$5 off BitBash Chicago for @INeedDivGames community members!

Take $5 off Bit Bash Chicago admission with code: INeedDiverseGames5

Bit Bash is an alternative video games arts festival in Chicago, exposing unique and independent games to those who might not traditionally experience them. More street festival than convention, Bit Bash highlights some of the best the scene has to offer. This includes local and international selections, games best experienced with others, or that utilize unique controllers. Games that really push the boundaries.

Important info!

  • Saturday, August 13th from 2–10pm
  • Revel Fulton Market at 1215 W Fulton Market
  • Families are invited to come early at 1pm and kids under 13 get in free
  • Tickets are $25 online and $30 at the door
  • A portion of the proceeds benefit Chicago Loot Drop

Learn more at BitBashChicago.com

2016’s event includes a selection of games created by Chicago developers, games dealing with socially relevant issues, and a selection of games that deal with often taboo topics for the 18+ audience. We’ve also got C418 (Minecraft) and Chipzel (Super Hexagon) as part of our amazing music line up.

You can check out the full list of games here: bitbashchicago.com, and also feel free to watch our trailer for a taste of the festival: https://vimeo.com/173723080

Our mission is to make video games accessible for everyone by:

  • Raising visibility for the growing independent games community.
  • Highlighting Chicago as a developing hub for those who love games, technology, or art.
  • Connecting with at-risk youth to foster an interest in technology and art.

Use Code INeedDiverseGames5 to take $5 off your Bit Bash ticket!

 

 

Join us for a special Twitch stream with guest @nkjemisin & others on August 11th!

Join us on twitch for a special stream on Thursday August 11, 2016 at 8pm CST with NK Jemisin, Shana and Joasakura for some Dragon Age Inquisition Multiplayer. We’ll be doing more chill streams with guests once a month as a fun thing to do and to spread word about our twitch, and patreon which enables us to do our work.

Please spread word and join us for this first special guest event.

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Follow us on twitch.tv/INeedDivGames

We’ve got 3 passes for @AlterConf in NYC!

Thanks to the generosity of AlterConf, we have three passes for AlterConf in New York City!

When: Saturday, December 10 2016

Where:New York City, NY

Time: 10:00am to 5:00pm

About AlterConf:

AlterConf is a traveling conference series that provides safe opportunities for marginalized people and those who support them in the tech and gaming industries. By highlighting the powerful voices and positive initiatives of local community members, we build hope and strengthen the community’s resolve to create safer, healthier spaces for everyone.

The conferences go beyond the limited definitions and basic discussions of diversity to create a deeper, more nuanced conversation. Each conference features a wide range of speakers delivering critical analyses of tech and gaming culture and presenting their vision for what our community can be.

We invite you to join us as we work toward a more inclusive future.

How do you get one of our passes?

Easy! Email us at whyineeddiversegames@gmail.com with NYC AlterConf in the header, a brief request of why you need a pass and we’ll send you the code.

Requests accepted until all three passes have been distributed.

2017 Suggestions wanted for @GXAustralia

Plans for GX Australia 2017 are starting to take shape, and you can help out! If you did not attend GXAustralia, and have some suggestions, they’d love to hear from you!

We’re starting to plan GX Australia 2017, and need your help! In order to make the next GX Australia the best it can possibly be, we need as much feedback from you as possible. This is your chance to make suggestions, provide input and have an impact on the next event!

Fill out the Google Form! Please note, if you attended GXAustralia, you should have received a form via email already.

Review – Women in Game Development – Breaking the Glass Level Cap

WIGD Cover

Women in Game Development

Breaking the Glass Level Cap

Edited by Jennifer Brandes Helpler

Disclosure: I have had the chance to collaborate with many of the women who contributed to this book. Either by writing for them, collaborating with them on projects, having them as a guest on my podcast, or paneling with them at conventions. Prior knowledge of their work has not influenced my opinion of the book. ~ TCD

July 19, 2016

By T. DePass

This book is required reading, not just for young women who might be entertaining the idea of entering the games industry. So often the narrative of women in games is framed around the abuse and harassment they have received in the last couple of years from the public and the industry; but this book puts them back in the narrative.

