Beth Daggert has been a game designer, software engineer, lead programmer, director of engineering, and vice president of engineering, within and without the gaming industry. Having worked on such historic franchises as Lode Runner and Star Wars, she recently accomplished a bucket-list item of contributing to the development of an Ultima-inspired role-playing game — for the Apple II computer, where her passion for digital storytelling started decades ago.
In this podcast, Beth and I talk about the early encounters with Richard Garriott and Tim Sweeney that led her to pursue a career in the games industry; how leading a team of engineers is no different from being a Dungeons & Dragons DM; the long hours and burnout that’s been endemic of the games industry, from her time there in the 1990s through today; whether and how to encourage women to pursue careers in tech; and what it was like to return to her roots and contribute to 6502 Workshop’s Nox Archaist.
Stream the audio edition of this interview below or from iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Overcast, Pandora, Pocket Casts, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, RadioPublic, or the Internet Archive. Click past the jump for a transcript and links to resources mentioned in this episode.
- Beth Daggert
- Nox Archaist
- Lode Runner Online
- “Adding Women to the C-Suite Changes How Companies Think” (Harvard Business Review)
- Scientific American
Voiceover: Welcome to the Polygamer podcast, where gaming is for everyone. Join us as we expand the boundaries of the gaming community.
Ken Gagne: Hello and welcome to the Polygamer podcast, episode #116 for August 2021, I’m your host Ken Gagne. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing the development team at 6502 Workshop, a software development company that recently released Nox Archaist, an original Apple II game. That’s right, the Apple II that came out in 1977 has a new box game that you can buy. It’s shrink wrapped. It has 5 and 1/4 inch different floppy disks, a printed manual, cloth maps and more. The team responsible for Nox Archaist has decades of experience in development, design, and so much more. Today I am pleased to be joined by Beth Daggert, one of the contributors to Nox Archaist. Beth, as you’ll be hearing the next hour, it has led a storied career in a variety of roles From software engineer, game designer, lead programmer, founding partner and currently VP of Engineering at Procore Technologies. So we’ll be talking about the history of game development, Nox Archaist, diversity in tech and so much more. Beth, thank you so much for your time.
Beth Daggert: Thank you, Ken. I’m really happy to be here to chat with you.
Ken: We chatted just a few weeks ago, as I mentioned, for my other publication, which is the print magazine, Juiced.GS, about Nox Archaist. We’re gonna be talking about a lot of other stuff nowadays, but let’s start with the Apple II, which that game is for, which is where you got your start. You got your first Apple II, were you still in high school at that time?
Beth: Well, it’s a little further back than that. I encountered my first Apple II, was about sixth grade. And it was back in the era when computers were definitely novelty items and there was not one in every home. It was actually at my elementary school. I fell right in love, started learning to code it up and BASIC, did the same thing I think most people do with 10. I was here and go to 10. And then from there, I saved up some money and bought one at home and started diving in immediately. Got to play a whole bunch of really exciting games out the gate. Ultima 1 is I think the very first one I ever got hooked by.
Ken: And did you have good instruction on the Apple II? I had an Apple II in my elementary school in a computer lab. But the nun who taught the class, and I put taught in air quotes, didn’t actually teach us anything. We just played Oregon Trail and that was it. Did you have some good mentorship or education?
Beth: None whatsoever. I was very much self bootstraped. There were a variety of magazines back in the day, things like Byte Magazine and whatnot, right? You find them and I certainly went and tried to type things in and learn that way. But there was Beagles Bros Charts, right? Those things came out at one point and I was just mostly grabbing scraps of knowledge from everywhere I possibly could. Various people that I knew that were friends that live in the neighborhoods had their own machines, like books with a TI-99/4 or this, that, and the other. We would exchange arcane pieces of knowledge as though they were these little hidden gems with each other. But any formal tutelage, not so much. Amusingly enough, I did end up, as a teenager, finally, when I was diving into assembly, I bought a book. And it was I think something like video game programming for the Apple II, something along those lines, I’d have to look at the exact title at this point. But that one did drive deeply into Assembly, it went straight into how you, the screen memory set up, all the things you have to do to create the little sprites in the space you have allowed and I would have been a lot better if I’d had a mentor who could have led me through it bit by bit. I think there were many areas that I just had to stumble around in.
Beth: Richard Garriott and I did start a correspondence for a little while actually because I got to a point where, for example, I didn’t know how to do a random number generator. Apple II didn’t have one of those built in. And I had no idea how to write one and no one else I knew had any idea either. And I think that was the very first letter I penned to him and said, “I’m a huge fan, I love Ultima 3, how do you write a random number generator on an Apple II?” And he wrote me back nice physical letters. I still have a half dozen of them in my cabinet over there. We had this series of these knowledge exchanges, it was just fantastic.
Ken: That is so cool. Richard Garriott, aka Lord British creator of the Ultima Series, and Ultimate Free came out in 1983. And you couldn’t just hit him up on Twitter, you had to find his mailing address. Maybe it was Origin, the publishing company.
Beth: Yep, that is where I sent it.
Ken: Great. And he actually took the time to write back. Now, a random number generator, I assume you’re referring to something more complex than just the RND function?
Beth: Yes, this very specifically trying to come up with a good random number generator in the Apple II days, the sort of thing where you had to have your own custom seed for it that you wanted to have be reproducible then run through, something that was better than pseudo random.
Ken: Wow, that’s impressive. And at some point, you eventually even wrote what you described as an Ultima 3 knockoff game engine in Assembly. That was when you were in high school?
Beth: Yes, that would have been, dating me now, 1987, so towards the end of my high school career there so along about the time I got to be a senior. And I put together… I was trying to come up with my own version and I really wasn’t too aware of how long it actually takes to write the complete game. I hadn’t had that experience just yet. But I did manage to put together a reasonable engine which is part of doing all the Nox Archaist stuff, I actually ended up uploading to GitHub all the old code and everything if anybody wants to go poke at it. But it’s provided sort of that same basic overland map, the darkness thing that where, as you look behind the mountains, you can’t see them, because they’re in the shadow. A huge map you can scroll around on. I wrote my own shape editor utility and libraries for creating all the little sprites, had animation going, a few other things, but was certainly by no means a complete game.
Ken: Wow. You said it wasn’t a complete game. But did you build it with the envision of creating your own Ultima game?
Beth: Oh absolutely. I had every desire in that point, I wanted to make the next even bigger, better Ultima, I wanted to tell my own story. As you had mentioned, seeing a computer write and seeing the stories within, that was always what drove me. I had written a series of text adventures, I wrote my own text parsing engine for sort of trying to be like Infocomm style things, discovered the limitations of that, and then went into what I thought was the best possible games around which was the Ultima Series, what I’ve been exposed to and decided, “Well, how do I emulate that, right, and have these notions for the story I wanted to tell based roughly on Dungeons & Dragons campaign that I was running with my high school friends at that time.
