, I applied at Relic Entertainment, a games studio. My first interview lasted three hours and it was tough. I ugly-cried at home afterward because I was so intimidated. But they hired me! I started writing gameplay and user interface code and progressed to writing AI code.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

Diverse teams can be more effective, especially when it comes to complex tasks. We all have blind spots, and experts frequently share the same blind spots.

When you’re feeling low about your work, what’s the one thing you always do/watch/read/listen to bring yourself back up again?

I love the movie Hackers. I like the soundtrack and the ’90s outfits, and it reminds me of the first time I dialled in to another computer, and how magical and fascinating and life-changing it felt.

Who is your favourite person to follow on social media from your industry? What do you love about their social feeds?

Stephanie Hurlbert co-runs a successful startup, and she tweets honestly and openly about all the challenges and triumphs involved. I’m prone to working long hours, and Stephanie’s tweets remind me of the importance of reflection, perspective, down time and self-care.

How would you describe your industry in terms of representation and inclusivity?

The workforce in the video game industry is overwhelmingly white men of similar age and personality type. Women and other under-represented people face conscious and unconscious biases and harassment in the workplace as well as online. Despite the challenges, I would recommend this industry to any woman who is passionate about interactive media or future technologies—but I would recommend choosing a team that has women in leadership roles.

Looking to the future, what: excites you the most about your career?

Game designers currently know how to enable players who want to master a challenge, who want to fight and win. But they’re just starting to look at how we can use interactivity to care for ourselves, learn, create, grow, or even to design new forms of education, work or government. I’m not sure how far we’ll make it in this direction in my lifetime, but I’m very excited to see what we do.

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