How Can Gaming Make Your Brain Bigger?

Been gaming during iso? Turns out you’re not the only one. And, it might be the secret to being smarter. This week on the Particle Podcast, STEM journalist and the coolest geek ever Rae Johnston stops by. She had a chat about gaming, how to speak science and what STEM even is.

Find Rae on instagram or twitter @raejohnston

Particle Podcast is about science and the people who just love it. It’s produced and presented by Rose Kerr (@rosie.zkerr). Particle is powered by Scitech, and you can recommend games to us at @ParticleWA on Twitter and Instagram.


How can gaming make your brain bigger?

  • Host: Rose Kerr
  • Guest: Rae Johnston

**Cue music (intro theme)

Rose Kerr – Welcome to the Particle Podcast where we talk about science and the people who just love it.

My name is Rose. And I think we’ve established by now that I love talking about science. So today, I am so excited to be joined by Rae Johnston, STEM journalist and delightful geek, who loves talking about science just as much as me. She joins the Particle Podcast to talk about the future of science and why gaming is good for you.

So welcome to the podcast Rae.

Rae Johnston – Thanks for having me.

Rose Kerr – To start off with, I would like to ask, what do you actually do?

Rae Johnston – (laughs) So I am the science and technology editor at NITV that’s National Indigenous Television over at SBS. I also host a program called “That startup show” which is all about innovation in Australia, technology and innovation. And I host a couple of podcasts as well. I do a bunch of other things on the side as well. I think the easiest way to describe what I do is probably science communication in all its forms, on every platform that exists in any way that I can.

Rose Kerr – Goodness, I have already a hundred questions I want to ask, but I’m gonna start kind of right at the beginning. I want to know, like, how do you even get into this kind of job? Have you always loved science?

Rae Johnston – I have always loved science. I’ve always been a bit of a huge nerd, and I wear that badge with pride. I did love science a lot when I was at school. It was my favorite subject. And I just really jelled with it. I love finding out how things work. It just interests me. I want to know why things are the way they are. And it’s just exciting to me. But actually getting to a point where I’m working in some sort of a science field has been a bit of a convoluted ride. It’s not been a straight path, that’s for sure. I actually started off as an actor. So ah yeah acting was my and how how acting leads to science communicating I’m sure it brings a lot of questions to the table. But yeah, I always loved acting. Love performing, love being in front of an audience. So I was a bit of an attention seeker as a kid, you might, might be shocked to hear I loved loved getting applause. So I’ve always been comfortable in front of a camera or on stage, or in front of a microphone. And my acting work actually led me to presenting work and one of my first presenting jobs was for a video game TV show. And I wrote all of my own scripts and all of my own reviews and it was my first entrance into what you could consider journalism was focusing mainly on video games. And from that my interests expanded to include more technology and then broader science as well. So that’s the really like too long didn’t read version. There’s been a lot of steps along the way. But yeah, but basically had the skills to be on camera, had the passion and the knowledge about the topic, and off I went.

**Cue music (short theme)

Rose Kerr – Along the way, as you moved into presenting and then gaming, did you feel like you knew where you were headed or did it just kind of happen?

Rae Johnston – I had no idea where I was headed. Absolutely no idea. And I think I was just saying yes to absolutely every opportunity that came my way that I liked the sound of really. And then figuring out how to do it after the fact, I’ve just been kind of fudging my way through this whole time. And I think with that comes a bit of a I wouldn’t say imposter syndrome because I don’t really have impostor syndrome anymore, which is wonderful. I think there just comes a bit of a ‘Hang on a minute. Have I earned my place here? Do I know what I’m doing?’ And then you kind of look back and go, ‘No, you’re fine. You’re doing this. It’s all good. You got here on your own merit. It’s totally fine.’ But no, I, my job didn’t exist. Literally, the job that I’m doing right now didn’t exist until I started doing it. There’s never been a technology editor at NITV before. And even prior to this, I was over at Junkee, the youth media website and I was there to establish a gaming and tech vertical for them. So then I was their editor that that role didn’t exist before I started doing it. So it’s not like I’ve been able to look at roles and go ‘I want your job in 10 years time’. Because those jobs just were not there and I’ve just been kind of on this amazing wild ride of saying yes, and seeing what happens.

Rose Kerr – How exciting!