Ken: Wow. Would that have predated what was called AD&D back then, Advanced Dungeon & Dragons or was this just the regular D&D?
Beth: No, it was AD&D, the first edition as it’s sort of known. And boy that’s a different thread, but these things intersected at a formative age for me, right, about the same time I first encountered an Apple II was the first time I encountered D&D, early 80s. And that was actually, to be specific, the Holmes Blue Box Edition, which slightly predates AD&D, I think. And that particular box that I ended up with was from a secondhand used bookstore. And it was the one that had the cutout chits in the back because they had problems at the time sourcing polyhedral dice. And so instead of that, they have a little insert card in the little blue book that you would have to cut out all the one through 20 and one through six and put them in Dixie cups and draw them out. And that was where I started, and then when AD&D came along, well, of course, I mean, we all hopped over to that and started playing that. So spent a lot of years in first edition for sure.
Ken: I certainly want to talk more about D&D, but as far as game design, so you were planning the next bigger, better Ultima, but if I understand correctly, it wasn’t until you won ZZT contest that you actually saw this as a potential career.
Beth: Yeah, that actually pretty much changed the course of my life, I will forever be grateful to Tim Sweeney for that. So that’s a different little story, but Gosh, back early ’90s, the early Shareware days, lots of folks floating around out there, but Tim Sweeney, who went on to found Epic Ssftware, right, Epic Games, that was before Epic, that was when his little shop that he was running out of his parents basement was called Potomac MegaSystems, I believe. And I saw an ad in one of these little Shareware Magazines that floated around for something called ZZT. And pick that up, and it was a really interesting little DOS game that was just all ASCII 2 Graphics, sort of extended character set, give a little smiley face, you can move around.
Beth: But what it had in it, is it had a little mini object oriented language that you could use to script actions and build the game with. And it was also this just fantastic vehicle for telling stories, right? To me, this was, “Wow, someone put together a platform, much like a construction set, that I could just go and I didn’t have to spend a ton of time writing all of that engine code that I’ve been busy doing on the Apple II over there.” So “Wow, okay, what can I do with this?” And Tim was trying to, I think, seed his market a little bit and created a contest, which with that, having folks just come in and submit their creative adventures and little games using that as ZZT engine, and he ran a national contest.
Beth: I have no idea how many entries he got but he released a version that had the top winners and I think are about six of us and I got the grand prize. And that particular exercise really sort of set me up, it took place junior, senior year of college for me, something along those lines. And I wasn’t super enthused about my college program by that point. I had sort of realized, I was studying aerospace engineering, it was really fun, I got to do some really great work. Got to put a project on the space shuttle and everything. But the sort of notion of spending 10 years of my life analyzing the thermal stress of a bolt on the side of a tin can kind of wore out when I realized, “Gosh, there’s these platforms out there. I could write games involving 1000 spaceships in a computer in half the time as it’s gonna take me to do anything in the real world. So why would I pursue that?”
Beth: And so with this sort of certificate of accomplishment in hand for ZZT a little bit of banging around on the side that I’ve been doing with VGA modes and some other graphical things I’ve been playing with, I left college, got my degree, and just started shopping that around and the little game startup in Seattle, where I was, picked me right up, right out of school and said, “Wow, you’ve actually got some chops, you’ve got some credentials. Here, why don’t you start to work for us?” And that led to a decade in the games industry.
Ken: That is amazing. So even though your prize for winning the ZZT contest was only $100, it really was so much more. Your prize was an entirely different direction for your life?
Beth: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I have to, once again, give a little bit of credit to Tim there because on the basis of my winning that, he basically extended to me and said, “Hey, I want you to write a full blown game, use your own engine, write all your own stuff, I will support you.” He hooked me up with artists, musicians, other programmers and I was able to learn a bunch. And that sort of active bootstrapping took me from that place that we discussed before where there really weren’t mentors or anybody to learn from, to a place where I had more resources and definitely accelerated me, even though I didn’t end up finishing anything that would ultimately go into the epic shareware catalog because I went got a full time job instead, without that experience and that that camaraderie, I never would have had the knowledge to get that other work.
Ken: Had you started pursuing aerospace Because you didn’t think you could cut it as a game developer? Or was it because the game design process and industry back then was so nebulous that it wasn’t on your radar as a potential career path?
Beth: More the latter. It literally never occurred to me to a degree that I think anybody today would be stunned by, but there was no career path, there was no conception in my mind for, “Well, how do I get from being in high school or even in college to a degree in a career in games? I had literally no notion of how one accomplishes that. And to even find the little startup, that was a game startup that was willing to hire me was a shock and it was a delight. But yeah, the notion of going there directly, I think to a point where the anecdote that I would relate is about 1996 I think, I went to CES where I covered Richard Garriott, Lord British in the flesh for the first time. And I walked up to him at the booth that he was standing out, and I said, “Hi, do you remember me? Do you remember the correspondence?” And he looked at me and said, “Oh my gosh, that’s you.” And we banged that around and reminisced for a few minutes. And then he just looked at me, he said, “So why didn’t you ever come work for me?” And I was flabbergasted, you could have push me over with a feather. I had literally, that thought that I could have ever asked for that or suggested that in any way. It just literally never occurred.
Ken: I mean, to be fair, I think that’s true to this day that most people would not think to ask Richard Garriott for a job.
Beth: Yeah, absolutely. But it’s sometimes makes me wonder if there’s any ultimate reality in which I did somehow make that bridge.
Ken: Wow, that’s amazing. So I suspect this episode of Polygamer is gonna have more Apple II listeners than usual so I just want to ask, you graduated from high school in the late ’80s, ZZT was released in 1991 For MS-DOS. So at some point, you made the leap from Apple to not-Apple.
Beth: Correct. That was really college driven, the kind of work that I was doing there. I think that the 3d6 in school.
Ken: I sometimes suspect that while the Apple II inspired me to pursue computer science in college, it also handicapped me in a way because the Apple II was my only computer up until 1997. And so when I started college, I was immediately behind all my classmates.
Beth: Sure, yeah, I could totally see that. I mean in college what I recall is the Mac had come out and they were the folks that had the money that had the nice little Mac boxes on their desks. And I managed, like I said, Secure 386 and decided to use that for my classes that were computer related.
Ken: Brilliant. So you did eventually turn, as you said, your gaming hobby into your gaming career. You went to work for such companies as Presage, which worked with Interplay and Broderbund. You’ve worked on games like Lode Runner Online, you also worked with Lucas Learning to create various Star Wars educational software. So what was it like going from, Beth Daggert working on a single Apple II computer or MS DOS machine to create your own games to now you’re on a team publishing games that are showing up on store shelves.
