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Conversations with Francesca Palamara

Today we’d like to introduce you to Francesca Palamara.

Hi Francesca, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Ever since I was little, I always felt like the odd one out. I would see and read the world in different ways. Whether I was taking a test, reading a book or explaining a story to friends, I would never do it right. I would always be off. Slightly other. I could be in school, reading the same sentence as my peers, and come away thinking something completely different. Completely off the mark. Language felt suffocating. How could I communicate my ideas to others when it was so obvious that words were not my friends. Storytelling and games became a break from that. I didn’t have to find a middle ground. I could experience a world through my own creative lens without being compared to others. Without having to justify why my brain is wired the way it is. I fell in love with all things creative because it was the first time I could be myself and people wouldn’t be confused by the words coming out of my mouth. It was a space for ideas and a space for innovation.

In college, I was majoring in Computer Science. It was a new, engaging and prevalent part of society. It felt like a practical career and something that would uplift my family. As a first-generation Latinx, I was under a lot of pressure to be practical. I had to get a job, support my family, and jump through the wealth divide that was being thrown in my face or at least I felt I did. There wasn’t time to explore; I had one shot and I had to make it count. Over time, I found myself disillusioned that we weren’t exploring the ethical implications of computer science; of our code. Why weren’t we discussing the human connection and psychology of technology? How were these designs going to impact groups of people? I had to reevaluate the medium I was working with and really think about what I wanted to do with my hands. What mark I wanted to leave. I craved entertainment. I craved human connection. I wanted to merge technology with people. To bring the arts and sciences together and have interactivity be the glue that held it all in place. To have an experience worth designing. That’s when I decided to pursue games, seriously.

At the time, it was pretty bold of me to try and self-design my major at Scripps College. I had no guarantee it would work and no examples to see it through. I was on my own. No well-trodden path at my school to convince me otherwise. It was just me and my gut. Deep down, I knew there was something there. It was worth the fight and it was worth diving into the unknown. After successfully self-designing my own major (Computational Media) after two years of applying and making games, I decided to take it a step further. I applied to graduate school. At USC Games, I have had the privilege of learning about game development, game production, game directorship, game testing, and game experimentation. I have gone to Indie Cade, GDC and E3. I have worked closely with professors and seen the lessons they have learned along the way on their own personal projects as well as in teams. I have playtested games, advocated for the necessity of games and education, and participated in various game jams. Game design has had a meaningful impact on my life and how I see the world. It makes me happy knowing that I can reassure younger me and say that her voice was valid and that it’s okay to see the world a little differently. Even if at the time, it didn’t feel like I could.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. From self-designing my major to jumping into a field, I knew nothing about to not seeing anyone with my cultural background – I felt invisible. I felt like I was fighting a fight I wasn’t even sure was worth fighting. It was a big leap of faith and one I’m glad I took. In the end, it was all worth it. Attending graduate school while working full time, learning about mediums I had no idea existed, I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences I’ve had. Along the way, I’ve met wonderful, motivating, courageous people that helped shaped me into the person that I am. Moving forward, I can only hope to give back to any aspiring game designer the same wisdom and education that was given to me.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Currently, I am a third year MFA student at the number one gaming school in the country: University of Southern California’s (USC) Interactive Media and Game Design program. During my time in graduate school, I have worked professionally, showcased my projects at festivals and released mobile games. I have had the fortune of working as a writer, designer, producer, artist, ux designer and usability tester on various games. Whether it was my time at Skybound as a writer for the Walking Dead series (project unannounced) or my internship at Jam City as a producer working on Disney Pop Town, Frozen Free Fall and Frozen Adventures (mobile games), I have thoroughly enjoyed working with creatives both academically and professionally. Recently, I’ve been developing a game about self-care through the eyes of a Cuban pediatric nurse. It is an experience that encourages players to examine the work-life tension in their own lives and play with empathy and compassion. Alma is an interactive narrative that challenges players to look introspectively at the forms of care we take for granted and the struggle to find balance in an imbalanced life. The game is scheduled to release in May 2021.

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
I am very silly and very sassy. I love to be doing five activities at the same time and I’ll never compromise my interests. On the weekends, you can find me rollerblading, surfing or biking. I have two adorable cats, Boots and Luna. I make a mean cheesecake. My diet strictly consists of pasta and tacos. I am a big sucker for Miyazaki movies, film noir and rom coms.

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1 Comment

  1. Laura shamp

    March 3, 2021 at 15:33

    Wow what an inspiring young woman !!

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