Rae Johnston – Oh, it’s so cool. And just being able to utilize all the skills that I’ve picked up along the way. And to be able to then help other people with that as well to be able to help people that want to do what I’m doing now, which is one of my biggest focuses at the moment.

Rose Kerr – How did you get a job that doesn’t exist? Did you have to pitch? Or did someone come up to you and said, “Hey, Rae, we reckon you’d be good for this, but it doesn’t exist. Can you help us make it?”

Rae Johnston – I actually do get a lot of the latter.

Rose Kerr – Oh cool!

Rae Johnston – Yeah, I get people meeting me in certain situations, certain scenarios, usually events that I’m hosting or things that I’m speaking at, and they’ll say, “Hey, I think that we could actually use your expertise within our organization. We don’t know how to do this thing that you’re doing. Can you come and do it for us?” And I’m like, “Yeah, alright.”

Rose Kerr – Why not?

Rae Johnston – Why not? It’s a new adventure. I’m gonna learn more things along the way. Yeah, the more I know about how different places work, the better I’m going to be at my job for wherever I am. So I’m not really a big believer in just like staying in one place in the one job for a really long time. I just want to expand my knowledge constantly. And that includes the actual role that I have as well.

Rose Kerr – There’s so much to learn and then you just get to keep learning.

Rae Johnston – Right? And I find myself getting to a point where I go, ‘Okay, cool.’ And that’s I think that’s where I was at with Junkee as well. I was there for a year. And the gaming vertical was well and truly established. And it was a beautiful, wholesome, celebratory place where video games were treated like highbrow art, which is incredible. And I went ‘okay, cool. I have this now. And I’m sure everyone’s perfectly capable of looking after it while I go on my next adventure and see what I can do over here.’ And I’ve been doing work casually with NITV for about three or four years before I joined the team full time. So I knew everyone there. I love working with NITV. We’re just like a big family. And I really wanted to be able to focus on science and tech over there because there’d never been someone dedicated to that beat over there. So I asked them if they would give me a role that didn’t exist. And they said yes.

Rose Kerr – That’s wild!

Rae Johnston – Isn’t it? I’m like, “Can I do this?” And they’re like, “yeah alright.” And I’m like, “Thanks.” (laughs) All right, when do I start?

Rose Kerr – So can you imagine having told your past self that you would be able to do that? Like, what a power move.

Rae Johnston – Not even a hope would I there’s just no chance that I ever would have believed that I could do that. That I would have the power or the knowledge or even the self belief to be able to walk into an organization and say ‘hello, I’d like you to create a role for me,’ but here we are. (laughs) It’s amazing.

Rose Kerr – In an industry like working in the media industry. There’s both a lot of jobs and not a lot of jobs. So you have to be able to forge that pathway and make yourself indispensable.

Rae Johnston – Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, from the very beginning, I saw where there was a need. And I saw where there was a niche to be filled and a gap that I could squeeze myself into. And, you know, when I first started out, it was absolutely doing the mainstream media appearances to defend video games. There was a lot of really bad media at the time blaming games for all sorts of violence and melting children’s brains and technology is evil and all of these sorts of things. So I was jumping on those morning TV shows to say, ‘Well, no, actually, there’s a big difference between active technology and passive technology and it’s much better for your children to be spending half an hour playing a puzzle game than it is for them to be passively consuming morning television.’ So, surprisingly, I came back after saying things like that, who would have thought! So. But there wasn’t really anyone doing that at the time. And there wasn’t anyone speaking from the perspective of a mother as well. A lot of the gaming journalists were early 20s guys, not quite appealing to a broader audience or those kinds of audiences. So that was the niche that I filled. And then as I saw there being need for champions for other industries in Australia, like like our science community, I jumped into those roles as well. So it’s just where my passions go and where I say people need a platform and a shout out. I will jump in there and do that.

**Cue music (short theme)

Rose Kerr – How did you get into gaming in the first place?

Rae Johnston – Oh, my mom got me into gaming. My mum was, yeah, yeah, my mum. She won’t even have a console now because she’s afraid that she just won’t go to work. She’ll just sit in front of it and play all day. Some of my earliest memories is sitting on my mum’s knee while we play video games together. That’s yeah, I had a Pac-Man and a Miss Pac-Man birthday cake for my second birthday.

Rose Kerr – Oh my god that’s so cute.