Beth: It was absolutely fantastic. It was so heady. And again, it was a different era. But that was the notion, right, now there’s all this direct distribution stuff and I feel like the barrier to entry for any individual to get their little game in front of a wide audience is way lower. But back then, that was the mark. I wanted a box on a store shelf that had my name on it, right? I wanted to do and be that. It was such a passionate driver, because to me, that’s what my heroes has done. Whether it was Richard Garriott, or Sid Meier or Will Wright with Sim City, all of these sort of folks is like, “Okay, that’s what I have to do.”
Beth: And I realized, in all humility, that I couldn’t do it myself and I needed to be part of the teams that were doing that. And yes, Presage Software, as they pronounce themselves, was the first place that really enabled that. It was the second company I went to work for, very first one in Seattle was a flash in the pan. They were a little startup, they did publish software, and they vaporized almost instantly. But then I went to work immediately, based on that experience with Presage, and very quickly dropped into a modern update of Lode Runner. And that was the first ’90s version of Lode Runner that came out. And it was a heady experience, I loved it, because then I was part of the team, there were three of us that were coding on that first version. And we had a group of artists, fantastic musician, in house at Presage, and we really got to take this crack at, “Wow, there was that old Apple II game I really used to enjoy, Lode Runner, how can we do an authentic recreation of this and yet update it for technology that had moved along by 10 years?”
Beth: And it was just such a real experience for me to work then with the full gamut of the type of talent that you have today at any major title, right? All the different aspects from design, coding, production, art, audio, ultimately up to packaging in those days. And I just love getting that entire end to end view. And it really sort of gave me that appreciation and set me up for trying to do that, again, bigger and bigger and bigger in various stage through the career there.
Ken: Yeah, it’s so amazing that you’ve worked on these games that not only predate you, Lode Runner, having, as you said, come out for the Apple II, made by Douglas E. Smith, but also these brands that continue to this day, like Lode Runner was an Amazing Xbox 360 game. And there is Lode Runner Legacy, which came out for the Nintendo Switch just a few years ago, Switch and Steam of course. You are a part of this very storied line of software and of course, Star Wars. I mean, I don’t need to tell anybody how important Star Wars is to our culture, and Beth Daggert is a part of that.
Beth: Yeah, and I am humbled and honored to have been a part of all that. Star Wars. I mean, who isn’t a big fan, right? I’m sure everybody listening to this is probably a fan in one way or another. And that was another piece of a dream in some ways for me was the point that that lined up. I started working for Lucas in ’98 so right before Episode I showed up, and instantly went into work in the Lucas Learning Division, which was attached in the same building with LucasArts and THX there in San Rafael. And we produced a bunch of titles that were related to the upcoming film at that point, Episode I, Phantom Menace. And it was great. To me, that particular job, that experience, a lot of people were like, “Oh my gosh, did you go to Skywalker Ranch.” And yes I did many times, and it never got old.
Beth: But that wasn’t the day to day office, the day to day office was very much that seems super intense, super passion driven group of people. In many ways, it’s still my favorite job ever was working there Lucas Learning because I did get to work with a group of people who were so talented and so driven. It was just running as fast and as hard as I could to keep up. But I was still very proud of the contributions I was able to make there. I got to do some aspects of game design in that place as I’d done at Perdage, I got to expand and create, out of whole cloth, certain sections of the games that we worked on and just had a delightful time of it. It was fun.
Ken: So those two companies, Presage and Lucas Learning, does that constitute your decade in the game industry?
Beth: Well, started with that little shop Multicom for about six months. And then between Presage and Lucas, I actually had my own startup. It was I and two other founders. And that was Buzz Software. And we started that as a games company, but again, being in that place in time, you had to have a publisher, you had to get space in the store shelf. And so in order to secure that, the models that we were familiar with were very much ones where we would come up with a title, we didn’t have any street cred at that point, obviously, just starting off. So we wanted to get something to what would be a playable state where we could take it around, sell it around, get someone to actually sign a bigger check to help us bootstrap it up to the next level and act as a publisher that wouldn’t be able to get us onto the store shelf.
Beth: Quite frankly, speaking, never quite got that far. We had a playable demo, we had a whole series of designs, at least one of which that we had done for under contract. So we didn’t lack for work. I was proud of the fact we managed to keep food on the table for all three of us, none of us starved by any means. But the day we didn’t actually end up with a product on the store shelves, and when some of my old associates from Presage basically said, “Hey, do you want to come work on Star Wars stuff?” It’s like, “Well, you know what? That seems like a more entertaining route than the one I’m currently on.” So I switched out of Buzz and we went over to Lucas.
Ken: So when you say you didn’t end up with a finished product with Buzz, What was Rexx Copiously?
Beth: Well, that was the one we were shopping around. It was a fully playable demo, it was very much in the same vein as PegLeg, for those that are familiar with that game, from the early ’90s. A little bit like an Asteroids game in some ways, if you want to go way back, but certainly a bit more updated than that. And it was just meant to be a game where it was a little bit of a twitch game, lots of levels, it’s something I’ve thought about occasionally at this point, I could take and drop onto a mobile device pretty easily and it would fit well there, something that would work with a touchscreen.
Ken: Yeah, I saw the name of that game listed on your LinkedIn profile, so I did a Google search for it. And Google has one hit for that. Name, it’s your LinkedIn profile.
Beth: Well, it didn’t go very far, so yes.
Ken: So between Rexx Copiously, Lode Runner Online, all the Lucas Learning games, do you have a favorite project or brand that you worked on in that era?
Beth: Yeah, it pretty much actually have to be Lode Runner Online. That particular one because I got to do a fair amount of design on it and I also did a lot of implementation, there are easter eggs that no one has discovered to this day, probably never will. But it was really entertaining. That was the one that felt to me like the combination of a lot of things that we had wanted to put in the first version, Mad Monk’s Revenge that didn’t quite make the cut. With Online, we had the ability, the technology to actually create a networked version for multiplayer. We had just a fantastic editor to enable the community, which still exists to this day, people out there building for that platform. And to me, it was sort of the ultimate of that 2D perspective because then after that, we went into an isometric sort of design for the next version of Lode Runner, which was still fun, but lacked, I think, a little of the immediacy of being able to see that entire puzzle in front of you on just a single screen.
Ken: And then after your time at Lucas, I see also from your LinkedIn profile, that you went into DVD encoding technology, you worked at Microsoft for a while. What prompted you after this amazing decade in the games industry to pursue other employment?
