Game designer Brenda Romero is an industry legend. Over the last 25 years she’s lent her talents to classic games like Dungeons and Dragons and Jagged Alliance, won a BAFTA for her creative contribution to the industry and was recently awarded the title of Development Legend at Develop: Brighton.
Brenda now lives in Galway, Ireland with her husband John – a famous game designer in his own right – where they run their business, Romero Games. So, what caused this gaming power couple to move from Silicon Valley to the west coast of Ireland?
The seed was planted when Brenda was offered a Fulbright Scholarship to study Ireland’s gaming industry, which involved two months travelling all over the country. She recalls: “When we left Ireland, we just really knew that business-wise, culture-wise, creativity-wise and quality of life-wise that it was really where we wanted to be.” This was in stark contrast to their home in Silicon Valley, where Romero recalls: “The primary question there is what’s your exit plan, how do you plan to sell what you have and make a mint off of it. I’m not interested in an exit. I’m just interested in making enough to be able to make the next game.”
Designing Their Ideal Life
It soon struck the couple that nothing was keeping them in Silicon Valley. Brenda notes: “The great thing about technology at this point in time is that you really can do what you’re doing from anywhere.” Once they came to that realisation, the move happened pretty quickly. “For us, it was a no-brainer. We went back, sold everything, wound the company down, worked with the IDA and EI and then founded a brand-new company here,” she says.
The Perfect Mix
Games are the perfect mix of music, art, writing, technology and design and Romero feels Ireland has a lot to offer across the board. She notes: “One of the most common questions I get is, ‘Are there actually programmers in Ireland?’ And if there’s anything Ireland has an abundance of, it’s programmers. In Silicon Valley, it often felt like a real tug of war to get programmers but here I find there’s a huge amount of very skilled tech talent and that’s the most important thing for us.”
The Next Generation
Alongside her company, Brenda is also the Program Director of the MSc program in Game Design Development at the University of Limerick where she teaches a class on narrative games and how to write stories for games. She’s been delighted to see narratives emerge that stray from the traditional ‘male power fantasy.’ She enthuses: “I was getting all these very rich stories that I hadn’t heard before and it wasn’t just one class. This has happened again and again whenever I teach the class. Ireland has this long history of storytelling and creating really unique stories. To me, it’s not a question of if Ireland is going to hit it big game wise, it’s a question of when.”
The future is bright for Romero Games. Having started the business as a team of three, they’ve grown the company to 14 staff. There are a lot of top secret projects in the pipeline, Brenda explains, including: “A major game that I’ve been wanting to make for ten years but it won’t be announced for probably another two years.”