Rae Johnston – It’s adorable. It’s so cute. I and I think games for me, were always a way to connect with my family. I take yeah, I had a the first Nintendo Entertainment System, the little NES, I’d take that to my nan’s every weekend I’d stay there. And my uncles were there, and we’d all play together and my cousins and it was just, it’s just such a wholesome, fun activity that brings everyone together and that’s my childhood perception of games. And that’s just continued throughout my adult life. You know, I can look around now at my friends and even my husband and I wouldn’t have met anyone that’s important in my life today, if it wasn’t for video games.

Rose Kerr – Wow!

Rae Johnston – I’ve met everyone through the games community. It’s just incredible. Yeah, other than people I am directly related to obviously (laughs). Yeah, like my, my whole bridal party was made up of people I’ve met because of games.

Rose Kerr – That is so wholesome!

Rae Johnston – Yeah, yeah, I think they just really bring people together. And I think having a pastime that is so immersive that you do get invested in so emotionally, you know, finding other people that have shared the same experiences as you, you’re, you’re consuming that content by being a part of it, is really it’s just really lovely. And it’s, I think it’s a it’s a slightly deeper connection than I think you can have with with other forms of entertainment.

Rose Kerr – Yeah, and I imagine that’s quite a big misconception of the kind of gaming industry and the gaming community.

Rae Johnston – Yeah, absolutely. I think you know, gaming’s always been seen from from my perspective anyway, to outsiders as being something that people do alone. It’s a very solitary thing, it’s a very anti-social thing. You know, it’s only violent. It’s only angry. You know, it makes all your kids upset. All of that sort of thing. And yeah, absolutely you can get upset if you’ve been playing games for too long. But it’s it’s one of those things, everything in moderation. And there’s so many benefits for games, so many benefits that far outweigh the negatives. It’s, it’s just about understanding that, you know, too much of a good thing is is never a good thing.

Rose Kerr – Which is the case with a lot of stuff.

Rae Johnston – Exactly. That’s, you know, I think it’s funny that we still kind of live in a society that’s totally fine with glorifying binge watching Netflix all day, like, you know, making jokes about the ‘lol continue watching. Oh, no, I binge watch a whole season in a day.’ But if someone turns around and went ‘I played 12 hours of this game today,’ like people, people just look at them and go, ‘what? Why are you doing that? That’s such a bad thing for you to be doing.’ But the thing is, they’ve probably been playing that with their friends, and socializing and engaging and planning and just having a really great time. Or even if they were playing alone, what’s the difference between watching something on on TV for 12 hours alone or playing a video game for 12 hours alone? In terms of how it should be judged? I don’t know. I just find that weird. We’re not quite there yet.

Rose Kerr – I’ve never considered that. But that is such a good point.

Rae Johnston – Yeah, it’s it’s totally the same deal. I think. I think maybe it’s because most of the time television viewing experiences are shared and you know, for a lot of video games, they’re not shared unless you’re streaming or playing with someone else. So I think there’s still that idea but people will watch a whole season of a TV show by themselves, and it’s fine. It’s like ‘yeah, good for you. That’s self care.’ But if it’s gaming, it’s not self care. There’s a problem. And I’m like ‘hang on a minute.’ Yeah.

Rose Kerr – Thank you for justifying my two hours that I’ll probably spend on Animal Crossings this afternoon.

Rae Johnston – Look, Animal Crossing is essentially therapy at this point. It’s so calming and relaxing and methodical. I think having a routine in a game like Animal Crossing at a time when the world is so traumatized is really, really important for our mental health. I have no doubts whatsoever that Animal Crossing is incredibly beneficial to so many people around the world right now. And I think that can only be evidenced in the fact that you know, they sold 30 million copies in the first two weeks. Which is incredible. And almost the whole world is sold out of Switches. No one’s got a Nintendo Switch available in store at the moment. So yeah, what can you say?

Rose Kerr – They must be making a lot of money, Nintendo. Right now.