Beth: Well, George Lucas has a pattern, and I think those are the work that is technology businesses know this pattern. He treats his software studios, or at least historically did, much like movie projects. I don’t think he ever really embraced the idea that you want to build and retain your engineers for the long haul. And so periodically, about every five years, he would do a major purge, just like you would do a tear down after a big movie project, you let everybody go, and then you rehire the next crew for the next project. That’s much more the entertainment movie business model. And it was the one he really adapted the software, most of his folks in his games studios were let go on a, call it a five-year cadence.
Beth: And 2001 was one of those big purges. Lucas Learning got 90% of people were let go, including me. At that point, I took a look around and at the ripe old age of 31, had the notion that, “Wow, I’ve spent yeah, about 10 years in the games industry and I’ve spent a fair amount of that sleeping under a desk. And do I actually want anything else in my life?” And I had this sort of hard moment of doing the math, for better or worse, and realized that in my time at Lucas for the amount that I get paid, and the number of hours that I put in, that I actually would have made more money as a barista at Starbucks given overtime.
Ken: Oh, gosh.
Beth: And that was not exactly where I wanted my life to be. I wanted to start a family, I wanted to have a house someday. And some of these other things just sort of clicked a bit. So it wasn’t necessarily a lack of desire or passion, it was just a, “Hey, maybe just maybe I should take a look elsewhere.” And I’ve got that job just down the road at Sonic Solutions. They picked me up because of my low level, real time experience. And it was really awkward. I instantly doubled my salary and halved my hours.
Ken: So when you talked about sleeping under your desk, you’re referring to Crunch?
Beth: Yes, but Crunch last month’s, in the games industry, or at least at the time. So yeah, it was a rough period, especially at Lucas, I almost got divorced twice. And ultimately, I ended up getting divorced anyway, I don’t think it was an issue. But I was never home. It was like I spent all my time, like most of my peers, it was an incredibly passion driven place. And it ran on that and we hit on that energy and it made it heady, it made it fun, but it was not a place to work life balance. And I think in my life I’ve arrived where that’s more important to me than it wasn’t my 20s.
Ken: So one of the things I want to ask you about, I know you’ve been out of the games industry for decades, but gaming culture is still very much in the news, from documentaries about indie game studios, to corporate headlines, especially nowadays with Activision and Blizzard. I was gonna ask you what are the changes that you’ve perceived from an outside perspective? But it sounds like the things you’re describing about games about, demanding so many hours, about capitalizing and exploiting passion, about not paying enough, about people burning out, sounds like those things have all been around ever since you were there.
Beth: Yeah, I lived it. I don’t feel like that’s changed at all, as near as I can tell. And I still do have friends in the industry, and some of them have managed to find places of balance that work for them. But as you bring up, there’s plenty of stories out there, whether it’s overworked passion driven, sexism, whatever, right? It’s still rampant. And so I caution anybody, right? I don’t want to knock it, I loved the games industry, and I love writing games. Nox was a wonderful outlet for that. But it is buyer beware, right? So you have to go in a little bit with just know your boundaries, and what is worth to you, frankly speaking.
Ken: Well, let’s go a little bit out of order here. I want to also talk to you about women in tech. I know that you’re very driven about bringing women into the tech industry. But you’re also warning people just now about going into the games industry, buyer beware. So how do we bring people into an industry that we know to be in many ways toxic?
Beth: Well, there have actually been studies around this fortunately, and I don’t think those studies are inapplicable to the games industry. The ones that I familiar with, of course, are more corporate culture, business oriented, big company oriented, those sorts of things. But even if yo look at what’s happened at Riot not that many years ago here, they made a big effort to educate and change from the top down. I think that’s where it has to start right there, you bring on your culture officer, you bring on your diversity officer if you need to, and you start educating the people at the company, and you start filling roles in ways that are diverse and provide those opportunities.
Beth: There was a fantastic Harvard Business Review article, back about 2010ish, I think it was the Athena Report, or the Athena Factor or something like that, there’s probably been an updated one in the decade since. But it very clearly gave all these wonderful statistics about women in tech and in software in particular. And one of those called out the fact that there’s just a huge step function that occurs when you have 10% of your leadership roles filled by women, in terms of acquiring and retaining women in the field. Because you have to bootstrap the simple practice of having role models, of not feeling isolated, of people you’ve been talked to about work life issues that you perceive that they can relate to, right? In the absence of that, it’s very difficult to attract or retain those talented women that are out there.
Beth: But with even just a 10% of women in leadership and senior leadership positions, suddenly the math changes. And I thought that was a fantastic and interesting statistic and there’s lots more things like that. So for me, it’s really about the folks who are setting up and doing those actions to bring in the diversity to enable that for everyone else that comes along. And then of course, there’s been lots of focus around, how do we get the education in the schools, encouraging more women to follow CS & STEM degrees in college? But I think change has to start from the top in each of these companies.
Ken: Yeah, there’s definitely a pipeline issue, which you just alluded to, with women not being encouraged to pursue these careers. But you’re also right, that unless we address the issue from the top down, women aren’t going to stay in these careers because they are so toxic.
Beth: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely true
Ken: So what are some of the ways that you are helping? I mean, clearly, you’re the VP right now, that’s a very high level role. And that is the sort of representation that you’re talking about of seeing women in leadership roles. How are you pursuing your passion to bring more women into tech?
Beth: Well, there’s a few different ways that I tried to practice that. It is absolutely desire. And speaking candidly, I considered leaving tech in my mid 30s, I think, as many women do, because it was just a constant uphill struggle, even in places like Sonic Solutions where I went immediately after the games industry. I sort of wondered, actually, at that point, due to a variety of life events, the birth of my child, issues at home, not working in games, and just not being as passionate, driven anymore. How do I actually have a career if it’s not just about passion? And then being in an environment that was so male dominated. And all of these things were just kind of eating at me.
Beth: I had a bit of a realization in all of that, that it was a, “Hey, look, if I don’t do this, given my experience, given the fact that I have been doing this, and I have a chops at it, how can I expect or encourage anyone else to? How can I bring anybody along if I’m not walking the talk?” Because I do think it’s tremendously fun. Coding is fun, writing software that uplifts people, even if it’s just putting a smile on their face, but if it can make their life better, to me, that is the essence of the passion behind all of it, whether it’s telling a story or changing a workflow to give somebody more free time to enjoy their life. These are both impactful things that can move the needle in people’s experience, so why should I walk away from that? Why should any other women feel like they can’t get into that? So how do I do it?
