Rebecca Rothschild Interview: Mutant Football League Writer Explains Her Process and Reveals Industry Highs and Lows

Developed by Digital Dreams Entertainment, Mutant Football League (MFL) brings over-the-top, arcade carnage to each (literally killer) stadium it has to offer. As the spiritual successor to Mutant League Football for the Sega Genesis, MFL follows in the footsteps of its predecessor while having enough personality to create a path of its own. The standard edition, $19.99, has been out for some time. But now the Dynasty Edition is here.  With the Dynasty Edition, you can get a physical copy of the game plus all new and existing DLC for $29.99 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and (now) the Nintendo Switch.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to one of the game’s writers—Rebecca Rothschild—about Mutant Football League, what it means to be a writer in the video game industry and beyond, plus the game’s recent port to the Nintendo Switch.

Brown Gamer Girl: How would you describe your current career?

Rebecca Rothschild: I’m a writer by nature so I write comics. I have a webcomic called Shero and Vex. It’s a satire about a hero and villain who are roommates. Erika Swanson and I have been doing that for 3 years. She’s awesome. I also have a self-published comic, Warshiner. I’ve been working on Warshiner for a long time. It’s a serious sci-fi publication that’s all about the prohibition in space. And then, of course, I have my video game stuff.

I worked as a QA tester on Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2. I also did writing on Injustice 2 which I was not credited for: that’s why me a Netherrealm Studios broke up. But then I started doing work on Mutant Football League. I get to write lines for Tim Kitzrow: the voice of NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, and now MFL. And Micheal Mendhein [the creator and producer of Mutant Football League] is a cool boss.

Digital Dreams is indie [so] we don’t have the PR powerhouse that EA or a lot of these [larger] game studios have, instead, we’ve just had to take the game on the road. We went to Game Developers Conference (GDC) and we got best in play, which was awesome. We went to E3, had a nice big crowd, and [got] great coverage there. We were in Atlanta for MoMoCon and got nominated for an award there. We also attended Midwest Gaming Classic.

My first step into the game industry was as a journalist with Sugar Gamers. I took a few years off to work for some other companies and eventually get into game development. Now I’m back and I’m still enjoying things. So, in short, I’m all over the nerd place.

BGG: When would you say your career officially started? What would you consider the beginning?

Around 2008 is when I really put my foot into it. I was covering things for Sugar Gamers. And [the concept] of women in gaming was still very new. Esports was tough… to cover that and be a woman back then… It’s better now, could use some work, but it’s better now.

BGG: What would you say were the biggest challenges, as a woman in the industry, in 2008 versus now? Or are the challenges the same today but minimized?

The challenges are still kind of the same. If you look at management and hiring power it’s still very much white, cis, hetero male. Sometimes [industry members] don’t mean to do this but, [what happens is], they create a bubble or an echo chamber.

Based on my own experiences and everything that I’ve heard, I would say like 80% of how you get a job in the game industry is based on referral and friends of friends of friends. In the case of gaming, it’s bros of bros of bros. In that sense, it mirrors the tech industry. And then [industry leaders] look around like, “well I don’t know why we have all these white guys” and it’s like, “you don’t? It’s because you keep hiring your friends.” And it’s very hard to penetrate that because now they’ve built a culture around their friends and that’s how you get that fraternity sort of culture. What they don’t understand is the way they do their hiring is the number one cause of why [companies] don’t have diversity.

I guess the big difference is back then it wasn’t being talked about because it would’ve just fallen on deaf ears. Now, it falls on angry ears. You get people who agree with you and want to fix it but you also get defensive white men.

[It’s difficult] but I actually prefer making people’s ass itch because we’re talking about it, god forbid, rather than have no one talking about it at all. It’s a sign of progress. It’s an unfun one. But let the mob let their butts itch; I don’t really care. So that’s the big difference between 2008 and 2018: there’s an angry mob now because people are paying attention.

BGG: How big was the team holistically compared to the writing team specifically?

Our developers and core tech team are in Ukraine. A couple of them actually flew in and helped us out with E3. It was really cool to finally meet them in person. Micheal himself writes a lot. Tim, the voice of Grim Blitzrow, he is his own act. He’s a killer writer. It’s fun to write for him but he’s also very good [at it]. We’ve actually had a bunch of writers, same thing with artists (who have worked on the team logos etc). There’s a lot of content that goes into building a post-apocalyptic football league. It’s a pretty tight-knit team. I don’t know the exact the number but it’s definitely south of 20 people.


BGG: What would you say a typical day in the life was like during peak development time?

Well, I’m a narrative designer so my time to shine was preproduction. Most of the writing was done while we were building our world and the entire football apocalypse, as well as dictating some of the rules.

We had a successful Kickstarter. In theory, that’s awesome [and] it is. But, being as small as we were, I was also put in charge of shipping everyone’s Kickstarter rewards. No one really knows how crazy distribution is for Kickstarter until they’ve done it, especially when you have thousands of backers. I had to do a bunch of that while also trying to help Michael with the writing.

So it was kind of a blur, but it was more comfortable than any crunch I’ve ever done in the AAA setting and more rewarding too. Because you’re wearing more hats, you feel like you have more of a stake in [the game].

A typical day was mailing and then, “hey I need this dialogue” and I had like a week to [write it]. I have pretty good turn over so [semi-automatic typing noise] I just banged it out. And next thing you know, Tim’s in the studio and we have this crazy cool dialogue. It was fun, honestly. I mean logistically it can be crazy with going on the road and all this [other] stuff but at its core its fun and very rewarding. I’m really motivated to get Mutant Football League out there to as many people possible.