Rae Johnston – Oh, yeah. Nintendo, I’ve kind of had a bit of a running joke that Nintendo has been cashing in on nostalgia for the last 30 years. Because they just keep using the same characters. And now we’re at a point where it’s that first generation of Nintendo gamers, it’s our kids that have been given the these characters that we all know and love. And the parents are sitting there going, “Yes, I used to play this when I was a kid!” But honestly, it’s like, the games industry is absolutely booming. And I’ve been chatting to a few people through my work just about how the games industry is coping with everything that’s going on at the moment. And it is absolutely bucking the trend of almost every other industry, that you’ve still got teams developing games remotely, because we’re all set up already to be able to work that way. That’s totally fine. Things are still mostly on schedule, in terms of creating the games that are in development. And in terms of selling the games that are already out there in the market, there’s just such a demand. And even in my work, I’ve had so many outlets come to me and say, “Rae, can you come on and do a quick segment tell us five games that we should be playing with our nan or with our kids or, you know, on the couch together?’

Rose Kerr – Yep.

Rae Johnston – So I think everyone’s just got this renewed interest in games, everyone’s looking at something to entertain them and to be immersed in. And even e-sports is still going like, nothing is stopping. And they were even at a point where the e-sports was e-sports was really building up in Australia in particular. And we were having stadiums literally packed out with spectators for eSports, which was unseen in this country, but incredibly common in places like Korea. And we’re really building momentum in that sort of you’re eSports as a spectator sport thing in Australia. And I and I spoke to someone in the industry the other day, and I said, “Are you worried that we’ve lost that momentum now and that we will have to rebuild it and all that mainstream media coverage that was happening about you know, teenagers winning millions of dollars playing fortnight that we’re not able to capitalize on that and, and all that momentum is going away?” and they just said “No, everything’s, everything’s fine. Everything’s gonna go straight back to what it was when this starts up again.” I’m like, ‘Okay, good to know!’ So there’s there’s been no negative impacts on the games industry that I have been able to find other than we’re dealing with some pretty, you know, not ideal internet situations?

Rose Kerr – Yes.

Rae Johnston – In Australia. And other than that it’s basically just infrastructure with with internet and the NBN and access to it. And yeah, just the general stress and load on servers that that’s the only problem Other than that, gangbusters. It’s doing good games are good.

Rose Kerr – That is phenomenal.

Rae Johnston – Yeah! It’s great.

**Cue music (short theme)

Rose Kerr – What STEM skills would you say are involved in gaming? Because I often see them paired together. But I’ve never actually had the chance to ask anyone which skills either for players or for developers, are used.

Rae Johnston – Yeah, I think for developers, it’s, it’s very much straight up in the T of STEM the technology aspect of it. But I think that it’s, it’s kind of safe to say that there’s elements of all of STEM within the games industry in one way or another. You’ve got people that study the impacts of video games. And that is a huge part of science in itself. You’ve got people that are straight up developing coding, but there’s a lot of creativity that goes into it as well. I know, I’ve seen a bit of a push from some people to to use the STEAM instead of STEM to incorporate the arts and I think this is where games fits. In, in that arts section because it’s obviously a technology but there’s so much art involved in it. You know, you’ve got music composition, you’ve got literal art, 3D concept art, you know, you’ve got even just the design of levels within a game. And the kind of emotional response that you want to elicit in a player can be considered a form of art in itself. You know, an artist always wants to get some sort of emotional response from the viewer or consumer of their art. So, I think if we’re going to use the full STEAM acronym, it would fit in that in that ‘A’ section. But I also think that there’s a bit of a misconception that to develop a game you just have to be a coder, or you have to, you know, be an artist. And there’s a lot of people that work very successfully in the project management and production side of things. Keeping the ship running and steering it and making sure everyone delivers on time or, or having a more overall creative vision in mind and making sure that each component doesn’t get lost in their own world and that they’re all delivering to the same project at the end of the day rather than it being not as cohesive as as anticipated. I can’t, I can’t imagine a good game being made without someone to oversee it and make sure that no one steers off-course.

Rose Kerr – That actually leads really well into one of the questions that one of my co-workers had a question of, what do you think of the use of STEM versus STEAM versus just saying science in general? What description do you think best suits the science and tech space?