Beth: And I, at that point, began to consciously try to study and learn about, “Well, why aren’t women doing this? Why is it so toxic? How can we change this?” And that’s part of why went to Microsoft because there, they had a little more diversity, they at least had acknowledged by that point, this problem space. And one of the very first things I did at Microsoft was I went to Grace Hopper Conference, GHC, which was a huge technical, it still is, it’s a huge annual technical gathering of women in technology. And it was revelatory. Any woman who is a technology who has never been to Grace Hopper Conference, I would encourage you to go at least once in your life, it’s like going to Mecca. It’s a complete game changer because you walk in there, and all the ratios are flipped. And it just gives you this perspective of, “Wow, I’m not alone. There’s thousands of other women in technology.” And not only that, let’s just pause for a moment and experience a world where it’s 90% women and 10% men, and just to kind of get that strange perspective.
Beth: The second year I went there, I went with one of my colleagues from Microsoft, who was a man, who was with me as part of a recruiting trip. And he got struck like a deer in the headlights walking in the door of the place. And I realized I was walking and talking him I had to go back to him. And I went back and I said, “Are you okay?” And he stammered for a minute, and then looked at me and he said, “Oh my God. I finally understand what it’s like for you.”
Ken: Oh wow.
Beth: Yeah. Oh wow. And that perspective was really interesting to me as well. But that experience fired me up and it made me realize, “Okay, I actually want to demonstrate not just technical capability but a leadership where I have the ability to move the needle and help change the equation and gain a platform for advocating and talking about these issues and just encouraging and mentoring. And over time, I’ve been able to do that. I’ve worked hard to step into larger and larger roles in no small part because I recognize someone has to. I happen to be of an age, and in a place, and in a time, with experience I have, where I can be that role model for other women, where I can wade into organizations and say, “No, this isn’t right. The fact that we’re sitting here in a room calibrating a bunch of engineers and we’re spending 10 minutes talking about every man and their accomplishments in the team for the last year, but somehow we’re spending 25 minutes on every woman. Why is that? Can I call everyone’s attention to that fact? Why are we doing that?”
Beth: Also, then my capability now to work with some of these groups like UPWARD, which is a women’s leadership group, High Power, which is a women’s leadership group, LWT, being a female mentor with Plato, all of these sort of Divhersity, which is the one that I just spoke at on Thursday night. All of these are places where I can on the basis of the experience I’ve had encouraged and support other women, even if they’re outside of my own workplace where I can’t directly impact them, to continue in this field, and take on their own leadership positions so that we have that pipeline and we have the ability to get those percentages up, and on that basis ultimately gets hopefully to full parity in the computer industry.
Ken: It’s the full parody vision that made me surprised that 10% can make such a difference because to quote Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you think you’d want 100%, or to paraphrase rather, because it’s been 100% men for so long, I feel like the only way to achieve parity is to get 100% women.
Beth: Well, I’m not that radical. But let’s be fair here, in my advancing years, I’ve become a little more enlightened around this. I think personally I recognize that it is better to have a diversity of opinions in any room, right? If we’ve got a room that’s 50% men and 50% women, that’s great because we’ve got a fully equal and diverse set of male and female perspectives to bring to whatever the problem is we’re trying to solve. And it’s going to be things like customer views and when we create an application interface, what might work for one audience versus the other? But by extension, frankly, if that’s a white-bred room, we’re also missing an opportunity to have more perspectives that could increase the capabilities of what we’re doing just by bringing those outsider perspectives to problems that our limited experience not might not provide, right? So I wouldn’t want to exclude any group, I think we actually build a better product and we have a higher impact on the whole of our society in what we try to build it comes from a well rounded place.
Ken: No, that’s absolutely true. And there have been reports in such publications as Scientific American. Back in 2014, they reported on how diverse companies are better for the bottom line and that means not just being homogenous of any one group but it means, as you just said, having diverse perspectives.
Ken: You briefly mentioned Divhersity, that panel that you just spoke on this past Thursday, and tell us a little bit about that recent experience.
Beth: Yeah, so that was a lot of fun. That was specifically a panel discussion that was about how to nail your VPE interview, your vice president of engineering interview because I only recently in the scope of a career, become a vice president of engineering. I first got the title about four years ago at GuideSpark, but I had never actually interviewed cold to get it at another company and make that move. And that particular title is an interesting one because it means a lot of different things, depending on the size of the company that you’re working in, it means something very different if you’re a 50 person company versus a 50,000 person company, by far.
Beth: But also, it’s really a difference in role. Up to that point, as a manager, right, you can be an engineering manager and then ultimately you work up to being a director, which is really just an engineering manager on steroids in some ways, not to knock anything about directors, but that step between director and vice president is a shift from the working on delivering the product to working on delivering for the business. And it requires a somewhat different set of skills that you may not have the opportunity to acquire as a director.
Beth: So there’s a lot of interest out there from people that are kind of trapped at the director level and don’t know how to break through to the next one. It took me a long time to figure out, and also the other women that were there in that panel with me have also made that transition. So what we did was we had a nice conversation, just like you and I are having, around a number of topics that relate to, well how do you get those experiences and what are you going to be asked in an interview and how do you prepare for that? And then we turned it over to the audience and allowed them to ask questions as well.
Ken: Well, one of the questions I had was about being a VP, which you are now, and do you still get to do the programming that drove you into this industry in the first place?
Beth: Not at all.
Ken: Is that frustrating for you?
Beth: It was a conscious choice. There’s just not enough hours in the day, is really what it comes down to. And if you want that, there are ways to do it right, that is one of the differentiators, if you’re a 50 person company and you’re the VPE, odds are really good, in fact I would argue that you need to be involved in the code. But by the time you’ve got an organization of 100 people or 500 people or 1000 people, your world is really much more about coaching others, right? My job in so many ways, I look at it as, one-third technical, mind you, I still need all that technical basis because I lead a lot of engineers and I need to talk to them as an engineer and I need to relate to them as an engineer. There’s no question about that.
Beth: But then another third of the job is really, well, in some ways, it’s performative. It’s coaching, it is giving vision for people and inspiring them and saying, “Hey it’s going to be great when we get there and this is why what you’re doing matters to get us there,” and helping people understand that why and map it down into that day to day coding what they’re doing. And as such, I still need to have an understanding of the coding that they’re doing at a high level so I can tell that story.
Beth: And then the final third is truly, deeply psychological. It is really coaching, whether that’s team coaching, instructing leaders on how to be their own coaches, instructing individuals, and just helping everyone be better. My job, as a servant leader, is really unblocking my teams to enable them to run and do all that coding, because somewhat selfishly, the way I think about this is, I can write a lot more code through 100 other people’s hands than I will ever be able to write through my own.
Ken: And being a good VP means not only knowing the code, understanding that technical background but, as you alluded to earlier, perhaps also being a dungeon master.
