AEW's Aubrey Edwards On Her Journey Through Game Development, Pro Wrestling, And AEW Games
All Elite Wrestling’s Aubrey Edwards is one of the toughest and most popular referees in pro wrestling today. Her penchant for not taking any nonsense from stars like Chris Jericho has made her as beloved as the wrestlers themselves, but before she was laying down the law on AEW Dynamite every Wednesday on TNT, Aubrey Edwards (whose real name is Brittany Aubert) spent 10 years helping bring digital worlds to life in the game industry.
During her time in the industry, she worked in a variety of roles for several studios, most notably as a producer for the Scribblenauts franchise. With the recent announcement of AEW’s first foray into video games, Aubert finds herself back in the world of game-making, combining her two dream jobs into one. I sat down with Aubert to talk about all things games, including how she fell in love with the medium and what she accomplished during her tenure. She also clarifies what AEW Games is and what her involvement entails.
AEW fans who have paid attention may have heard Aubert express her love of gaming in interviews, but that side of her life is often a quick talking point in more wrestling-centric discussions. So what types of games does she enjoy?
“I've actually been playing video games much longer than I've been watching wrestling,” says Aubert. “I started playing video games as early as I can remember. My house was always very much a video game household. There's pictures of my mom playing Duck Hunt pregnant with me. I played Sonic the Hedgehog with her when she was pregnant with my sister. I played NBA Jam with my dad, so it's like gaming's always been a big part of just my life in general. So when I was growing up I played Ocarina of Time in 1998 and was like ‘Oh man, there's people in an office somewhere who made this thing! That's something that I could do for a living.’ So from that moment on, I'm like ‘I'm going to make video games, and that's gonna be what I do with my life!’”
In her youth, Aubert adored JRPGs such as Final Fantasy VII, X, and Kingdom Hearts (“The original one, before the story got really wacky,” says Aubert) but her taste shifted as life got busier. In college she fell in love with the shorter indie experiences. Aubert cites Braid, for example, as one of her all-time favorites. “My favorite game in the last year that I've played is Untitled Goose Game just because it's only four hours and you get to be an a--hole goose. It’s fantastic.”
Since the wrestling business requires constant travel, the Switch has been Aubert’s “savior” for satisfying her gaming fix. She considers herself a Nintendo kid and is a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda and Pikmin franchises in particular. It speaks to her general affinity for colorful games that emphasize lighthearted imagination over hardcore violence. “If it's cute, adorable, and has bright colors, I've probably played it,” she says.
Scribblenauts And Other Ventures
Aubert chased her game-development dreams by attending DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Upon graduation, she spent the next decade working in a variety of studios in both development and producer roles.
Her longest tenure at a studio came at 5th Cell, where she worked on the Scribblenauts franchise for more than six years. Given Aubert’s love of whimsical games, the studio seemed like a perfect fit.
“I guess that's part of the reason that drew me to the franchise in the first place,” she says. “I was a Nintendo kid growing up, so hearing that 5th Cell was continuing to make Nintendo games and they were making something that was cool and unique and had never been done before, I was like, ‘Well, yeah, I know I'm going to apply here.’”
Aubert served as a tool programmer for the first Scribblenauts, moved up to the role of producer for Super Scribblenauts, and, finally became a lead producer on Scribblenauts Unlimited, a launch title for the Wii U. Additionally, she oversaw development of the game’s iOS port. Helping bring Maxwell’s adventures to life for so long has penciled a permanent spot for the franchise in Aubert’s heart; she even has a Starite tattoo on her arm.
After leaving 5th Cell, Aubert moved on to WG Cells (a division of Wargaming) to work on a few mobile games, but Wargaming shut down her branch before any of those projects saw the light of day. She moved on to City State Entertainment, a studio made up of Mythic Entertainment alumni, to help launch its West Coast studio. Aubert then moved on to Vreal, a now-defunct VR game-streaming platform. Despite helping to develop a functioning alpha build, the studio eventually ran out of funding and Aubert was laid off.
Losing two jobs out of four began to sour Aubert on the industry, “I hadn't actually shipped a game since 2012 outside of a couple early alpha versions of things, so it kind of just wears on you a little bit.” says Aubert.
