The Mom Cave: Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed this month. I have been following your gorgeous machinima, Invisible and looking forward to hearing more about this incredible project.
Tia: Thanks so much, I am thrilled to be talking to you!
The Mom Cave: To get us started, I of course have to ask about your Sims experience. How long have you been playing, and what got you started?
Tia: You know, it’s funny because before The Sims 4, I had actually only played The Sims 1, if you can believe that? When I was growing up, it was almost like virtual barbie dolls to me, so obviously I loved it! But then going into adolescence, I kind of dropped off The Sims franchise for a while and played different things.
Then in 2014, The Sims 4 came out right when I had just upgraded my PC. So I thought, “Yeah, why not? Let’s give The Sims 4 a go!” I really just appreciated it for what it is, a gorgeous simulation game. I have been playing it ever since. When there was controversy with features being missing during the game’s release, I barely noticed anything, except that it was obviously miles ahead of The Sims 1.
The Mom Cave: I have a similar experience, in that I only played Sims 1 with my kids ages ago. Gaming was not even on my radar until I became an empty-nester and stumbled on some videos about the 100 Baby Challenge. My daughter-in-law had played TS4 and encouraged me to buy it. I love the game, even with its imperfections.
So, you bought a game and loved it. What got you started as a machinimator?
Tia: When I joined YouTube, I was primarily a Let's Player. One day, I thought it would be a fun idea to do a Sims 4 Let’s Play because of all the crazy stuff Sims can get up to when you are not looking and oh boy was I right! In that series, I made my friends and me as characters, and then the chaos ensued! One of the characters, whenever he got the chance to, would just randomly wear a speedo all the time for no reason! I made the rest of them sit around the table with him and scold him as a sort of Speedo Intervention, it was hilarious!
There was another time where one of the characters drowned by accident and it really took me by surprise. I found myself getting attached to that sim I had been playing with for so long. This is when I got the idea to add a cinematic element to the series by inserting scripted events and music.
I will be honest; I didn’t even know what a machinima was at the time. I was just having fun. When that Let’s Play series ended, I thought to myself, “Hold on, what if I did this again, but with an actual story and with voice actors like a TV show?” That is when I made my first voice over machinima series called Serenville.
The Mom Cave: You started by experiencing the chaotic stories that develop while playing The Sims and turned it into storytelling. I love that!
Making machinima is a lot of work and takes a lot of dedication and hours and hours of time. What is it about creating them that keeps you going?
Tia: It is just something I am very passionate about. There is no way I would be able to sit at my desk for hours at a time if this wasn’t the case. Invisible really is a passion project for me because I have put so many of my own personal experiences into the series. It is a way for me to tackle topics that I feel need to be talked about more. These include topics like addiction, parental issues, homophobia and mental health.
Aside from the story, it really helps that I work with such an incredibly talented cast. There’s 25 voice actors in total and they’re very enthusiastic about the series. It really shows when they join me for the Invisible post-episode podcasts. Hearing them get excited about their characters and where the story is going helps motivate me so much.
The Mom Cave: I have recently started working with voice machinima and have thoroughly enjoyed working with the voice acting community. I feel they are a whole group of creatives that need special recognition.
Tell me more about Invisible. What is it about, and what sparked the idea?
Tia: Invisible follows a High School student, Hannah Park. After her best friends abandon her, she develops extreme social anxiety. Because of this, she hides away in her bedroom and joins an anonymous chat room for the school.
She meets another student user, who goes by the username Neon_Moon. Neon’s warm presence helps her come out of her shell, after Neon admits to having feelings for her. Neon then gives her advice to go out of her comfort zone but she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, landing herself in after-school detention with three other cliques, The Sabers, The Sirens and The Drama Club.
She later finds out that Neon_Moon is in detention with her but has no idea who they could be from the cliques. The series is about her trying to figure this out, whilst also tackling her own challenges. Because there are so many potential Neon candidates, it has given me a lot of room and flexibility to develop the other 14 characters in detention with her too.
There are a few personal experiences that sparked the idea for the series and then some inspiration from shows like Life is Strange, Love Simon, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, The Breakfast Club, 13 Reasons Why etc.