Beth: Oh gosh, Ken. You’re picking up a little passion project of mine at this point. Yes, so I love trying to introspect and tie all the threads of my life together, right? It would be easy for me to sit here and say, “I have wandered far from games, I have wandered far away and have forgotten all my passions,” but nothing could be further from the truth. I just realized I didn’t want to work in a toxic industry anymore, right? It wasn’t where my life was at. But it by no means, in any way, slowed me down on the games front. I am unrepentantly geeky and in fact when I just started in this new role at Procore about a month ago, all of my get to know yous, I’m splashing little painted miniature figures up there that I have done for the tabletop and talking about all of the various board games I have downstairs anything from, Lords of Waterdeep to Settlers of Catan to whatever.
Beth: I have unrepentantly a gamer or computer gamer, I will talk to anybody about Roguelikes or Fallout 4 or anything all day long. Those are all still passions, I still need to make time for them. But that dungeon master thing, in particular, for me, if you don’t mind me going there, I will tell you my pet project which is I have this talk in the back of my head that I’m still working on, which is essentially boils down to, why being a good engineering leader is just like being a good dungeon master. Because I think there are tremendous parallels in that. If you don’t mind me waxing on it, I’m happy to.
Ken: I can’t wait.
Beth: Okay, great. So the notion is very similar, right? I sort of sketched that out before where I said like, “Okay, it’s a third technical and a third performative and a third psychological.” Well, you can kind of take that and directly pull that into the dungeon mastering space because, as a DM, as someone who’s running a table of players, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re using D&D or Fake Core or any of these other systems, to me, what you’re engaging in is a collective act of storytelling. That’s the part that enthuses me, whether you have, like in D&D came out of a war gaming background, it’s got that heavy board element. But that’s the technical piece, right, if I’m going to take that third. Sure, so as a DM I’ve got this sort of technical rule set and as the rules that we all agreed to play in, much like as an engineering leader, the rule set is the code, right? That’s the languages we agree to play in.
Beth: But then after that, we’re telling a story together. I have a notion as a dungeon master for the story I want to tell, but I sure as heck don’t want to be prescriptive, right? I think it’s a lot more fun when the players improv along the way, when they throw out ideas that I can seize on and I throw something out that they can seize on. And at the end, yeah, I have that total notion for where I want the story to unfold to, but I don’t exactly know how it’s going to get there. And if one of my players comes up with an amazingly cooler idea than anything I have in my head, I may just seize that never let them know and then run as though that was the idea of the whole time, right? It’s like let’s build this thing and make it a collective effort that is bigger than the sum of the parts.
Beth: And there’s so much of that as an engineering leader as well. Innovation in technology and in product, in what we deliver happens at the edge. In the games industry, I saw that day in and day out, right, there was 1,000 little quality of life things that came from I or my peers as individual coders or artists or designers, that were not there from day one on that project, that were maybe just done in the middle of the night. As where you can see where to connect the wiring and a team just gets fired up and puts it in and it adds to the quality of that experience, right? 100% the same in technology on whatever the product is, 100% the same sitting there at the game table and collectively coming up with that story.
Beth: And then finally, that psychological third, where if I’m at the D&D table, right, I’m very consciously passing a spotlight between the players, trying to make sure that nobody’s hogging it but everybody has a chance to be the one who’s shining in the moment, that’s having that movie moment for their character, that is getting that ability to contribute and they’re playing nice together in this. And if things start to turn not nice, to step in, in a constructive way and help them see that and move on to something that is constructive and moves the story and the experience forward.
Beth: Again, no different with a group of engineers that are there trying to fight each other with ideas, that are trying to build the best thing and create a team that’s functionally going to be better than the sum of the parts, right? All of the same lessons apply. So, I really do look back and I say everything I ever needed to know as an engineering leader, I learned as a dungeon master, first and foremost, every social skill that matters I use day in and day out. And now when I walk back like last night I was playing a D&D game over Zoom, and it’s just the same things, again and again and it’s fantastic, all of this just maps together to me and to a lifelong symphony.
Ken: I love the point you make about players improvising because the best work experiences I’ve ever had have been where ideas are accepted from anybody at any level. Yeah, there are jobs out there where they tell you what to do and they just expect you to do it, they already have the mission defined and they just need hands to help execute it. That is not where I’m at my happiest. And so, likening that to Dungeon & Dragons which I have less experience with. I love that idea that, yeah, DM has created this world, they have the general outline, but if the players have a different idea about what they want to do, let’s explore that and see what comes of it. I love that metaphor that you just drew for us.
Beth: Oh, thank you. Yeah, it’s powerful and I love both of these sides of it, because like I said, to me, they just reinforce each other. And so one of these days we’ll have a TED talk and I’ll go into detail about all of this.
Ken: Well, I don’t know why you haven’t pitched it already.
Beth: Lack of time, I suppose. But problem with being an adult in the world right now, yes.
Ken: Ugh, don’t remind me. God. So let me you ask you this. As a VP of Engineering, as you described, you are leading team of engineers, as if you were a dungeon masters, but you’re not necessarily hands in the code, and you’re not necessarily working full-time in the games industry anymore. When you first saw your first computer, that Apple II computer, you didn’t see a plastic box filled with silicon chips, you saw stories, you saw a medium, a vehicle, to engage people in ways that they had never been engaged before. Does that model, that vision of what computing is capable of, still drive you today in your current role, in your current industry?
Beth: Yes it does, it’s little more nuanced then the simple statement of telling a story, because that’s absolutely where I started. No question in my mind. I was a big fan of choose your own adventure books, and some of the very first things I did were essentially trying to code up choose your own adventure stories and then I went from that into writing my own and then I became more and more competent and capable and just far reaching over time. But all of those were about giving an experience to somebody where I wasn’t in that same room, sitting across a role-playing table from them. It was an experience they could have with a computer and something that, much like an author tells a story in a book, it was a story that I could tell someone through a computer in an interactive way. I think that medium of interactive storytelling is super rich, but it is at it’s richest when it’s between multiple people across the table, I think, even more than what can be done on the computer.
Beth: But that aspect of it, that human interaction aspect of it, that accomplishing something. What does a story accomplish, right? What is the end point of that? And my hope is that a good story leaves the person who experiences it richer for that experience. And I think that’s one of the powers of the interactive medium, you can engage with the story in a way that where because you’re actually taking action in the moment, you’re not just passively absorbing it, has the ability to reach you in a way that no other simple linear movie, book, what have you, can. And I see that type of interaction in software, even things that are as simple as just a piece of productivity software. I mean, I’ve worked on things that are not sexy from a games perspective, right? I worked on Microsoft Office, for example. These are applications that don’t, on their surface, have that same type of impact. But if you stand back from it and you look, I’ve always tried to work on software where I can actually, doing something that will make a difference in your life, right?
