16 February 2019

PinkFae Archive #30: Interview with Emily Whitehouse of On the Lamb Games

This week's installment of the PinkFae Archives is the second of the articles I wrote about Gen Con 49 in August of 2016. This article is an interview with Emily Whitehouse, one of the founders of On the Lamb Games, which sadly closed their doors in November of 2017. Hopefully, this interview (which was originally published on 20 August, 2016) will serve as a bit of a reminder of who and what they once were.

Emily Whitehouse (nee Fontana) poses for a photo in the On the Lamb Games booth at Gen Con 2016.

One of the things I was most looking forward to at Gen Con was getting to meet Emily Whitehouse. She's one of the co-founders of On the Lamb Games, a small company which is probably best known for their miniatures game Endless: Fantasy Tactics. I went by the On the Lamb Games booth and was delighted to meet Emily, whom I had until that point known as Emily Fontana. I would later learn that she had been married in June, so it's Emily Whitehouse now!

But we were able to find some time to conduct an interview. Now I will share with you, my faithful readers, the wisdom that she has imparted unto me.

PinkFae: First, would you like to tell us a little bit about the games your company produces? If there were someone who had never heard of On the Lamb Games before, and wanted to know more about their games, what would they find?

Emily Whitehouse: On The Lamb has been producing games for about nine years now. Our first game was an RPG called Legendary Realms; it featured a class-less system that focused mostly on making unique and diverse characters. It was our first release, from a group that didn't know what they were doing, and it honestly shows. While I still have a fondness for it, we have pretty much discontinued it.

A few years later we released our first miniatures game, Brushfire: Historia Rodentia. It was an army-based skirmish game featuring a historical parody setting with anthropomorphic visuals – basically Napoleonic Red Wall. While I worked on Legendary Realms, mostly providing feedback, random ideas, and handling production, Brushfire was my first real run with game development. We unfortunately had to discontinue it a few years ago due to a string of problems and costly mistakes. However, it's still my baby, and we're working on bringing it back in the near future.

About 4 years ago we released Endless: Fantasy Tactics, continuing our love affair with colons in game titles. The game is an obvious nod to classic Tactical JRPGs and fantasy anime, featuring quick and easy to learn game play with a diverse tactical element. It has quickly become our flagship game, and we're continuing to expand and improve upon the options available for it.

Some miniatures for the Brushfire game arranged on the terrain for a miniatures games. Some examples of the figures include: a badger in a blue uniform wearing claw gloves, a bulldog in a red uniform with a rifle, a chameleon with a crossbow, and a rabbit in teal samurai-style armour.
A sample of some of the miniatures for Brushfire. Photo provided by Emily Whitehouse.

PF: You've piqued my interest with your description of Legendary Realms. I'd love to learn more about it!

EW: Its on DriveThruRPG as a PDF if you dare to take a look at it. Beware, it's very rough around the edges.

PF: How did you get into gaming in the first place?

EW: While I had played board games and RPGs as a child, it wasn't until I met my future husband that I really got into gaming properly. It was because of him I started collecting miniatures and playing Warhammer & Warmachine.

PF: One would think it was safe to assume that you're a fan of miniatures-based gaming. What other sorts of games do you enjoy?

EW: Miniatures is definitely my favorite flavor of tabletop gaming. I really love painting miniatures, building terrain, and raining death on my enemies with gratuitous amounts of dice. I also enjoy RPGs, but too many 'New Campaign! Make a level 1 character!' sessions have burned me out on them. My favorite non-minis tabletop game though? Pokemon. I really love the Pokemon TCG.

As for video games, I enjoy RPGs. Oddly enough, I really enjoy MMORPGs. XI is my favorite Final Fantasy game, with XIV and VI falling behind it.