Rae Johnston – Yeah, I surprisingly, don’t have a very strong feeling one way or another. Yeah, I think I’m I’m really happy for people to call it out however it fits them best I think. And I suppose this is what you’re asking me what fits me best. I say STEM a lot. And that’s because I think it’s a term that’s not quite all encompassing, but encompassing enough for me, and it’s widely recognizable in the kind of work I do. I think, starting to incorporate STEAM into what I’m doing, I think might be a little bit confusing to a lot of my audience. I think I’m, I’m mostly talking to a mainstream general audience that will either go ‘science technology great, gotcha.’ Or go ‘oh STEM. Hang on, what’s that again? Remind me,’ and I go ‘Oh, science, technology, engineering, maths,’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, that makes sense.’ But once I start broadening that in any way, I kind of lose them. I have to keep things really simple and really easy to understand. So if what I’m doing is just straight up technology based, I will just say technology, if it’s science based, I’ll say science. But if it’s something that say you know, an education program or a mentorship program, or looking at someone’s body of work, I will rely on the STEM acronym to make sure I’m not really leaving anything out.

Rose Kerr – Sometimes I wonder if, this is just a thought I’m having right now. It’s not a well thought out thought. Arts are generally already involved in those things. So I do sometimes wonder, do we need the A because I’d argue that engineering already has creativity in it, or tech already has creativity in it. So it’s interesting to decide whether or not that A is necessary, whether it needs to be spelled out or not.

Rae Johnston – Yeah, I think for some people that I’ve spoken to, particularly in the Indigenous science and technology world, the arts is important because that is historically and traditionally how we’ve communicated our science and technology through the arts. It’s been through song and it’s been through literal, you know, paintings and art, and it’s been through dance. So having having the A in there makes sense as calling it out as a communication method for the delivery of science and technology in that sense. And that’s where I see it really, really belonging. But yeah, but I but I also agree with with the other yeah the other thought that you had, which is, which is basically how I operate I’m like ‘wait, what do I think of this? I’m just gonna talk’. (laughs)

**Cue music (short theme)

Rose Kerr – Do you think Australians in general have an interest in science?

Rae Johnston – I like to think we do. I think I’m fortunate that I’m surrounded by a bunch of really amazing people in my everyday life that are really interested in science and technology. But I also have the benefit of being able to access a bunch of audiences and to be able to get insights on those audiences to see the kinds of things that they respond to, you know, when I’m writing about them. So, I think when it comes to science, people really want to see the human aspect of it and they want to see how it relates to them. How it will impact on or change either their lives or the lives of people that they know. And if they can’t quite grasp that, then they’re not going to enjoy engaging with it in any in any kind of way. Obviously, there’s people out there that are just interested in science for science, but referring specifically to people that might not be thinking about it otherwise. So I think particularly when I was at Gizmodo, I always made sure that, you know, whatever headline I came up with, whatever story that I was going to put out there today, to have at the forefront, who is this impacting? Why is this fun and cool? And why are we talking about this in the first place? And I think sometimes getting across the more seemingly abstract things like quantum computing, it was it was really hard to narrow that down and to really nail it. So that’s when I started really leaning on the Australia scientists almost being a character within my reporting. So I don’t know if you’re familiar with Florida man.

**Cue music (short theme)

Rose Kerr – In case you weren’t aware of this meme, and I won’t shame me if you weren’t. Florida man is a caricature of like funny headlines or ridiculous news stories. It’s a meme often used to describe unbelievable news stories that just don’t seem real.

**Cue music (short theme)

Rae Johnston – So my aim, my aim for Australian scientists was to have them be essentially the Florida man of all of my science coverage. And, and I had in my head just this, you know, just this duo, you know, there’s a male and a female scientist working alongside each other, making all these amazing discoveries at any given moment. So I had in my head, these were my characters that I was working with, and I’m just like, to hook people in. It’s like, you know, ‘Australian scientists just made an incredible you know, discovery with with quantum computing,’ and people would go, ‘Oh, that’s awesome. Good on you!’ or, you know, ‘Australian scientists have just worked out how to make a building material that’s completely recyclable and made out of reclaimed rubber tyres’. Rather than it being just a, you know, this, ‘this polymer is going to revolutionize the construction industry.’ It’s like, yeah, yeah, but no. (laughs). You know what’s really going to grab people? And yeah, I think I think that’s really what I had to focus on to bring the audience in and it works. So I think you’re always going to have people that are interested in science no matter what. But the challenge is to get everyone else interested in science too. And I think everyone is on some level, you’ve just got to make it relatable to them.