Beth: I’ve tried to stay away from things that are like, “I’m going to optimize advertising algorithm to sell you more junk.” That to me is solace and worse than solace, but where I’ve gone to Procore for example, one of the things that attracted me there is, we have the opportunity to create software that can get the entire construction industry back office out of Excel and out of paper that they basically write everything down on and into a much more streamlined system that frees up literal hours of people’s lives. When you take a look at what people have to do to get business done in that industry before spades ever break ground and buildings get built, half of the work is literally just busy body paperwork that can be vastly simplified, and doing so, returns so many potentially productive hours to people’s lives, that they can then use to be with their families and do other things. It’s that type of enrichment that enables the human stories and the happiness and the joy, right? So that’s how I sort of translated it, it’s no longer my story to tell so much as I am enabling you with life, if you will, and satisfaction to tell and live your own best stories.
Ken: I love that. It reminds me of the anecdote about Steve Jobs speeding up or encouraging his developers to speed up the Mac boot time because even if it’s only a second, if you add up how many people boot up how many Macs every day, that’s hours, and that’s hours that they could be spending with their families and telling their stories in whatever medium they choose.
Beth: Absolutely. And so that drives that same level of satisfaction back in some ways now.
Ken: So given that you had your time in the games industry and you found all these other wonderful expressive ways to make a difference. What was it like when Mark Lemmert, of 6502 Workshop, reached out to you and said, “Hey, do you want to just rewind the dial like 35 years and work on an Apple II game again?” Were you thinking, “Oh my God, I’ve moved forward, I’ve moved beyond that.” Were you thinking, “I’ve already spent my day sleeping under my desk I don’t need to get back into that.” And somehow in the end, neither of those were your decision, you were like, “Yes, let’s do it, let’s build an Ultima inspired game.”
Beth: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes. So to set the stage on this one just a little bit, I used to have a website and on that website I had all of this sort of historical things that I had ever touched. And on that basis, probably about annually, somebody just random in the universe would reach out to me and it was two thirds Lode Runner related, frankly, and about one third Apple II related over time. And I would always try to engage these people, they were usually coming to me asking for some version of, how did you code this? Because they were trying to figure out how to do something similar. And I’ve always tried to be generous with those folks and there are some fantastic projects out there that other people have put together over time. Some of them didn’t go anywhere, some did, whether it was related to either those two things. And I’ve liked to be able to provide that just out of the well of my experience.
Beth: So when Mark showed up, it kind of was the same thing all over again at first, right? It was like, “Okay, here’s another guy. I don’t know how far this is going to go. Is it just gonna be another flash in the pan but sure all these start talking to him.” But one of the things that was unique about Mark was that he was very, very passionate about it, even more so than probably anyone I’ve ever talked to. And that appealed to me, it really kind of reached back a little bit, reminded me of being a teenager sitting there trying to write my own Ultima engine. And was like, “Okay, I don’t think this guy has any notion of what he’s getting into from how hard it is to actually write and finish all of the content, all of the testing, all of the crazy bugs that you deal with to actually ship a completed game. He has no idea what he’s getting into.” I’m not gonna bet on this horse, right? There’s just like, nobody ever really ships it, something, not really.
Beth: But I love the guy’s passion. So sure, let’s see what I can remember, let’s see what I can actually dive into. And I really didn’t sort of spiritually invest at first. I invested in Mark, I certainly answered his questions, I have lots of great conversations with him, and one thing led one thing led to another over a period of five years of more and more investment on my part. But that first year or two, I kind of conceptually held him a little bit at arm’s length in terms of, “I’m here, I’m here to be an advisor, I’m here to be a mentor or a resource that’s great, but this is your baby Mark, go for it, let’s see what you can do.” And when he did, when it actually really started to get momentum, I was like, “Holy cow, this guy’s serious.” And that’s when things fired up, and to your point, it was like, “Yeah, I wasn’t gonna throw down and change my job career and my trajectory and dive in deep.” That was Mark’s to do and he did a very, very fine job of it.
Beth: But I did want to contribute as much as I could because it completely engaged that first passion of, “Oh my gosh, this is my opportunity, 30 years later, to actually tell a story in an Ultima style game.” What I had always wanted to do that really first got me into the games industry, that I’ve never managed to actually finish, I did plenty of other ones in different types of engines, but never an Ultima I on the Apple II, is always an unfinished song.
Beth: And once it clicked that it was happening for real, I was all over it and I actually asked Mark was once the internet gotten to a certain point I was like, “Hey, I don’t want to write any of the content for this, I’ve been advising you on things about lore, I’ve been advising you on the game story structure, everything at a high level, this is your story mark, but let me play it through first so I can tell you all the places it doesn’t work and give you that feedback with that sort of combination of an experienced game eye but a completely naive eye towards your particular story and see if that can provide a whole level of polish that nobody else might be able to bring you.È And I look at that as my biggest contribution to what became Nox.
Ken: Wow, so you did a lot more than just beta testing, you were instrumental in some of the mechanics the plot, the whole vision for the game.
Beth: Certainly there’s about five years worth of exchanges back and forth, whether they were in Excel sheets or emails, or a variety of different mechanisms, but it started out like I kind of have five phases, I think of the way that I engaged with Nox, and that very first one was that first reach out for Mark. And it was much of Mark just trying to learn to code in an Apple II and we did things like discuss darkness algorithms, and pathing algorithms, things like Astar, right, like, Well, how would you do something like that to have non player characters walking around and sensible paths at different times of the day, how would we create an engine that had day and night cycles and these sort of things? And just giving them feedback and advice about different approaches to take, given the limitations of the Apple II.
Beth: And then the next phase really move into more of game design, where it’s like, “Alright, let’s not limit ourselves, we could do this in 128K, why wouldn’t we? Almost everybody that’s going to play this these days is gonna do it in emulator anyway. But let’s not hold the 48k or 64k boundary, let’s go ahead and just work on the one set of machines if you want to have the hardware version.” But given all of that extra memory, what aspects of modern game sensibility could we do on this? Just high level. Could we have more meaningful menuing systems, could we have a quest log? Could we do really interesting things from a pure mechanics standpoint of how statistics are managed and how characters level up, and what they might have access to? The things that evolved a decade later, or 20 years later even, and became common and games that are modern, that never had the opportunity to arise in the Apple II, how much of that can be essentially backport it fit in, in ways that would make the experience higher quality of life for those that played it, especially coming from a set of modern gaming experiences? And that was a whole set of discussions.