BGG: What would you say your writing process is like: do you just sit there and crank it out or do you have like a doc with some ideas that you refer back to?

I’m ridiculous. I might have a game or something on [the television] in the background. When I was writing some of Tim’s lines Micheal gave me a bunch of old footage to look through. I’d watch iconic football broadcasters like John Madden and even go back further to Howard Cosell and the like. I enjoy doing research and Michael would send me all this source material and I loved that. And, of course, I went through the old Mutant League game and tried to match the aesthetic that Michael was going for which was off-the-wall, weird, funny, and gross.

If I don’t have anything in my head when I’m “in writing mode” I’ll start typing out my own obituary. [Something like] “Here lies Rebecca. She sucked because she couldn’t just finish her assignment on time. Cause she’s a loser.” And it would go on until the ideas came back and then I’d delete [the obituary part]. I’ve started thinking of saving them because they’ve just gotten really out of control.

BGG: What’s the longest your obituary has gotten?

Like a full page, single-spaced [12 pt font]. It was like 4 am.

BGG: What’s your strongest quality as a writer and what area do you have the most potential for growth in (aka what’s your weakest quality)?

Biggest strength is my turn over, especially when it comes to dialogue. The thing that I think is tough is that, for writing projects, you have to take yourself out of it a little and match the aesthetic of the game. That’s something that Michael had to work with me a lot on. He’s very old school and I’m very new school. It always takes me a while with every project to find a mass appeal point.

Even with like my webcomic, Shero and Vex, Erika is very good about editing me. I love editors, I love feedback, and I love getting to that place where people are so happy and excited about [the end result]. I want to get faster at matching the aesthetic of what I’m working on. And that’s necessary if you want to diversify [which I do]. I like doing silly, I like doing serious, and everything in-between.

BGG: What would you say was the worst (and best) day working on MFL?

There were two tough days. We did two Kickstarters because the first one failed. Kickstarter was still a little bit new back then and we didn’t know the platform as well [as we do now]. I felt so defeated but Michael was just like “fuck it, we’re just going to keep going” which was actually pretty motivating. That’s why I respect him as a boss.

Here’s the other tough day. For context, [the original, standard edition of the game was] $19.99 on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Steam. Just a few hours after we launched EA dropped the price of Madden to $17.99. They’re notorious for this kind of move and I guess you have to respect the hustle but I was like “damn, really?” [laughs] I was pissed. So that knocked us out of the trending purchases, and so on. For a second, I took it personally which you absolutely can’t do; it’s just business. But again, since I’m so invested in the game and have been there from the beginning, it was tough.

The best day so far was when we were at E3 and Hardcore Gamer nominated us for best of E3. We didn’t win but it was great to be acknowledged. And it was so cool to be at E3 on the game dev side of things [rather than as press]. I wanted to just stand on chairs and scream at people “MFL!” And with the Ukraine team there everyone was just on full blast talking to the press and [promoting the game]. The best part about taking MFL on the road is watching people get their hands on the game and have a good time. They’re pumped about it and to have that experience at E3 was just amazing.


BGG: Now that the Dynasty Edition is out what is the future of MFL? DLC? Sequel?

I think Michael wants to keep improving on what we have. I think he just wants to build the game up as best he can, adding more features, characters, teams, and gory details. A lot of people have asked about hockey and other sports. Personally, I think NASCAR would be hilarious. I’m just along for the ride at this point. I kind of serve as a community manager, writer, and whatever else is needed.

BGG: Scenario: You’re playing MFL. It’s towards the end of the game. Would you rather be down by a touchdown and have the ball or up by a touchdown playing defense.

Oooo, depends on who I’m playing with. Obviously, if you’re like Midway Mutants or Greenbay Attackers you want defense, probably. No. Actually, I’d still want to go offense because that’s the MFL tradition. I love doing that, and I love a good pass play. So offense.

BGG: What MFL character would you like to see in Smash Bros and why?

Grim Blitzrow because if he wins, or lands one of those sweet hits, it’s going to be like “Boomshakalaka!”When you’re on the road with Tim it’s so contagious to say “Boomshakalaka!” for like anything. Now I’ll be in the office here with Sugar Gamers and I’ll finish an article and be like “Boomshakalaka!”

Grim would be adorable. He’s just this skeleton, in a way better version of the Patriotic suit Billy Mitchell wears, with big glasses. He’d be great to do commentary on Smash actually, like “here comes Pikachu! Winding up!” I’d love to see that.


BGG: What would the MFL joycon look like?

Black and red is our go to but you could also do a little orange. So what I’m seeing, just off the top of my head, is black, red blood splatter, and firey orange buttons.

BGG: What is your favorite field to play on in MFL and team to play as?

Mile High Chronic because it’s a very good acid trip with bad trappings underneath. It’s funny with Strawberry Field which is a “Dirty Trick” [game move] where you drug your opponent and it screws up their controls. But [that field] is just like happy shroom fun time; [it’s] so adorable. Favorite team right now is the Full Metal Mayhem: their home stadium is in purgatory and it’s like a rock concert but also a metal apocalypse on crack.

Mutant Football League is available now on all platforms. The standard edition is $19.99 and the Dynasty Edition is $29.99.

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