Memories of Teeuwynn

Tey and me at our “Scrabble Walk” for the Arthritis Foundation in 2009.

It’s been a couple months since my former co-designer Teeuwynn Woodruff passed away unexpectedly. It’s taken me till now (and talking to her husband) to feel up to sharing this post I wrote in September. Even though we worked as a team for 20 years, Tey and I had a big falling out a decade ago and it never got better. A lot of that was my fault and I didn’t deal with it well. But anyone who knows that story probably also knows she was like a sister to me.

Tey was among the best designers and event creators ever to hit the game industry. She was a trailblazer when no one else knew the trail was even blazable. She made Wizards, White Wolf, and Lone Shark all smarter and more creative. She made alternate reality the most realistic it has ever been. She made being an outspoken advocate for change cool. She was the best game theory analyst of reality TV in the world. She made nearly every woman tabletop game designer’s career possible. Mostly, she made people across the world smile. Me especially.

I have many great memories of her. Here’s ten. I remember:

  • That time she solved a puzzle in a live rat. On a desert drive-around game in Nevada, we came into custody of a white rat named Templeton. While I cared for him in a plastic pumpkin that had been dropped on the teams from a helicopter, none of us knew what to do next. Outside a machine gun range, Tey theorized that Templeton had been chipped, like her dogs. So, we found the only all-night vet in the Vegas outskirts. I went up to the med tech and asked her to scan my rat. She looked at me and said, “If it’s your rat, why do you need it scanned?” With expert “not the droids you’re looking for” skills, Tey convinced her we had good reasons for rat scanning. Sure enough, a code to an address popped up on the chip, the ethically-suspect puzzle was knocked down, and we motored into the Vegas darkness.
  • That time we were in Atlanta for E3 and hungry. But E3 was big and all the restaurants were booked solid. She smiled at me and said, “Tell them you’re asking for Miss Woodruff.” I looked at her like a med tech being presented with a strange rat but she gave me the “go on, go on” hand gesture. So I said “I’m asking on behalf of Miss Woodruff.” The maître d’ said, “Oh! Of course we have room!” and ushered us straight to a fancy table. Because Atlanta, you see, is Coca-Cola country, and the Coca-Cola Company was run by the Woodruff family. Oh, not her Woodruff family, but who needed specificity when dinner was on the line?
  • That time I had agreed we would do the puzzles for the LOST finale in one weekend. Trouble was, I had never seen a minute of LOST. Tey had seen every minute of LOST multiple times. So I said, “Tell me everything about LOST. I’ll stop you when you say something I want to know more about.” She was like an excited child with a new toy. She pried open my head and dropped seven seasons of chaos into it in maybe six breaths. By the time she was done we were bending time and space. The creators loved it. I still haven’t seen a minute of LOST.
  • That time her eyes lit up when I told her that her first name was a cryptogram of her last name.
  • That time we were playing one of our many air hockey games and I executed a three-carom serve directly into her goal. A decidedly unprintable dialogue ensued, during which she threw the puck on the table, furrowed her brow, put her hands on her hips, and said “MIKE!” And I didn’t take the shot. That’s when I knew she would always beat me at everything.
  • That time she created the role of “wrangler” for alternate reality games. Every game has this role now (later perfected by Tanis O’Connor in our Repo Men ARG), but Tey was the first. She originated the character of Olivia Salazar for Wizards’ proto-ARG Webrunner, setting up a reliable source of information and encouragement for the hackers—right up to the shocking moment Tey “disappeared” her. For a WIRED manhunt, in which the internet hunted reporter Evan Ratliff across the country for a full month, Tey put herself in the position of purposefully not knowing the answers to the puzzles I was creating. As the liaison and cheerleader to thousands of internet sleuths, she battled not only me but Evan, whose tasks I puppetmastered but location I didn’t know. As is obvious from the previous story, she won with four days to spare.
  • That time we played in a Boggle tournament at Entros against the two smartest Microsoft puzzle nerds I’ve ever met. They saw a lot of words. But they didn’t see QUININE. I saw QUININE. Tey saw QUININE. I knew that Tey saw QUININE and she knew that I did. That was the only word scored in the whole round. We bought those nerds dinner with our winnings.
  • That time we played the schoolyard brawl game Lunch Money at GDC against some ex-White Wolf guys. One of them went in with a lead pipe against Tey, and I looked at her. She nodded, and I deflected the attack with the words “Hands off my sister.” They all said “Oh, so we have to take out the big brother first” and rained armageddon down on me. But I had a hand of “No” cards. Tey didn’t. Tey had a hand of cards that took out all three of them while they were distracted beating me up. Nobody ever messed with us on the playground again.
  • That time she stole a five-foot traffic cone on the way to our corporate Thingo game (that is, Bingo with things). When I asked, “Where did you get that?” she said “Do you really want to know?” We both knew I didn’t really want to know.
  • That time she played “Paris” in our LIVE/WIRE Casablanca LARP at Milwaukee’s Safe House. Paris wasn’t a person’s name. Paris was the entire city of Paris a year and a half earlier than the rest of the entire event. People with problems in “present day” 1941 would say “We’ll always have Paris” and time-travel back to her to dream up solutions that took place in the past. She not only synthesized everything that was happening in eight other rooms of the Safe House, she set in motion everything else that would happen.

We didn’t always have Paris, of course. We hadn’t talked for a long time and I regret everything that led up to that. I don’t really have words for what I’m feeling right now, and honestly, I’m not sure I’m even right to write this up. So, I’ll leave it at this: Tey was a legend. She will be celebrated forever. And she will be missed.