Beth: And then the third phase was really this sort of, let’s discuss the lore, let’s discuss storytelling, because there is an entire art around how you tell the story in a sandbox, right? Whether it’s a big sandbox game like Fallout or any of those Bethesda games which are some of the biggest ones out there, how do you engage the player and let them explore and yet still bring them through to the conclusion you want? How much of that is relevant for us to try to do? What kind of textual interactions can we have with characters? How do we make sure the important information is discovered along the way and when it needs to be discovered by a player in order for them to be successful and for it to still feel organic in those moments, right? We did a lot of theory and debating and discussion around that.
Beth: And the fourth phase was, at some point, the thread came up, we need a lot more text for the manual. And I said, “Well, gosh, you know what? I’ve written a lot of text in my life as a game designer so how about I weighed in and I fill out a bunch of spell descriptions and I fill out a bunch of other things in the manual.” So I got a chance just to have fun with that and inject some Easter eggs into the game itself, that if you read the manual carefully, you might be able to go in the game and find.
Beth: And then finally that fifth phase essentially was that story testing phase and that was, just it was fun, it was a lot of just classical sitting there hunting it through and being as naive as I could to see can I get through this? And Mark actually created a special God story tester mode for me, that enabled me to skip combat, just so that I would spend my time focused not on the grind part but on, “Okay, does the leveling make sense as you gain experience, and the drops from these battles? Does the story points you’re hitting are they visible, are the puzzles, viable puzzles are they too hard are they too easy? Do you know where to go next? Are you completely lost for what to do next? Okay, why is that, let’s debug the actual act of just playing the game from the player perspective? And that was fun and that was definitely a whole chunk of time that I got to give some pretty good feedback into.
Ken: Certainly this game checked one of your bucket list items, which was to create an Ultima-type game, especially on the Apple II. Would you say that that is the conclusion to your story or has this reawakened what might be a new chapter for you of some game development, Apple II development, whatever?
Beth: Well, I will never say never to game development as long as it’s on terms like this. I don’t think I want to go back into the games industry. I looked at it again. every time I switched jobs, look at it. I looked at it before I went to Procore, almost slipped back into it where I can step into one of those very senior roles and make a difference, right? But for probably the sake of my own sanity, I suspect that efforts on the side like this, Apple II development, I do frankly love knowing where all the bits are in the machine. I have some frustrations with the way the coding is done these days and the way development is done these days. To put on my granny hat for a minute and yell at the kids on my lawn.
Beth: I’ve been in a lot of conversations in the last five to 10 years that essentially boiled down to some inexperienced fresh faced engineer looking at me and saying, “Well, what do you mean memory isn’t infinite?” And it’s because the tools that we use these days, and many of the problems as we solve them, you don’t have to think about things like resources, you don’t have a memory budget or a CPU budget or a disk budget or a graphical refresh budget or anything like that. You just put whatever you want out there, and while that’s great, it’s highly democratic, it allows us to build all kinds of software very quickly.
Beth: Something like the Apple II really forces you to make very, very intentional, hard decisions about what actually matters. And that is a particular skill and a particular puzzle and challenge that I definitely enjoy. It forces that creativity to its maximum. Creativity often flourishes under limitations, and having those boundaries in place just creates a fantastic fun and opportunities. So yeah, if and when I’m at a place in my life where I have the time, I would love to spend it in more of these efforts.
Ken: That’s wonderful. You said that you had released some of your old source code on GitHub, is that something we can include a link to in the show notes for this podcast?
Beth: Oh, I’m sure, absolutely. I’m happy to dig up the link and send that over.
Ken: Awesome. And what about that other website that you said you used to have where people would contact you once a year, it doesn’t seem to be available anymore except in the way back machine.
Beth: It’s because I’m super embarrassed. I mean that was a static webpage back before there were things like LinkedIn, right? I needed to create a portfolio site, and something that was essentially the living version of my resume. And it was really just static HTML and I think the last time I put anything viable on it was maybe 2006. And I don’t know, a few years back I just became grossly embarrassed by the whole thing sitting there as sort of this relic of the dotcom bubble burst. So I really should probably actually put a central place that has things like my Twitter handle or my GitHub links or my LinkedIn links and a bunch of this historical information. I have so many old scans and references and things like populate into that, I just need to find I think some other dynamic platform where I’m not writing that from scratch. So to be naive here and say something like maybe I’ll just put up a WordPress site. But I need to do something like that, that’s not high level investment for me to put a whole bunch of content into. And that’s what I need to morph it up to and again, it just comes down to time and interest in my doing so.
Ken: Speaking of your online communications, I noticed if I may ask? Your Twitter handle, was that inspired by Nox Archaist?
Beth: No. In a grand act of the universe harmonizes well with itself, that has been my gamer hashtag for a very, very long time.
Beth: And no relation whatsoever. But very early on, back in phase two of my involvement with Nox Archaist, Mark said something to the effect of, “Hey, I would love to do something for you for all the help you’re providing.” And I said, “Yeah, you know what you could do, why don’t you plunk me into the game somewhere as NoxStyx, and maybe as some sort of as a librarian because there was a point in my life where I wanted to be a librarian.” And he said, “Oh my gosh, I have the perfect idea for that, you’re in, we’re done.” I’m like, Okay, great.” So there you go.
Ken: That’s amazing. When your name first came on my radar was back in the spring when I first reached out to Chris Torrance from 6502 Workshop to coordinate an interview for Juiced.GS Magazine. And so clearly I want to do my background research on the people I’m going to be interviewing and I look at your Twitter handle NoxStyx, and it says joined August 2015, and I look at the first online recorded reference to Nox Archaist the game, and it was 2016 I was like, “That is either a some sort of time travel or she changed her twitter handle later,” but wow, is just a coincidence that is really impressive.
Beth: Yeah, because I was using NoxStyx for years and years before then for things like Steam and whatnot.
Ken: That is really cool. Well Beth, you’ve worked on so many games, Nox Archaist, Lode Runner Online, the Star Wars titles. You’ve made a difference not only to the people sitting at your Dungeon & Dragons table but to women throughout the industry and you continue to do so. I really appreciate you taking the time, I know that everybody who comes on this podcast is important and busy but not all of them are vice presidents who have just finished a business trip and are still catching up on sleep. So thank you so much for coming on Polygamer. For our listeners, where can they find you online besides Twitter at NoxStyx if there’s anywhere else we want to point them to.
Beth: N-O-X-S-T-Y-X For anybody who might not know how to spell that out so that’s one. You can certainly look me up on LinkedIn, of course, I actually, because I am so much in the professional world, I respond to an awful lot of contacts there and the full name is Elizabeth Daggert so you just look for me under that. Otherwise, I actually don’t mind, anybody that wants to just drop me a personal email, it’s good too, and that’s real easy that is just my name, so Beth@Daggert.com
Ken: Wonderful, Beth, thank you so much for your time.
Beth: Thank you Ken, it’s been a delight.
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