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From Let’s Player to Video Game Marketer: Nananea on Her Career and Orcs Must Die!

Nananea began making Let’s Play videos on YouTube several years ago, and eventually landed a job making marketing content for video games. In our interview, she explains her career trajectory, gives advice on how to build a career in video game marketing, and talks about Orcs Must Die! Unchained, a new free-to-play tower defense/MOBA/strategy game currently in open beta. Plus: how to make better Let’s Play videos, and why secrets are important!

How did you first get involved with the Orcs Must Die! franchise as a player?

I was introduced to Orcs Must Die! by Machinima Realm through my YouTube partnership with them at the time. Robot Entertainment had given Realm codes for their video directors if they produced some videos showing off the game. I jumped on the chance at a free game as I was very poor and wanted something new to work on…and I fell in love. Hard. While most people that were given codes were filming videos of the first level, I had already beaten the initial “War Mage” difficulty and wanted to make a video series on how to tackle the “Nightmare” mode and that’s exactly what I did.

How did you go from making Let’s Play videos to working for Robot Entertainment?

This ties in with the first question as I continued to make videos about the game after my initial series of walking players through “Nightmare” ended. I developed a new series called “Orcs Must Die! Versus” where I ran a tournament for some of the best players in the community, pitting their scores against each other in a real-time match and then editing it together in a split-screen format after the matches were done.

I asked Robot Entertainment for prize support on that tournament and that was the first real connection I had with Justin “SixOkay” Korthof, the Community Manager at the time. As my community ties continued to grow stronger, so did my ties with the company. I was one of the few community members given access to Orcs Must Die! 2 with the press a week early. I was given a vanity skin in the final Orcs Must Die! 2 DLC, Are We There Yeti? and then later when Steam Workshop support was added to OMD2 I dove in head first, creating some of the most popular mods for the game.

Nananea's skin in Orcs Must Die! 2

Nananea’s vanity skin (right) in Orcs Must Die! 2

At this point, I was a very strong member of the community, but I was still not working close with the company.

When Orcs Must Die! Unchained was almost ready for Alpha, a few of the top community members were allowed to check it out. Again, I put everything I had into it. Obviously I couldn’t make videos due to NDA and well…the game wasn’t announced yet, but I was giving as much feedback as I could on how the game played directly to the designers at Robot. Eventually I was asked to guest host with SixOkay on their Twitch livestreams to showcase some heroes and things were going well.

My passion for the franchise was obvious and I was asked to do some “how to play” videos for their hero roster as a contract gig. I accepted and knocked them out and then things were quiet for a bit. Finally, I asked for a job doing livestreams, hero videos, and managing their YouTube and livestreams. I figured I had a 50-50 shot, but they took a chance and hired me!

What does an average work day look like for a professional Video Content Creator?

So while I started off as a livestreamer/”how to play” video creator, it didn’t stay like that for long. More and more work was coming in that I took on from doing things like all-encompassing gameplay tutorials to patch teasers to videos showcasing the traps and gear in the Orcs Must Die! Unchained dashboard…so now I do all of that.

As part of the Marketing team, my day-to-day mainly consists of producing video content for upcoming releases. When we’re preparing a new release I’ll be working on videos concerning whatever content is coming up, so for example a hero, I’d be creating content of that hero for inside of the game, the website, our partners (Gameforge & Tencent), YouTube, and Facebook. Some things require less, some more, but it’s all very time consuming. We keep a pretty tight schedule and sometimes videos come in really hot as I usually can’t start filming until that asset is finished in-game. I also remotely produce our in-studio livestreams, which is a fun challenge, and I continue to stream gameplay myself…just one or two times a week instead of SIX!

Would you do anything differently in your career, if you could start over?

I would have started sooner. All through my life I had wanted a career in the gaming industry. I wasn’t sure what that meant though when I was younger…how would I do it? At some point that dream just ended. Life took over. I married, had a beautiful and awesome daughter, and divorced in my mid-20s and that seemed like all there was. When I started dabbling in gaming videos about six years ago it really hit me that MAYBE I could be good at this and it refreshed my childhood dreams.

So, yeah, if I could turn back time I would go back and get a traditional education in cinematography or animation and start doing what I love sooner.

What advice would you give to other women interested in getting into the promotional/marketing side of video games?

Justin (SixOkay) answers this question often and I think it rings true here…Apply. Send out your resumes. The gaming industry sounds like some mythical place that can only be accessed with an incantation, but it’s really just another career path. Get an education in marketing! Pick a community for a game you love and integrate yourself deeply into it! Have a strong understanding of how to talk to people correctly (something I’m still working on myself).

Generally be a social butterfly that loves gaming and is ready to work!

What advice would you give to women making Let’s Play videos, or who want to start doing that?

Be yourself and play what you want. Nothing is more off-putting to viewers, from my experience, than a fake personality playing a game you can tell they just don’t enjoy. Focus on your strengths and embrace them. Unless you’re shy. You’ve gotta get over that!

For the actual video side, people tend to enjoy shorter videos with great editing. Get your editing chops up! Finally, start with what you have. You don’t need a four thousand dollar super computer or a professional quality microphone. Will it help? Sure, and you’ll get there, but don’t let your tools stop you from creating. You can invest your time into creating great scripts, thumbnails, overlays, or simply learning the tools TO create those things on your own.

What do you think most gamers don’t know about marketing/promoting video games online that you wish they did?

Secrets are important. Very important. Most gamers I’ve met want inside details about what’s coming up for the game…I wanted them too before I was hired. I would constantly pester SixOkay for scraps, but secrets are kept for a reason. Game content is typically planned out well ahead of when it releases so that we (marketing) can do our job and prepare the announcements, teasers, etc for our players. Believe me, we want to spill the beans because we are just as excited about new things as you are, but building hype (and delivering on it) is important for a game’s community.

The Orcs Must Die! Unchained open beta just launched last week. What do you enjoy most about this version of OMD (versus the first two games)?

Now that we’re in the open beta phase of the game the community growth has exploded. I’m loving that more than anything else. I don’t want to take anything away from the franchise super-fans that have been around for alpha and closed beta, but it’s very refreshing to watch new players learn the game, to see them stream, or take enjoyment out of their first-time discoveries.

Orcs Must Die! Unchained

What hero(s) do you prefer to play in the game, and what are you favorite traps?

Blackpaw has always been my favorite. He’s a very mobile assassin-type hero. Jumping into a battle, landing a few hits for a kill, and then jumping out is the best! For traps, I cannot deny my love of the simple-yet-elegant Spike Trap. It’s cheap, efficient, and does it’s job well. I guess the Spike Trap and I are pretty similar!

Check out Orcs Must Die! Unchained and Nananea’s YouTube channel, and follow Nananea on Twitter.

Sarah Warn is the Editor-in-Chief of remeshed.com and an avid player of console and PC games of all kinds. She was previously the founder and EIC of AfterEllen.com, and online editorial director for MTV Networks. Follow Sarah on Twitter.
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Sarah Warn is the Editor-in-Chief of remeshed.com and an avid player of console and PC games of all kinds. She was previously the founder and EIC of AfterEllen.com, and online editorial director for MTV Networks. Follow Sarah on Twitter.

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