Featured Nerd: Brandon K. Aten & Wet Ink Games
Featured Nerd: Brandon Aten & Wet Ink Games
by Michael Pfaff; photography by Michael Pfaff; illustrations provided by Wet Ink Games
Brandon K. Aten, freelancer writer and co-founder of Wet Ink Games (currently Kickstarting their first game, Wild Skies: Europa Tempest), is likely one of the very few people in the universe who can give credit to Galactus for kick-starting his writing career.
Oh, yes, believe it. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Brandon is a 34-year-old Louisville native, born and raised, who went to Waggener High School and the University of Louisville, where he studied vocal performance, before switching during his senior year to music history and religious studies. Brandon said he was “kind of a nerdy kid” and got into games through his friends and their older brothers. The first game he ever played was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the first game he bought was Robotech, second-hand for $5. But, he really started playing heavily when he entered college.
“Some of my best friends I met through gaming. We would go to the Miller Information Technology Center and stay there till, like, three in the morning, sometimes, three or four nights a week,” he said. “That group really helped springboard my writing.”
These intense gaming sessions went on for years, playing D&D, Rifts, MechWarrior: Dark Ages, etc. Brandon was running games around town also, at stores like Something 2 Do, and negotiated a gig as a judge and facilitator with WizKids at Origins 2004 in exchange for a badge to the convention.
Stay with me! Galactus is about to make his appearance!
In addition to his badge for Origins, Brandon also received some con-exclusive swag.
“I got this huge Galactus figure, which was awesome,” Brandon said. “So, I was totally geeked about that. I was at the Palladium booth talking to Wayne Smith about a trade for some MechWarrior pieces when Kevin Siembieda walks over and is like, ‘Oh, Wizkids. Man, I really wanted to get my hands on one of those Galactus figures.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah! I got one of those. It’s in the car.’ He looked at me and was like, ‘I’ll trade you for it.’”
Kevin Siembieda, the owner of Palladium Books, the company that put out the first game Brandon ever played, offered an unbelievable trade.
“I left that con with two boxes full of books, all autographed by him and all the artists that were with him,” Brandon said. “Kevin was my idol. He was responsible for these games I played growing up.”
Meeting his idol wasn’t the best part. During the exchange, which took several hours, Brandon had an opportunity to chat up Kevin and pitch him some of the ideas for Rifts he had developed over the course of his college gaming experience. Kevin loved the ideas Brandon pitched and told him to write it up as an article and send it to him for The Rifter, a gazette for Rifts. Brandon and his gaming buddy, Taylor White, wrote it up and it was published that October.
Brandon soon graduated and followed a girl (as young men often do) to New Jersey. While living in The Garden State, Brandon didn’t have the opportunity to game like he did in college. Instead, he wrote. A lot. For three years, Brandon continued to write and finished his Master’s of Theological Studies. He kept in contact with Kevin and spent a few weeks in Michigan, where Palladium’s headquarters were, helping with typesetting, editing, development, and anywhere else he could. With his foot in the door at Palladium, he and Taylor began pitching more ideas to Kevin and had several more articles and two books published. Brandon also began writing for other publishers (including Ninja Crusade 2nd Edition by Third Eye Games, as well as Splicers: Blood and Iron and Splicers: Genetic Expressions by Palladium Books, all out soon).
With all this experience and ambition, it wasn’t long before he started his own games company: Wet Ink Games.
Check out this amazing art from Wild Skies: Europa Tempest!
Wet Ink Games, co-founded with his brother-in-law, Matthew Orr, began the Kickstarter for Wild Skies: Europa Tempest last week. Brandon is leveraging the relationships he has cultivated in working with Palladium (and other companies) to get some incredible art for the game. As for the premise of the game, it’s something that’s been simmering in the background for several years as they continued to write for other companies.
“We started writing our own story and setting, but tabled it until our freelance work started slowing down,” Brandon said. “Once we finished the writing for the Splicers books, we finally had a chance to pick it up again.”
Brandon and Matthew decided to develop their own rules system that would best fit the setting, an alternate history taking place in Europe in the mid-1930s where the Great War never ended and anthropomorphic sky pirates rule the skies. The Kickstarter is already halfway to its goal with plenty of time to reach the various stretch goals Wet Ink Games has planned. Taking advice from his childhood idol, and eventual mentor, Brandon said big ideas are a dime a dozen; it’s the doing that matters.
With Wild Skies: Europa Tempest, Brandon and Matthew have done it. And, we at Nerd Louisville can’t wait to see what’s in the future for these Louisville nerds.
To find more of Brandon’s work, check out his page on Amazon.
Featured Nerds will be a regular part of Nerd Louisville news and articles. If you or someone you know would like to be featured, please contact us!