Rose Kerr – Absolutely. And we were talking at Particle recently, we were wondering and I’m interested in your opinion about it. If With COVID-19, and all of a sudden this focus of bringing scientists to the front and having health officers on TV, you know, we don’t always see them. And they’re talking about the stats and the science and the microbiology and the you know, the actual science behind this pandemic. Do you think this is going to impact the way that the kind of general public and maybe non-scientific audience trusts science or maybe the way they view science? I’m interested to see if it, if it means that people call out for more scientific input? What do you think?

Rae Johnston – Yeah, I think, I think absolutely. I think with an event like this, you know, people, people feel helpless, and people are traumatized. And people want to gather as much information as they possibly can because they’re scared and they want to know who they can trust. And I think that we’ve done a really, really good job as establishing scientists as the people that you should be turning to and trusting in this time. And I think once that trust is established on this matter, I think it will only continue in other matters. You know, I’m I’m hoping along the lines of things like climate science and being able to do something about that I, I think we’ve really normalized having representatives of science standing in front of cameras and stating facts in a really easy to understand way. And I think that’s been one of the challenges previously, I think people will go, ‘Oh, I don’t think I can listen to a scientist because I don’t understand and I don’t know what they’re talking about. And I don’t quite grasp it. I have to have prior knowledge.’ And I think with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been able to see that no, actually this information is easily digestible. We’ve all been following the developments of understanding this virus as the scientists have, because there’s been such a pressure not only on scientists to publish their their findings immediately, but also on journalists to be able to report on literally every development that happens. So, so audiences are getting a blow by blow update of of the scientific process and how it works and even all the wrong paths that we go down and understanding that just because we thought something might work and it didn’t work out doesn’t mean that we’re not to be trusted. It’s just the process. I think they understand the process more. Yeah, I think that they will be more of a trust in science moving forward, because they’ve seen how reliable and comforting it is to have at a time like this. And I can’t imagine that stopping really.

Yeah, it’s become normal.

Yeah, it’s become totally normal to see, you know, Chief Medical Officer having a chat on the news at one o’clock every afternoon. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to get an update from a scientist in a different field on a daily basis? It’s like ‘Hey, so you know here’s Johnno what’s happening on the reef?’ (laughs)

Rose Kerr – How cool! That would be amazing!

**Cue music (short theme)

Rose Kerr – Where do you think science fits best at the moment? Is it online? Is it on radio? Is it in a podcast form? Where do you think it’s most easily digestible?

Rae Johnston – I love podcasts at the moment. I’m not sucking up I promise (laughs). No I’m I’m finding myself listening to podcasts more as a as a way of just digesting information while I’m doing something else. While I’m, you know, washing up while I’m driving somewhere. It’s it’s a way of just being able to consume that content in a way that is, it’s just really effective for me, my brain works with it. I think it really depends on different people and how they prefer to take in information. You know, some people just thrive on reading non-stop and while I can handle you know a nice long-form article, I don’t have the attention span that I used to have pre-internet. I just do not. And I was around pre-internet I’m just realizing that oh gosh. And I used to just read books cover to cover all day! I used to just sit down and read and that’s how I would gain all my information. Now I feel myself pulled to all these different mediums. Podcasts I’m finding I’m retaining the most information with, but I mean that being said, this is something that I’ve discovered with my role at NITV because it is a cross platform role. And I’m writing articles for online, I’m producing segments with you know, beautiful visuals and video for either news bulletins, which are shorter, or you know, longer news wrap programs of a Friday afternoon or current affairs programs or documentary programs. So it’s just really a matter of what the subject matter is. How deep you need to go into it. And what kind of treatment best serves the story? Really. I think I see it’s difficult to go ‘hey science! This big huge topic, you’re best consumed here,’ because I think it’s really up to the individual story itself as to where it best belongs really.

**Cue music (short theme).

Rose Kerr – You sound incredibly busy. You’re mentoring, making content, you do things on radio, you do written things, you interview other people, sometimes you’re interviewed by people like me, how do you balance it all?

Rae Johnston – Yay, I love this. Um, I live by a schedule. I love organization. Yeah, I’m, I’m a big admin person. I absolutely love planning my day. I have it all scheduled out in my calendar. I have reminders going off before and after everything. I have certain blocks of my day that I set aside for doing things like getting through all my emails and making sure I answer all those, you know, I have blocks put aside specifically to just make sure that I’m eating lunch and watering my plants or putting washing on or, you know, just the really boring mundane stuff. But I also have to always get eight hours sleep otherwise I can’t fit everything in. I’m not one of those people that can just survive on three hours, and it’s going to be okay.

