GaymerX2 Panel Report: We’re Already Here – Empowering Female and Queer Creative Voices
By Marcus Estrada
Panelists: Aevee Bee, Josie Doggett, Emilia Schatz
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne thing that I often hear parroted within gaming culture (and certainly the assumption from outside parties) is that women are just now getting involved in games from a development or player perspective. No! Women have been involved as long as men have, but most haven’t been given the same platform as men to become known by a general audience. The “We’re Already Here” campaign came out of Harmonix initially to showcase the works of women in game development to disprove such notions to the contrary.
Heading the panel were game critic Aevee Bee, Josie Doggett of Harmonix, and Emilia Schatz of Naughty Dog. Together they were able to share what it’s like being a cog in the wheel of game development as well as an analysis from outside perspectives. This generated a truly intriguing conversation which deserves a viewing. Many topics were discussed about how to get women’s voices heard more, as well as what causes games to normally shut them out.
The most exciting moment for me personally was Josie stating officially that the main character in Fantasia: Music Evolved is a transwoman. Everyone on the development team was aware of this and made a conscious effort for it being true. However, they could not have this reflected importantly in the game because it is published by Disney. Sure, Harmonix never approached Disney about this character choice, but because they simply knew Disney would be outwardly hostile toward such a “politically-charged” decision. Of course, Josie then offered this great line about how “existing becomes a political event.” Any person in some form of a minority status is well aware of this thinking and it is very much in play with game developers too.
Many people have a strong concept about what a game is supposed to be, which is why such rabid pushback crops up when anything different comes along. Still, games themselves can be great vehicles for explicating progressive ideas. All you have to do is try. Indie developers have already begun this wave of social games as large companies lag behind. But why is that the case? Emilia shared the simple thought process for huge studios such as Naughty Dog: “It’s not acceptable to fail. When it’s not acceptable to fail, you don’t take risks.” It’s the simple reality of things thanks to big studios spending millions of dollars on every new title. One failure could very well be a death sentence for them.
Even so, the logic employed when “playing it safe” may be wrong. As Josie pointed out, the bar is so incredibly low for how to make a game more inclusive. Her example suggested simply making a non-white male protagonist in a game. Most likely, gamers wouldn’t care either way as the choices are so arbitrary. The biggest reason we see so many white protagonists is because our culture pushes many white narratives at us. It’s not as if white is the default skin tone in real life, but we’ve led ourselves to believe that as the case with media and social upbringing.
As for men being protagonists so often, it’s much the same reason. Women have long since become used to accepting male stories so there should be no harm in having men experience more stories from a woman’s perspective. Studios, that are typically overwhelmed by men, should recognize that women may have some different experiences they want to convey. They have their own considerations about game development that are just as valid to men on their team. As long as women, queers, and everyone else within the team is given attention and credit we will see awesome new games arrive.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg” ]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]