The Mom Cave: What I appreciate the most about your series is the way you balance fiction with real-life experiences that many of us have had. What characters do you identify with and why?
Tia: I would like to think there’s a little piece of my personality tucked away into all the characters, but I think the ones I relate to most are Hannah, Tia, Brandon and Kyle.
High School was such a difficult time for me personally. It felt like a juggling act trying to balance keeping up my grades, problems at home and also figuring out who/what I wanted to become. There can be so much unnecessary pressure in high school but my hope is that viewers will realise from watching my series that you don’t have to get it right all the time. In fact, you’re probably going to stumble and make a lot of mistakes on the way, but the most important lesson to learn is that the only time you truly fail is when you don’t try at all.
The Mom Cave: It is no secret that I am big on The Growth Mindset Theory, and you certainly seem to have that in your approach to life!
If you were to give a new machinimator three pieces of advice, what would those things be?
The Mom Cave: Wonderful advice Tia! What are your go-to mods or tools that you cannot create without?
Tia: TwistedMexi’s T.O.O.L Mod
Weerbesu’s UI Cheats Extension
Andrews Studio’s Pose Player
The Mom Cave: I want to shift gears a bit here and talk about how, although enjoyable, creating content (machinima especially) can be very energy intensive. You posted a video called, “Let’s Talk with Tia | Taking a Break.” Tell me about the moment you realized you needed to take some time to recharge. What did that feel like for you, and how did you overcome it?
Tia: It’s so easy to get swept up with social media. It can feel as though if you’re not creating or taking part, then you’re not going to be seen at all, and perhaps you will be forgotten. Much like anything, too much of something is a bad thing. There is a correlation between increased online activity and issues such as depression, anxiety, OCD etc. I was experiencing many of these and I thought it was very important to take a step back for one month for my own self-preservation. Being back online, I now try to limit my time and only check in when I feel I want to not because I need to.
The Mom Cave: We can feel enslaved to it all if we let ourselves. I have certainly found myself feeling this numerous times. It is so important to step away and gain new insight and experience real life outside of social media and creating content.
What do you think the most important thing is for content creators to remember in order to keep this work sustainable?
Tia: There is a huge difference between passion and obsession. It’s important to not let your hobbies consume your life, because you will miss out on a lot of opportunities. Your real world will feel like it’s just getting smaller and smaller. If you do notice it’s starting to affect your mental and/or physical health, please take a break. Your health is number one. Plus, when you are feeling good in yourself, it will show in your content. Because after all, if it’s not fun then what’s the point?
The Mom Cave: If the readers remember nothing else, I hope they remember that last sentence. If it is not fun, then what is the point? I couldn't agree more.
What else about you, creating machinima or your channel do you want to share?
Tia: A few months ago, I created a Sims Machinima discord server for directors, animators, voice actors etc. If you’re looking for a friendly space to chat, ask questions and get help then please feel free to join. Even if you’re a viewer who likes machinimas, anyone is welcome of course! https://discord.gg/Fqqrzy24sF
The Mom Cave: I have had to streamline the servers I am on and have returned to yours because I appreciate the very positive and supportive atmosphere. I highly recommend it.
Thank you again to Tia for taking the time to share. Be sure to head over and check her and out on all of her socials:
Serenville Stories - Invisible
When love is involved, is it really a coincidence?
LBC is a tale of three couples whose stories start with an intersection between theirs and their friends’ lives. This has led to everlasting love, with a few bumps and a lot of fun along the way.
Desiree Morales is a beautiful mother, divorcee and restaurateur who meets handsome widower, retired policeman and part time private investigator Lincoln Bennett. Their connection is often disrupted by her overprotective son.
Landon has been in love with Daphne from afar for over two years, and just when he almost had the nerve to approach her, she becomes involved with someone else.
Michael and Sherri were oil and water from the start, but underneath it all a burning desire is there. However, this is disrupted when Michael becomes consumed with guilt of love and loss.
Rating: Mature due to some sexual situations
Style: Subtitled series
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