Apr. 22 2020
Game on. Elyse Willems is the lead producer behind Funhaus, an online gaming and entertainment channel, and her big job is creating binge-worthy content. According to her, the company’s “bread and butter is ‘Let’s Play’ content, where we use video games as the jumping-off point to do improv comedy.” That includes a healthy mix of drunk Super Mario play-throughs and sketch videos where Elyse plays a (rather convincing) Lady Gaga. How did this Canadian-turned-Californian manifest her dream job? We asked her.
What did college-age Elyse think she’d be when she grew up?
Not this! I have a degree in political science, if that’s any indication of what my intended career path was. I’ve been a creative person from the moment I could hold a crayon in my hand. Sometime late in high school, I wrestled with pursuing my dreams versus being a realist, so I made decisions that I thought were the “right” or “adult” choices to make.
When did you realize gaming was something you could do for a living?
I was connected with Spike’s GameTrailers TV; they were hiring a production assistant. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and put me on the path to where I am now.
You wear so many hats at work. What’s your favorite part of the job?
Sometimes I feel like I wear a hat on a hat, or a tiny hat beneath a larger hat, or a hat with the design of another hat on it. The pure moments of performance, where I can dip fully into a character and have fun, is my favorite part. Not to mention the emotional aspect of this job… meeting our community and hearing how, in a small way, we’ve touched or helped them.
How do you hype yourself up for videos on days when you’re just tired?
I’m a weirdo who doesn’t consume caffeine or energy drinks, so I have to conjure every energy boost naturally. There are some days where we can record upwards of three, four pieces of content in a day. It requires a lot of internal enthusiasm and energy, but it’s important to keep in mind that you’re only human, everyone has off days, and that’s okay.
Gaming is a male-dominated industry. What challenges have you faced because of that?
I feel a pressure to go to greater extremes to prove myself, or justify that I deserve a seat at the table. On top of that, my place in gaming is directly tied to comedy. Not only do I have to prove myself to the gatekeepers when it comes to the outdated idea of what a “true gamer” is, but I’ve spent four-and-a-half years demonstrating why I deserve the title of comedian. I can’t just be present in a video, I have to be on top of my comedy game when it comes to riffing and bits.
How has the gender gap in gaming improved in the last 5-10 years?
I’ve seen the “token woman” trope less and less. I also see women perceived as welcome members of gaming communities, and not a novelty. I see men elevating the roles and voices of their female peers. That being said, there’s still so much more that has to be done when it comes to inclusivity, pay, and acknowledgement for people of color, especially women of color.
Animal Crossing: worth it?
Animal Crossing isn’t a game; it’s a way of life! Right now, it’s both escapism and a weird sense of structure in our new quarantine reality. I’m completely obsessed, to a fault. At the same time, I’m wondering if I’ll soon turn a corner where I realize that maybe the amount I’m playing and my level of investment isn’t healthy…? Until then, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to cultivate and exploit my next Tarantula Island.