The folks over at Lucasdelirum (an Italian fan site for Lucasfilm Games-era adventure games and their cousins) have a great interview up with none other than Tami Borowick–one of the game designers and programmers who worked on Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, and who would go on to become one of the early employees of Humongous Entertainment and co-create one of the company’s bestselling characters Freddi the Fish.
Borowick isn’t a name you hear as much when looking back on Lucasfilm Games history (names like Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer tend to get a bit more of the spotlight), but Lucasdelirum writer Diduz does a great job digging into both Borowick’s role as a rank-and-file employee, and one of the only women at the company.
It’s a neat look at how a celebrated era in video game history felt for some of the people who made it possible, and comes with great anecdotes about a different era of the video game industry.
For instance, Borowick starts by explaining how she landed in the role of designer and programmer at Lucasfilm Games. Originally, she’d written the company to apply for a role in the marketing or PR department as an intern while she was in college–but wound up with an offer to program games. “As a Unix and Mac person, I didn’t know much about PC computer games, except that they existed,” she explained.
Without a PC to play some company-provided copies of Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle on, Borowick took to an off-college computer cafe to familiarize herself with the games. Worried that she wouldn’t be able to afford more than a 30-minute session, she says she was surprised when her fellow cafegoers drifted around her machine, curious about the games she was playing.
“I loved the comradery the game evoked and the stories they told,” she said. “Plus the characters were interesting and Maniac Mansion even had a main character who was a woman! I pretty quickly knew this was the job for me!”
Borowick went on to share more stories about attending “SCUMMU” at the Lucasfilm Ranch under Ron Gilbert, and getting picked to work on Monkey Island 2. She also explained how during her time at Humongous Games, she advocated for Freddi the Fish to be a female character, but had to push back against negative stereotypes being written into the character.
“Throughout her design, I pushed hard to keep Freddi fairly androgenous. I didn’t want it glaring from her visually or through a diminished personality. Though I never wanted to hide her gender,” she said. “Real little girls are strong and smart and have actual personalities and can even dress up without being girly girls. It’s only hair, clothes, makeup that allow people to discern their gender at that age.”
Borrowick’s stories about life at Lucasfilm Games are a real blast from the past, and may job some memories for anyone working in game development at the time. Whether you’re an old hand or a young upstart eager for stories from a more civilized age, you should take a few minutes and read her full conversation with Lucasdelirum.