Benjamin Jaekle grew up in a small town on the Erie Canal. You could bike most places. He played with dinosaurs in the thick grass around the sump pump pipe. His father, a restaurant manager, brought home tubes of poster board to draw on, so he concocted worlds and spells and maps and monsters. His mom drew a TIE fighter on a post-it note and told him the story of Star Wars aloud over spaghetti and meatballs.
He was an only child – take from that what you will.
He would visit his grandparents’ farm and treat it like a Writing Retreat. Early influences included Magic: The Gathering, Dinotopia, and Legos. Spiral notebooks overflowed with stats sheets for all the jobs and classes from his stories. He designed fearsome battlemechs and quirky droids. He kept a journal of his own Special Moves.
At age ten, his parents let him choose his first handheld gaming device, and he chose a Game Gear, because color. When he got a bit older, he saved up his allowance to buy a PlayStation. Before he really knew what Japan was, games like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid left deep impressions in his heart and mind. So did comics. Even his Early Works embraced the drama of exaggeration and juxtaposition – the grand and the tiny, the superheroic and the mundane, the modern and the ancient, the fantastical and the mechanical.
Surreal, meta webcomics snagged in his brain, and he never quite got them untangled. In high school, his art teachers called his work "cartoonish" as though this were a bad thing. His friends nicknamed him Benja, and he was the artist. He wore oversized hoodies, a yo-yo, and a sketchbook to prove it.
Following his creative thread, Benja decided to become the Great American Novelist. This did not pan out. But while earning a degree in Creative Writing, he did study deeply influential subjects -- magical realism, film, GameCube, astronomy, and poetry.
He graduated straight into the role of… manager in a grocery store. The cashiers he wrangled taught him invaluable principles of servant leadership, but he managed little creative work. This went on for too many years...
The Slacker Period ended abruptly when he visited Disney World and wondered his way through a museum dedicated to Walt himself. All this output, from one man putting in the hours and tenacity! When Benja got home, he reignited his artistic career. He found out you could get paid in dollars to make videogames all day – which still seems silly, but here we are.
Benja studied game design while renting a room on a horse farm. Get home from the grocery gig, sip some supermarket sangria, and work well into the wee hours.
His first game was a brick-breaker about knocking fruit out of trees. His second was a shooter-adventure about a rusty robot saving a bluebird from a haunted house. He learned code by making snowball-rolling runners and kindness shooters. Making games was the most satisfying, engaging creative pursuit he had ever enjoyed. Intoxicating. Ensorcelling.
After graduating with a second Bachelor's Degree, Benja took a leap and accepted a position at Avalanche Studios in New York City. He moved from horse farm to Harlem, where he subsisted on enthusiasm and soup dumplings. In a decade-long career at Avalanche, he has worked as a producer, narrative designer, writer, and design lead. His work has taken him to Sweden, Amsterdam, Mexico City, and Los Angeles. He’s traded oversized hoodies for casual blazers.
The Slacker Period makes him cringe if he thinks about it now.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, things got tired and existential and stressful. Rather than sourdough, sea shanties, or #aesthetics, Benja decided to make a new game, all his own. He began to create a cozy, lo-fi graveyard game, and he tweeted an update about it every single day. It was going to be a one month project, to fill up November 2020, but it’s still going – and he’s never missed a day. He calls it Guernsey in the Graveyard.
Benja married his wife fifteen years after befriending her during a high school theater production. They are on a quest to hike the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks (current count: 21). They have two children, only one of whom is named after a Lord of the Rings character.
They live in the forest, and on quiet nights they can hear the trains rumble along the river.
Benja can officiate your wedding, if you ask. He’s a practicing minimalist, a coziness evangelist, and an enthusiastic home chef. He agonizes over the content of his website. He meditates when he can.
He’ll make videogames for the rest of his life if they let him.