FableFridays: FableVision's Creative Director Leigh Hallisey


Her laugh. That’s the first thing folks notice about Leigh Hallisey. She has this loud, contagious laugh that goes from the toes up. As FableVision’s Creative Director, Leigh is in the unique position of being able to talk to and work with every FableVisionary. She works with clients to develop the “big ideas” and ensures that kids of all ages keep laughing and learning through our games, animations, and websites.

“I also do a lot of narrative and script writing and character dialogue, usually at a nearby café,” Leigh says. “I need near lethal amounts of caffeine and a decent level of white noise and activity around me when I’m writing.”

We recently talked with Leigh about her job, her secret passions, and junk food. Who doesn’t like to talk about junk food?

FableVision creates a variety of projects – apps, online games, animations – as creative director you have to write across multiple platforms, what is your secret?

I know Marshall McLuhan said that the “Medium is the Message,” and that is a huge consideration, especially when we are talking about things like the age of the audience, the length of the experience, or the depth of the learning. Some things that look fantastic on a TV screen or a laptop lose a lot on a mobile screen.

We have to ask practical questions about who has access to which kinds of devices, and the level of ability they have in using the devices:

  • Does a 3-year-old have the motor skills to use a mouse?
  • Does his grandmother know how to make a circle gesture on an iPhone screen?
  • Will a kid be using this product in a classroom setting, or sitting in a grocery store cart?

But there are some things that are universal across platforms and mediums:

  • Is it a good story?
  • Are the characters relatable?
  • Is the learning completely integrated into the experience and scaffolded so users feel supported and empowered?
  • And of course, the most important question, is it fun?

Can you share the craziest idea that you’ve developed and it actually turned into a project?

This one writes itself. We needed a game to teach the concept of compound interest and the importance of saving for retirement to young, economically disadvantaged adults. Not the sexiest of learning topics, and it’s really difficult to get people thinking about retirement when it seems so far away, and especially when you are faced with the harsh reality of not having enough money to buy groceries and you’ve racked up thousands of dollars in debt.

So here’s a glimpse into how that creative process went down, practically verbatim:

‘It would be fun to make a game with vampires, because who doesn’t love vampires, and since they live forever, they would have to save a ton of cash to live on when they retired, and while looking at compound interest adding up at a few cents on the dollar every month is boooring, looking at it racking up over hundreds of years would be amaaaaaazing. Plus, vampires!!’

And with that seed, we brainstormed more with our team, our client, Doorways to Dreams Fund, and the game designers from MIT. We ended up with a game where you play as a Vampire nightclub owner, earning money by serving your undead patrons bottles of blood, hooking them up with other vamps to chat with about kittens, and picking songs for them to dance to. Bite Club was born!

That game has received a lot of press and attention, so we were all pretty proud of that. And somehow, it kind of feels like I got away with something.

If you worked in another industry what would it be?

I loved teaching film, TV, and pop culture classes at the college level. For a lot of students, it was the first time they were asked to look critically at media, pull it apart, analyze it, reflect on its deeper significance and place in society, and what it says about our society at a given time. Seeing that light turn on was a total adrenaline rush (I have a bad habit of making everything about me, and I am calling myself out on it right now).

Want to know more about Leigh?

Guilty snack pleasure:BBQ Frito twisty things. “But only by a pool or on the beach, and with a Diet Coke.”

Favorite game: I love Boggle, Uno, Trivial Pursuit, and MASH. For digital games, I like You Don’t Know Jack, Dumb Ways to Die, Ninja Trees of Doom. I’m also momentarily consumed not by the game Flappy Bird, but by the immense amount of academic, philosophical, theoretical, and satirical writing and thought that Flappy Bird has provoked.

Favorite YA novel:

If you were stuck on an island with a TV that only aired the entire series of one TV show, where would that island be?

A very highly developed island, with resort hotels and outdoor shopping malls and a Starbucks on every corner. Does that count as an island? Is that Manhattan? But tropical.

Oh, and what would the TV show be?

There’s such a huge difference between shows you love but can’t watch over and over (Knight Rider) and shows that might not be your be-all end-all favorite, but you when you flip by them on TV you stop and watch every time (Laverne and Shirley) – even if you’ve seen it 100 times. I’m deeply in love with Mad Men right now, and Don Draper is my not-so secret hero. Not so much for his drinking, smoking, cheating, lying character traits, but as a Creative Director. I love his creativity, passion, his ability to connect with people, his confidence in his ideas, and how he pulls people in by spinning a masterful story.

FableFridays is a monthly feature on the FableVision blog where we provide a closer look at the team that pulls together award-winning projects on a daily basis.

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