You could say Becca Bair got an early start in the business of indie game development – she created her first video game at just 11 years old. In the years since, Bair has studied game art trends and techniques in depth, using her hard-earned skills and natural talents to create retro-inspired 2D and pixel games that players want to play.

Her work has paid off: Bair co-founded Twin Otter Studios with her brother, Taylor, successfully crowdfunded the RPG Arcadian Atlas, and served as Art Director for the RPG puzzle Vidar. Forbes even took note, including her in their recent 30 Under 30 list of young talents revolutionising the video game industry.

Here, Bair chats with Essentials author and gaming enthusiast Theo Karasavvas about burnout, artistic inspiration and being a woman in the world of video games.

What made you start creating video games?
As a kid, my brother and I were heavy gamers, plugging many hours into classics like Mario Paint, Breath of Fire, Illusion of Gaia and more. Our local movie rental shop had many uncommon SNES [Super Nintendo Entertainment System] games to rent, but you had to get your fill quickly because the late fees would stack up.

At one point we had rented Chrono Trigger and almost beat it, but after returning the game to the shop, the cartridge was purchased by someone and we were left with only the memories of the game. Something about that longing caused me to search one day for a way to make my own Chrono Trigger fan game. I stumbled upon a simple “plug-n-play”-style game engine (OHRRPGCE) and got to work on my embarrassingly bad game.

What inspires you when you create your digital art? 
Folks think I only do pixel art, but I’m actually a digital artist first and foremost. I’ve never had a problem with that title [digital artist] – our art is still art, whether it’s produced on an electronic device or a stretched canvas.

When I’m creating digital art of any kind, I like to put on some music that fits the mood of the piece I’m creating. If it’s a moody, gritty piece of art, I like to put on some rainy-day Bohren & der Club of Gore, Tom Waits or something of that nature. If I’m creating pixel art specifically, I like to find a video game soundtrack that matches the overall mood and art style I’m going for with my pixels – it helps me get in the right headspace for the work.

What’s it like as a woman in this industry? Is it challenging?
Being a woman in the games industry has always made me the subject of extra attention – be it good or bad. The game community has only recently begun to emerge from the ashes of GamerGate, but the amount of power women have in this industry is growing every day. So, I’ll get a mix of massive support out in the open, as well as men DMing me for nudes and challenging my “gamer girl” knowledge in the shadows.

Kickstarter campaigns are fairly commonplace in the indie developer community, but only one campaign creator was accused of using the funds for her honeymoon: you guessed it, ME. Nevermind the fact that my game wasn’t dreamed up until after my honeymoon. It’s something we will have to keep working at, but women are gamers, too, and we have tons of value to add to this industry.

The game community has only recently begun to emerge from the ashes of GamerGate, but the amount of power women have in this industry is growing every day.

The game community has only recently begun to emerge from the ashes of GamerGate, but the amount of power women have in this industry is growing every day.

Speaking of Kickstarter: How important – or even vital – is funding for a young freelancer like yourself?
Crowdfunding is the single biggest factor in the rise of quality you see in indie games these days. A lot of people don’t remember, but indie games used to be extremely few and far between, because the barrier for entry was so high. Once people realised they could help games be made, it opened all these doors.

Until then, the AAA game industry had told people what they wanted and needed from games, but if folks wanted to see more “old school”-style artisanal RPGs made, they could now let their wallets do the talking for them. It has become something of an artistic revolution, as all these creators – myself included – are now able to put their best foot forward and produce high-quality games they never would have been able to dream of making just a few years back.

Without crowdfunding, our game Arcadian Atlas would have shoddy programming and open-licensed music and sound effects. Crowdfunding allowed me to produce a game that matched the vision in my head, and that is something I’m infinitely grateful for.

Video game developing can be a VERY tiring and frustrating process. How do you avoid the dreaded burnout?
The quality bar is set high, and you really have to hustle to stand out among the crowd. Burnout used to be something only talked about at the AAA studio level, but us indies are experiencing it more and more regularly. This is because we are doing our own marketing, we are running our own booths at PAX [gaming festivals], we are fulfilling all the backer rewards for our Kickstarter campaigns, we are designing our own websites and we are making the games.

After our Arcadian Atlas Kickstarter campaign completed, I was in a really bad place. I had totally neglected my mental and physical health leading up to and during the campaign, so when it came time to actually enjoy the full-time game development funding I had just fought for, I burned out hard. I had put all of myself into getting Arcadian Atlas funded, and afterwards my brain’s serotonin levels plunged me into the darkest depression of my life. My mental and physical health were so poor that I came down with a case of shingles that wrecked me for six whole months of my life.

After that I knew what was most important: HEALTH. You do better work when you’re healthy, and you get more work done in less time. Nowadays I prioritise self-care, because I’m more than a game-producing robot.

Last but not least, as a fellow gamer I’m curious to know: What’s the one game you can’t imagine the gaming world without?
Chrono Trigger. I’ve not seen a more influential game – literally all the indie and AAA game developers I’ve talked to that played CT said it was a massive inspiration to them, and I am no different!

Check out Bair’s work at her website,

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