An 8 by 8 square section of the playing area of Endless: Fantasy Tactics, with some of the squares raised by stacks of tiles to provide a 3D playing space. Various miniatures are arranged on the tiles. Four of them are blue blob-type monsters, and four are heroes (warriors and wizards and the like) that resemble characters from video games such as Final Fantasy.
A sample of miniatures from Endless: Fantasy Tactics. Photo provided by Emily Whitehouse.

PF: 'Raining death on my enemies with gratuitous amounts of dice.' I think that's going to be my new catch phrase! So, what made you decide to start up your own company?

EW: On The Lamb is actually my second company. Shortly after college I started working at an anime store, and then ended up buying it shortly after. In 2007 we closed it and my depression took a huge toll on me. Matt (my now husband) was working on Legendary Realms in his spare time with a friend, and I ended up pushing them to do it as a serious project to give me something to focus on and get out of my funk.

PF: Would you like to share with us a little bit of your background? Who is Emily?

EW: "A miserable pile of secrets." ;)

Its always awkward for me to talk about myself. Growing up we moved from Texas to Maine to Louisiana to Florida. This made it really hard to make friends and I'm still fairly socially awkward; I was picked on a lot too, which didn't really help things. I'm a huge animation and comics nerd, and I had intended to pursue a career in animation when I was younger. I actually have a degree in it. Ultimately it wasn't for me, but I learned a lot of things that still help me today. That love of drawn stories lead me to get into anime and cosplay, which then led into meeting some of my closest friends.

PF: Would you be willing to tell us a little bit about your husband and your relationship with him?

EW: He is a very avid gamer, and a huge dork. We were introduced to each other through a mutual friend about 11 years ago, and hated each other almost immediately. A few weeks later, we were both at a party and ended up playing Soul Calibur 2 against one another. I kicked his ass (Link ftw), and we ended up enjoying each other's banter – we decided to go on a date a few weeks later, and have been together ever since; this June we finally got hitched.

PF: What do you see in the future for yourself? Obviously, you said you're still working on expanding Endless: Fantasy Tactics and possibly bringing back Brushfire at some point. Any other plans, long-term or short term?

EW: Short-ish term we've got a few other game ideas that we're kicking around, but nothing is far enough along that I'd want to talk about it yet. Most of our plans are still kinda in the 'Don't want to get people hyped because they could still fall through' stage. Long term we'd like to move the company out of Florida, adopt a kid, and just keep being nerdy.

PF: I can only imagine that being transgender has had a massive impact on your experiences not only in the gaming industry in particular, but in the broader gaming community in general. Would you like to talk about that a little bit?

EW: It has and it hasn't. I consider my life these days to be semi-stealth—in that I won't deny being trans, but I'm also not out loud and proud either. I transitioned young, and most of the people in my life now weren't there to know me before then. So it generally doesn't really come up, and I don't generally bring it up. I've had a few negative experiences in the gaming community because of it, mostly shitty YouTube comments, but overall my experience has been positive. I've found the gaming industry to be very welcoming and accepting of most everyone.

PF: I understand. Like the saying goes: 'The YouTube Comments Section – where intelligent discourse goes to die.' But I'm glad to hear that you've had a positive experience.

EW: I think in any sort of community you'll find good and bad, and a good chunk of times people like to focus on the bad.

PF: Speaking of the gaming community, would you mind sharing your perspective on gamers in general? There are, of course, stereotypes about who and what gamers are, but if what I saw at Gen Con is any indication, there's a lot more to the community than the stereotypes let on. What's your opinion on the hobby, the industry, and the fans?

EW: Gamers come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. One of the bigger stereotypes you'll find in the minis gaming scene is that 'It's just fat guys.' But we've found with both Endless and Brushfire we have a higher female customer base. I honestly love this industry, I've found it to be very close and friendly. Most of us realize that we're not really competitors, and that our fans are capable of playing all of our games. The fans though, they are the best; especially ours. I really love getting e-mails from fans saying how much they are enjoying our games, or seeing photos fans posted of their painted figs and matches.

PF: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. It has been very nice getting to know you, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds!

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