update: recovering professionally after an internet hate campaign

Remember the letter-writer trying to recover professionally after an internet hate campaign against her? Earlier updates are here, and here’s the latest.

So much has happened since then (I can’t believe it’s been eight years!) both in the industry and professionally.

After I left my former company, I took some time working for other companies and writing for myself. I moved around a bit, tried my hand in some different industries, wrote a (yet unpublished) novel.

Just before Covid hit, some friends of mine contacted me. They had started a new video game studio and were looking for a writer. Was I interested? I was!

I’ve been working with them for the past few years and it’s been wonderful. We have a small, incredibly talented team and I love what I do. Also, we just announced our next game, which is set in a dystopian futuristic corporation. You play SCOUT, a rogue artificial intelligence trying to escape from Paperclip International (aka the world’s worst company).

It’s a turn-based strategy game, no shooting or violence (other than cartoonish violence. Our early testers had a great deal of fun convincing office workers to kick beehives or put hot sauce in coworkers’ coffees). Instead, you have to spy on the people in the office, figure out what they want, and offer them deals if they will help you escape. It’s got a lot of satirical corporate humor, with miserable human office workers trapped in a nightmare of bureaucracy and mismanagement.

(I may have taken some inspiration from an AAM post here or there.)

Given the subject matter, I thought you might be interested in the game, or just hearing what I was up to. Here’s our Steam page and press release.

{ 166 comments… read them below }

    1. AGD*

      YES, this sounds amazing! Like ‘Thomas Was Alone’ but with interpersonal dynamics instead of puzzle games.

      1. Phoenix Wright*

        Thomas Was Alone is a personal favorite, so consider this wishlisted! Also, really glad that LW is doing so well. After all the crap she went through, this happy ending is more than deserved.

    2. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Add one more to the wishlist crew, and to the crowd cheering for your continued badassery.

    3. Gozer (she/her)*

      Oh definitely! It looks incredible and I think my techies on staff will love it too :)

      1. Rage*

        You open the refrigerator. You see an unattended lunch.
        TAKE LUNCH.
        You take the lunch.
        EAT LUNCH.
        You eat the lunch. It is very spicy. You run, your mouth on fire, to the bathroom.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          This comment made me miss Iceman, which I haven’t played (and never did figure out how to beat) since probably 1997. Maybe I can find it on an emulator…

          1. Rage*

            Check out GOG (Good Old Games). They have reformatted a lot of the old classics to work on newer systems.

            1. Lucien Nova*

              Seconding GOG!

              It’s not a reformat though – they’ve packaged the games in with an emulator (ScummVM in most cases) which will run the game in your modern-day Windows environment. There’s some rewriting involved, yes, but no need to go in and completely redo the code! :)

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      Right? I really hope the beehives are a, “your office is full of bees!!!” AAM easter egg. :)

    1. Dawn*

      Heaven forbid someone find a silver lining to a severely traumatic event in their lives.

      I, for one, am thrilled to hear that OP is doing well and moving forward.

    2. AmberWrites*

      I mean, definitely yes? But I also genuinely thought the people who read AAM (and Alison herself!) would like an update. :)

      1. Missa Brevis*

        This is one of those times when I want tone indicators because that comment could have a lot of different vibes and it’s hard to tell without context. I can’t speak for BCC, but I say:
        This update was an artful PR move (intrigued, admiring, gratified by happy update)

      2. SarahKay*

        You were correct, and it’s an awesome update; I’m so glad you’re doing well.
        Plus, let’s face it, if there wasn’t a link to the game there’d be a significant number of comments asking for one; you just anticipated our questions :-D

  1. BigLawEx*

    Thank you for this update. I love the ability to look back at 8 years. There’s a lot of research on the impact stressful/crisis times can have on our relative happiness and health. We all fear them. And they can be horrible in the moment. But the lasting impacts can be both negative and positive. I appreciate some of the positive aspects of these updates and this last one.

    1. AmberWrites*

      I was really surprised when I thought back to my original letter and realized it was almost a decade. Everything has changed so much. It’s hard to imagine what kind of person I would be now without all that’s happened in the world (not just in video games).

      1. Blackbeard*

        I’m almost a decade late, but I just read your post from 2016 and I wanted to give you my full moral support. If anything, those Internet haters proved that you were right in the first place.

        Very happy that everything turned out well for you. Congratulations, and best of luck for your future!

  2. Nomic*

    Huge kudos for the hat tip to Paperclip International.

    Grats for picking yourself up and continuing to be awesome!

  3. T.N.H*

    Is AAM going to be a place where everyone who’s ever had a question published promotes their latest project?

    1. Czhorat*

      It’s related to her story and the journey from hate-campaign victim to where she is now.

      I think it’s fine

    2. JSPA*

      This is a bit mean spirited, no?

      1. Coming back from a coordinated hate campaign is levels of magnitude different from “lost a job” or “boss is on my case about the microwave” or “my employee is working two jobs.”

