Alexis Kennedy: About
Alexis Kennedy is a writer, game designer and entrepreneur who’s founded two successful game development studios, and has been making innovative, evocative narrative video games for over a decade.
At his first studio, Failbetter Games, he created the Fallen London franchise, beginning with the Fallen London browser game – a dark literary gaslight fantasy of life in an 1880s London which has been stolen by bats and translated a mile below the surface of the earth. Fallen London, described by the New Yorker as ‘far and away the best browser game of today’, has now been running continuously for over ten years, with nearly two million users.
At Failbetter, Alexis led development on a string of award-winning narrative games, in the Fallen London universe and for partners like Random House with the Black Crown Project and Night Circus, BioWare with Dragon Age: the Last Court, the BBC with a prototype for a Young Dracula game, Channel 4 with Machine Cares. All these projects were based on a browser-based interactive narrative platform, StoryNexus, which Failbetter made available to the public in 2013, serving as an incubator for a new generation of interactive narrative writers.
Alexis’ final project at Failbetter was Sunless Sea, a PC game of loneliness, exploration and survival set on a night-bound archipelago in the Fallen London world, on which he served as creative director and lead writer. Sunless Sea was Failbetter’s debut PC game, and was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, raising 100K GBP. It released in February 2015, and was a critical and commercial success that sold almost half a million copies in the first year.
After growing Failbetter from a bedroom startup to a multi-million-pound business, he left the studio after seven years to focus more directly on on experimental creative work. He took a ronin year to do guest-writing gigs for much larger studios, learning from very different approaches by very different studios. His work included projects for big names like BioWare on the Dragon Age franchise, Telltale Games on an experimental R&D project, and Paradox Interactive, where he wrote the Horizon Signal story pack for Stellaris.
Alexis went on to found Weather Factory, a boutique studio specialising in narrative experiments, with Lottie Bevan. Weather Factory won the Best Microstudio award at the Develop Star Awards in 2019.
Weather Factory’s debut game was Cultist Simulator, a unique and intricate game of occult discovery developed at a furious pace by a team of two in less than a year. Cultist Simulator launched in May 2019 and was described by press, variously, as ‘brilliantly written’, ‘deeply engrossing’, and ‘significant’. Cultist Simulator won several awards and was nominated for two BAFTAs.
Weather Factory’s next announced game is BOOK OF HOURS, a calm game of satisfaction and melancholy set in an occult library. BOOK OF HOURS began as a Twitter joke but met with such a positive response that Alexis realised he had no choice but to make the game.
Alexis was born in West Germany and worked as an English teacher and software developer before switching to game development. He founded Failbetter Games, his first studio, a month before the birth of his daughter, who remains bemused by the whole thing but asserts that he has ‘quite a nice job’.
Alexis speaks internationally on narrative, on game design, and on their overlaps.