Thankfully, an unexpected opportunity appeared in the form of pro wrestling. Not only did it provide a welcome change of scenery, but eventually served as a roundabout way back into game-making.
Finding Pro Wrestling And AEW Games
Aubert became a fan of wrestling in 2011, kicking off an obsession that led to Aubert learning how to referee in 2017. Though she still worked in games full time, Aubert refereed on the indie wrestling circuit as a hobby on weekends. Thankfully, as her love for the sport grew, so did the opportunities; Aubert even had a brief stint in WWE as one of the referees for the 2018 Mae Young Classic, a women’s wrestling tournament (she officiated the infamous bout in which Tegan Nox blew out her knee against Rhea Ripley). When All Elite Wrestling formed in 2019, the fledgling organization approached her with a full-time gig.
“Eventually it ended up growing very large,” Aubert says. “It kind of just got to the point where I said, 'I can keep going with this games thing full-time, or I can chase this AEW thing.’ Because at that point it's early 2019, we've got Double or Nothing coming up, no one really knows what to expect. But they're talking about changing the world, and that always sounds like a really fun thing. So I took a risk, and I left games, and I joined AEW.”
When Aubert joined AEW, she quickly gained a following for not only being one of the few female referees in mainstream wrestling, but for her penchant for keeping the men in tights in line no matter how imposing they are. AEW has gained a passionate fanbase, and a video game was among the first things that diehards begged for once the company got rolling. Their wish came true and then some when the company unveiled AEW Games in November (via a satirical press conference) with three games in the works: a No Mercy-inspired console game and two mobile titles.
Of course, given Aubert’s background, it was a given that she would be involved with AEW Games.
“At some point or another, someone found out that I had a tech background,” Aubert explains. “And I sent my resume to various executives at our company and they're like, ‘Oh, you worked on games for a very long time.’ So when the conversation about AEW Games started to come about and [started] to actually develop games, it was kind of a no-brainer that I be involved with that.”
Aubert is primarily focused on overseeing AEW Elite General Manager, a mobile game that allows players to book shows and manage the roster. However, she has her hands full assisting production for all of AEW’s titles in a role that combines her experiences as a hands-on developer and producer.
“It's almost like a hybrid role.” Aubert says. “I'm doing development things in the way that I'm working with art and making sure that all of our characters are represented properly, that our brand is represented properly. I'm working with the team to work on different features and follow the game design that we're building with this game. I'm currently writing some narrative stuff for tutorials and whatnot. So I'm doing a lot of random day-to-day development stuff, but at the same time kind of acting as that publisher role as well, working with marketing and trying to figure out what our timelines are there and working with budgets and all these different things.”
We still don’t know much about AEW’s mysterious console game; right now, Aubert can only tell me she “can’t wait to talk about it.” Since Aubert became a wrestling fan much later in life, she didn’t grow up playing beloved classics such as WWF No Mercy. That’s why she’s made it a priority to dust off the N64 and study No Mercy to figure out what makes it click. “We really want to make sure that what we're making is what wrestling fans want. So as someone who makes games – and this has always been the case – if I'm building something and we're trying to hit a particular vibe or a particular market, it's my job to do the research to make sure we're achieving that.”
Wrestling and game development are two very large and often tumultuous animals. When I asked her to describe the differences, Aubert pointed to how adjusting to feedback is one of the biggest.
“With games you're building something for potentially years, and then the fans get to play it when you're done with it.” she explains. “You get to see this amazing reaction to what it is that you made. With wrestling I get that multiple times every Wednesday. That we have a group of people that are telling a story and, 15-20 minutes later, we know exactly how that story was perceived, and even in the moment we get the fan reaction to something. Are they liking it, are they not liking it? And that's something that is completely unique to any other performance media.”
By combining her passions into one, Brittany Aubert has proven that following your goals (especially if they involve interests you genuinely enjoy) can lead to dreams being realized in ways you often can’t predict.
“I always wanted to announce a video game in development on a stage,” she says. “That had been one of my goals in games forever. So I only needed to leave games and join a wrestling company in order to pull that off.”
You can watch Aubrey Edwards in action on AEW Dynamite every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on TNT and listen to her talk wrestling as the co-host of the AEW Unrestricted Podcast.