      And “specifically used AAM as inspiration to make workplace dynamics into a playable game” is equally clearly different from, “hey, I made a random Thing, here it is.”

      1. Be Gneiss*

        right? It’s not even self-promotion, because it’s not like LW decided what letters get published.

        1. Juneybug*

          I am so happy that LW was able to turn their horrible situation into a game. Even if it was a PR move to tell us about their success, it was a great outcome to give us hope, plus learn about a new game. Win-win for all!!

      2. Blue*

        +1. I for one hope the AAM comments don’t become a place of cynically assuming bad faith from LWs or ineptitude from Alison.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I say this as a perpetually online, cynical grump — sometimes it’s okay and even nice to just enjoy something and be happy for someone.

        2. Czhorat*

          One of the rules here is to take letter writers at their word and assume good faith.

          I think it should go without saying that we need to assume good faith from Alison. If someone can’t anymore then I don’t understand why they’re still here.

    3. Be Gneiss*

      I can’t tell if this is a criticism of the LW (which…kinda weird?) or of Alison, since she chooses what content she wants to publish on her site. It’s not like it’s required reading.

      1. JSPA*

        Adding that, given the context of a past hate campaign, even very faint disparagment / sour grapes / begrudgingness hits my nose like a whiff of that same old stink.

        The LW’s update is clearly pleasing to much of the readership, and to the site owner. Not feeling it? Click the little x and your tab will close.

      1. Jojo*

        I think the letter from Orange Cat Standing was an intentional PR move to get followers. I did follow, and I really love that silly cat, so no complaints from me. As for this LW, I’m happy for her to get a bit of a plug, she really went through it and It’s nice to see that she’s come out on the other side.

    4. Professor Plum*

      Wouldn’t that be great if it does? I love supporting individuals who’ve been able to solve issues and make things better for themselves. It’s fantastic to see when someone has gone through a traumatic situation and come out thriving on the other side!

      1. amoeba*


        Also, I love Alison’s book recommendations, so if she decides something is worth sharing with us, I’m generally excited about it!

    5. allathian*

      I seriously doubt it, this is the first or maybe the second that I’ve seen during my years here.

      Kudos to anyone who can turn life’s lemons into lemonade.

  4. Rebecca*

    Eight years ago, I was at the end of the very deep throes of a decade long opiate addiction. I’ve since started an entirely new career that I (mostly) love and finally have stability.

    Solidarity, LW. This is a great comeback story, and I love it.

  5. Dana*

    You know I never thought that AAM and my Edmonton community would collide but here they are. Very excited about this game!

  6. MEH Squared*

    Congrats on your journey, AmberWrites. The game sounds really cool! I have wishlisted it on Steam as well.

  7. Beancat*

    I’m so, so glad to hear you’re doing so well now! The game looks great; I just wish listed it and told my husband about it! :)

  8. Look User! Even the Shop is for Sale!*

    I’m feel really happy for you and I wishlisted the game. It sounds really cool!

    1. Llama Identity Thief*

      When released, this game will be available for purchase on the Steam webstore. If you look for Steam gaming, the client should be an early result. You can download the client, use the name to look it up or the Steam link to go directly to it, and thus purchase and download the game once it’s released. Not sure if they’re planning on listing the game other places.

    2. amoeba*

      I think it’s also not really an online game but just available for Download on the Steam platform (which is really good for all kinds of games, actually!)
      But please correct me if I’m wrong :)

  9. A Girl Named Fred*

    Congratulations, OP! What a fantastic journey. Thank you for this timely reminder that now is not forever, and that eight years is a long time in which to make improvements and accomplish things as long as you stay connected to what you want and work toward it. I hope you and your game studio have much success (and I can’t wait to play the game too, once it’s out!)

    1. AmberWrites*

      Thanks very much! I really can’t believe how much has changed in eight years. I like to think I’m older and wiser now. Older for sure. :)

  10. Amber Rose*

    Oooh, I want to play that. It sounds like the perfect catharsis. :D
    So glad you’re doing well LW. I’m rooting for you (and wishlisting your game).

  11. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

    I don’t play games and this is ridiculous and I love it and I’m here for it, brilliant!

  12. Goldenrod*

    This game sounds AMAZING!

    I’ve worked at Paperclip International – I can attest that it’s an extremely toxic company. The management is bananas. HR department is useless. Sometime I’ll write in about the crazy co-worker who actually put hot sauce in my coffee. So glad I’m out of there!

    1. AmberWrites*

      Almost definitely yes to DLC. Cheap-ass rolls and banana suits are not yet officially announced. ;)

      1. Tio*

        You definitely need a “company potluck” DLC. Cheap ass rolls, food poisoning, people stealing entire trays of brownies…. DO IT.

  13. sometimeswhy*

    I am so happy for you, AmberWrites! And the last time I was this excited about a game, it had an unruly goose in it.