Rose Kerr – I’m jealous of those people.

Rae Johnston – Yeah, I don’t know how they do it. One of the things that I have to consider and as a factor in my life is that I have clinical depression. So I need to make sure that I am drinking enough water that I’m getting in exercise that I’m sleeping enough and that I’m not overloading myself. And the only way I’ve been able to find I can do that is to actually look at something and go, Okay, how long is this going to take? What is this block of time that I need to put aside to prepare for this or to actually do it? Where can I physically fit it in my schedule? If I just say yes to things like I have in the past and and then just try to cram it in and not have that time set aside for you know, doing yoga over night time or making sure I’m actually cooking a meal instead of ordering takeaway, or taking a whole Sunday off to be offline and go for a hike, then I do not cope. So I yeah, I only work in the hours that I’ve got set. And if I can’t fit it in, I can’t fit it in and I have to say no, and that’s the worst part. Honestly.

Rose Kerr – I was gonna say do you struggle with that?

Rae Johnston – Yeah, I do. And I’m learning. I’m learning how to turn no into ‘No, but I know someone else that can do this.’

Rose Kerr – Oh that’s good!

Rae Johnston – Yeah, and that I find really exciting. So I find that I get the same kind of thrill from being able to pass a gig on to someone else who can fit it in and is up and coming and could really use the exposure or the money even. Or any kind of element that comes along with being able to do that job. I get the same kind of thrill of being able to pass that on to them as I do doing it myself, which is really handy. Yeah, I think it’d be awful if I was the kind of person that was like, ‘No, I must do all these jobs myself.’ But no, honestly, I find mentoring and you know, being able to help develop someone else’s career and help them kind of step into the steps that I’ve taken along the way and to be able to guide and help them out is really, really satisfying for me, and it makes me feel like I’m not just letting people down by saying no, I’m quite guilt driven. So if I say no, I feel bad. But if I say, ‘No, I can’t I’m sorry, but this person,’ then I feel good all round. So yeah, everyone wins.

Rose Kerr – Absolutely. And something I did see you had time to squeeze in is you’ve been able to do voice acting on a Kids TV show.

Rae Johnston – Yes.

Rose Kerr – That’s so so so cool. Can you tell me a bit about how that works? Because that’s a dream of mine to do voice acting. So I would love to know what it’s like. Do you get to like meet the character and then learn about them? Do you help develop? Like how does it work?

Rae Johnston – Yes. So um, fun fact, I’ve been doing voice acting for about 15 years now. And I think it’s, it’s one of the acting parts that I’ve managed to keep along the way. Because it is probably the least time intensive of all of all the forms of acting. You just rock up to the studio at your allotted time and off you go. Whereas committing to a feature film is like you can’t do anything else during that time, or doing a short film is like you’re doing nothing else for the next three weeks. And theater of course, is one of those things where you have to rehearse all day and then perform all night. So you can’t do anything else, doing those other types of acting. Voice acting is the best and I love it. So for this role in particular, previously I’ve done a lot of more commercial work. And a lot of the the characters that I have done have been for, you know, little short films or one episode here or there. But this was the first time I’ve been, you know, a recurring character in a series and I don’t have the release date for the show yet because unfortunately, everything’s been a little bit delayed, but as soon as I know I can tell but it’s for a show called Space Nova and my character is named Gianelli Banks. And the introduction to her was when I was I was given some lines to audition. And I had to record myself I was given a little bit of info about her character, you know where she’s from, what she does, and how she relates to the other characters that are in the show. So that kind of gives you an idea of of her tone, and just just what her natural kind of responses would be. And once I got the gig, which was awesome. I met all of the other ones. actors, and we did a table read of one of the episodes. So we all got to listen and hear about how the other actors will be portraying their characters what they’re going to sound like, which makes it a lot easier to interact with them. Because once you get to the studio, you don’t see anyone. So yeah. So all of their parts are already recorded, or you’re the first one recording. You just say your lines, you might hear what they’ve said. And, you know, they might hear what you’ve said, but you you’re just in there on your own, either responding to nothing or responding to pre recorded lines. So there’s a lot of imagination involved in it. You really need a good director and we were lucky to have a really great director who can say ‘Yep, okay, but this is the point that you’re at in the action right now. So, you know, you’ve really got to be heightened.’ And they keep track of where you are in the episode because everything’s recorded out of order as well. It’s not like you’re going in there, and just you’re reading it taking turns in the studio. It’s, you’ll be recording this section from this episode and this section from this episode so, and then it all just kind of gets mashed together afterwards, which is, which is really fun. In terms of development of the character, I did have a lot of freedom to bring a lot of myself to the character and a lot of what I, you know, feel like she would be, and she’s exceedingly cool way cooler than I ever imagined to be, which was, which was awesome. And yeah, I think I think it would differ from production to production as to how much input you have in the character development. It’s it’s been a really, really, really fun process. And we laid down the final the final tweaks for the audio just before everything went into lockdown, which is great, and I’ve seen some of the animations and I’m incredibly excited for everyone to see it. I hope, I hope it can inspire a lot of kids to get really interested in science and in space as well.

