Creators Who Inspire: Meet Vanessa Chia

Vanessa Chia 1
Vanessa Chia

What are you telling the world when you name your videogame studio Cococucumber? 

“It says we aren’t your typical game studio,” answers the company's co-founder, Vanessa Chia. “It represents us, and says we are fun and engaging, and that we aren’t taking ourselves too seriously.” 

That’s the thinking that drives the studio’s slate of games, especially the recently released Ravenlok, the third entry in their acclaimed Voxel trilogy. 

Ravenlok [Cococucumber] 3
Ravenlok - still shot

“The game is named after the character Ravenlok, a young girl who is always looking to escape into these other worlds. She gets pulled into a mirror and into a fantastical world where she goes on a journey to help overcome great evil and corruption,” explains Chia, who served as the game’s writer and director. “It follows the structure of the hero’s journey, and we also drew a lot from Alice in Wonderland, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and classic fairy tales.”  

All three games in the trilogy—Riverbond, Echo Generation, and Ravenlok—were made possible thanks to CMF funding. 

“The CMF has supported us both in terms of funding, but also in terms of opportunities that they have unlocked for us,” says Chia.  

“As an indie game studio, we face many challenges. We work with original intellectual property—that is a struggle—and without the CMF it would be impossible for us to do this. The CMF’s support has also enabled us to get distribution partners such as Xbox on board. And since we are self-publishing the game, it is like a seal of approval for the quality we’re able to achieve.” 

Echo Generation
Echo Generation - still shot

Chia grew up in Malaysia, studied in the United Kingdom, and eventually made the move to Toronto, where she worked in film and television before co-founding Cococucumber with Martin Gauvreau.   

Ravenlok casts a young girl as the game’s lead protagonist, which Chia says is still somewhat rare in the video game industry. But as Ravenlok’s writer, she points out that “what is rarer is to have young female protagonists written by female writers. In fact, our company at the moment is more women than men. We built the team around the idea that making games should be equal, and we should give a voice to people who may not have an opportunity to have a voice in this industry.” 

That commitment to equity and inclusion is paying off.   

“We attracted half a million players in the six weeks that followed the game's launch,” proudly says Chia. “It’s been very well rated by players globally and we’re really happy to see such a strong response from fans. Ravenlok is by far our most popular game.”  

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) fosters, develops, finances and promotes the production of Canadian content and applications for all audiovisual media platforms. The CMF guides Canadian content towards a competitive global environment by fostering industry innovation, rewarding success, enabling a diversity of voice and promoting access to content through public and private sector partnerships. The CMF receives financial contributions from the Government of Canada and Canada’s cable, satellite and IPTV distributors.
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