  14. Storm in a teacup*

    Omg this sounds brilliant. Please tell me there is someone being bribed with cheap ass rolls and a guacamole bob character not letting you leave because your expenses are due
    Congrats on the success!

  15. Scheduling bot love story*

    This sounds really cool. Please put in an optional romance subplot where you can enter into a relationship with an AI scheduling bot.

    1. AmberWrites*

      When I read that letter my eyebrows went WAY up! There are no current restrictions on romancing robots in the game.

      (Although employees can’t romance their bosses, and vice versa. Paperclip is a terrible company, but even it has limits.)

  16. Elizabeth West*

    Omg! I’m adding that as soon as I can log into Steam!

    I hope it has a spicy food trap, hahaha.

  17. Have you had enough water today?*

    I remember Zoe Quinn & Gamergate…which I am assuming this article is referring to. It was an excellent interview but neckbearded incel men living in their parents basement didn’t like that a woman was not only making games but speaking about sexism in the industry. They saw her interview as an attack on them directly & acted like damn fools.

    1. AmberWrites*

      I remember when GG was in the headlines, like, every day. Now people barely remember it. I never would have predicted it would (happily) burn out so fast.

  18. Cheesy*

    Looks fun! I saw in the press release it’s coming to console as well and was wondering if there was going to be a physical release? My crusty old computer can’t play anything on Steam (something to do with DirectX version) and I always prefer a physical copy vs a digital copy when possible.

    1. AmberWrites*

      We’re not sure right now. Our first game did have a physical release, which was awesome, but that was through our publisher. This round we are self-publishing unless we find just the right company to work with. (Someone… not-Paperclippy.)

      If the stars align we would love to do physical distribution again. We’ll have to see how it works out. :)

  19. Tiger Snake*

    Someone’s being paying attention to the maximizer thought experiment I see.
    It sounds like “Universal Paperclips” got crossed with “Untitled Goose Game”.

    1. AmberWrites*

      Not a bad way to describe it! Throw in a little deckbuilding and set it in an office sim, and you’re there.

  20. Popcorn*

    Congrats LW!
    While the office details don’t line up, the description of “dystopian futuristic corporation” and “a rogue artificial intelligence trying to escape from […] the world’s worst company” really made me think of Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries. I love those books, so if there’s a genuine similarity between those two things, this game might be very fun for me :)

    1. AmberWrites*

      So, funny story. One of our storylines deals with the office workers being obsessed with the latest viral TV show. As a placeholder name during development, we called the show “Sanctuary Moon.” :D

  21. kicking-k*

    This has made my week! I haven’t played PC games in years, but my son has Steam and I’ll get him to tell me what to do.

    I love the idea of this and hope it is very successful!

  22. works with realtors*

    And this is the transformative power of games – look at how many folks in these comments are excited to play this game! Some are even new to gaming! I love it.

  23. Garblesnark*

    This is wonderful! I game on Switch, and I’ll be watching to see if y’all ever port there.

    (Unrelated aside, TW: I think actually you were treated worse than if you said you enjoyed kicking babies. I was raised in a church group that revered a preacher who, according to very pervasive rumors, kicked babies in public, and everyone there seemed to find him MORE wonderful for it.)

    1. AmberWrites*

      I guess I could do an A/B experiment, but I think I’ll take your word for it. ;)

      Switch port is in the works, just not official yet. So stay tuned!

    1. AmberWrites*

      I’m afraid that’s not on the docket right now, but always in motion is the future.

  24. CountryLass*

    Aw man, I don’t have a pc! If that comes out as a game I can play on an app or tablet, it sounds great!

    1. AmberWrites*

      We are doing a console port, if that helps! Mobile is a question mark now, but it’s possible.

  25. Gozer (she/her)*

    I absolutely adore this. To get away from abuse and hate and become a success is something to be applauded, ok sod that, there should be frikkin awards.

    To make it into game dev as well? There aren’t awards enough. I KNOW how bad that industry an get (which is why I work in commercial IT).

    You’re a hero. The game looks right up my alley and I’ll add it to my Steam library.

    Seriously, this is the best update I’ve ever seen here.

  26. Chas*

    Add another person to the Wishlisted group! This looks like the sort of game that will have me agonising over what I’m doing and what consequences it will cause! (And probably cause me to end up looking up a guide to find out because I am rubbish at controlling myself)

    1. AmberWrites*

      Honestly, I am exactly the same. I hate feeling like I made the “wrong” decision. I like to think this game will offer lots of flexibility to make fun choices without worrying you’ll be punished for it down the line.

  27. immunorecovering*

    Way to go, OP! Just set a reminder for April 1 to see if I can purchase it (I don’t want to sign up for another newsletter). Congrats!

    1. AmberWrites*

      We’re targeting an early 2025 release (I totally get not wanting another newsletter). You can also check in with our social for updates along the way. :)

Comments are closed.