Rose Kerr – It’s so cool. Will your kid get to watch it? Are they excited?

Rae Johnston – Well, yeah, so I’ve, I’ve got the one kid, I don’t know if I can call him a kid anymore. He turned 18 I have a I have a large adult son.

Rose Kerr – You do!

Rae Johnston
(laughs) So yeah, he’s always really excited. But it’s funny because he’s kind of grown up watching me do things. And it’s just really normal to him, I think. And every now and again, I have to go ‘Hey, buddy, like, this is actually really cool. I know it’s normal for you to see your mum on the telly, but you know, come on.’

Rose Kerr – Yeah, yeah, get excited!

Rae Johnston – He’s always really excited and really supportive. And honestly, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be doing anything that I’m doing now. So yeah, I set out to do what I love because I knew that I needed to show him that it was possible. So, if I didn’t have him in my life, I probably just would have been content doing whatever? So yeah, it’s all thanks to him that I’m here.

Rose Kerr – Did he get into science? Did it rub off on him?

Rae Johnston – He’s more on the tech side of things. He’s one of those people that loves building PCs. And he’s, you know, he’s big into gaming and he wants to be a pro gamer. So that’s his path. He’s playing a lot of Valorant at the moment, prior to that Apex prior to that Overwatch so that’s his thing.

Rose Kerr – Well, at least he has a parent who actually get it and you’ll be supportive. Like ‘Yeah, I get it! Go, train up.’

Rae Johnston – I get it. But I’m also one of those parents that goes, ‘You know, you can’t just play games all day and be good. You need to exercise. You need to eat well, you need to get sleep. You need to be playing other games other than the game that you’re training in. You need to have a schedule.’ So yeah, I think sometimes it’s a blessing sometimes it’s a curse for him I think.

**Cue music (short theme)

Rose Kerr – Now, to finish up with we have a very important question and I don’t doubt you have a 100 of these. But I would like to ask if you have a science fun fact you would like to share with the podcast?

Rae Johnston – Ah, yes, I do have so many. But my science fun fact that I would like to share today is that gaming has been linked to an increase in brain matter.

Rose Kerr – Whoa!

Rae Johnston – It can literally grow parts of your brain.

Rose Kerr – Oh my goodnes!

Rae Johnston – Yes. So specifically, the parts of your brain responsible for your spatial awareness and orientation and memory formation. It’s really good for memory skills, strategic planning, as well. And also your fine motor skills, of course, which makes a lot of sense. Yes. So right there. In the right hippocampus, I was scared to say that one wrong and the prefrontal cortex as well. So yeah, gamers have bigger brains.

Rose Kerr – That is awesome. I’m 100% going to use as an excuse to buy some more games.

Rae Johnston – Do it Do it, do it. Yeah, there’s been there’s been so many so many gaming, fun facts come out of the world of studies that I’ve read, you know, the literally creating new neural pathways to be able to make decisions faster. Gamers make decisions faster. So you’re training your brain to be better at so many things when you’re playing video games.

Rose Kerr – That is phenomenal. Well, thank you so so, so much for joining us on the podcast, Rae.

Rae Johnston – No worries. Thanks for having me. It’s been really fun.

**Cue music (closing theme)

Rose Kerr – Thank you for listening to the Particle Podcast. You can find more of our content on all the socials as well as at This episode as always, was recorded in the vibrant science hub that is Western Australia. Particle is powered by Scitech.

Rose Kerr
About the author
Rose Kerr
View articles