We get to hear their stories direct from them, unfiltered to know how they came to be in games whether they are an industry veteran like Brenda Romero or a relative newcomer such as Karisma Williams. Stories we’d never get because of how the narrative around women in games has been spun for us.

This collection of personal essays is important not just for learning more about the women that have led the way, are still in the industry and have helped pave the way for younger developers, it shows that the industry is not a closed door if you don’t get in right after college, if you aren’t the right kind developer. The tales of entry into the industry are so varied that I dare say anyone who picks up Women in Game Development  will find an essay that speaks to them, especially if they are still trying to get in the door.

I know that it cheered me to see someone who hadn’t considered an industry job until she was older than I am now, to remind me that entry isn’t barred because I’m over forty.  Other stories of how the women in this book found their love, their passion and joy in gaming was a much needed reminder that what I enjoy, what I love is still worth it even after the year and some months of terrible things we’ve seen come to light.

As for the terrible things in gaming, as much as I’d like to utterly ignore them I cannot. Nor do many of the women’s essays ignore the terrible shit they have had to endure. I’m glad they don’t shy away from talking of hate groups, and their struggles. I’m glad their stories are not sanitized and clear of what they’ve endured. What makes me happy is that no one lets that overtake their piece in the book. There’s no one piece that is solely about the abuse and harassment, but about them and how that is a part of their history but not defining them or their work.

In addition to retaking their narrative with powerful essays, Women in Game Development is packed with good, practical advice for women seeking to get into the industry  as well as for those already in and not going anywhere. Many of the women touch on tips for keeping yourself in the game that are helpful, not just oh here’s what I did and you must follow in my footsteps to succeed. Advice like that rarely works nor is practical. I’m glad that women who addressed that in their essays kept it real for readers

There are two more things about the book put it on my must read list. The first is something I don’t see in books outside of academic works usually. The additions of terms and definitions as side-bars to the relevant essay that used that term. Some folks picking this up may not know terms like micro-aggression, EA Spouse, or intersectionality. Having those terms explained as a reader comes upon them will go a long way towards comprehension and understanding instead of possibly leaving a reader confused.

The second is the interspersing of pieces about how women have been regarded in sectors of the industry, from narrative design, to artists. They were spaced in a way that they provided a neat break between essays with a bit of advice, or information that a reader may not have known before picking up this collection. One such piece dissects the silly idea that women just don’t like combat, which isn’t true. However, it’s not just oh that’s ridiculous and that’s that. The piece addresses how to tackle this when it comes up, how to look at it from a design perspective and additional ways to address it in a handy bullet point format.

Overall, Women in Game Development is a solid collection of essays that reminds us all that women have been there from the beginning of gaming, they aren’t going anywhere and they are not just needed but vital to the industry. It’s a celebration of those who contributed, inspiration to those looking to get in and educational for those who might not know all that women have done in gaming.

I highly recommend it for any history of games, game design, sociology, or STEM course curriculum. The stories of the women in this collection are important not just for gamers, or those in the industry but for anyone wishing to get a piece of industry history they may be missing.

Thank you Jennifer Brandes Hepler for editing this wonderful collection and to everyone who contributed their origin stories, advice and wisdom.

Women in Game Development – Breaking the Glass Level Cap is available from Amazon.com and other retailers.

Cosplay and the Question of Contextual Sensitivity

Cosplay is very much like my life: meticulously crafted through thoughtful decision-making, nervously held together at the seams, and ready to fall apart at any moment. Regardless, conventions remain events where I am filled with feelings of wonder, excitement and love. Conventions have become a place where I am able to present myself in ways that I am normally incapable of doing in my everyday life—primarily through cosplay. The act of cosplay itself has become a focal point in my life and has become so much more than just a hobby.

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Many of my recent friendships are best described as unlikely crossovers.

Cosplay has become a means of creating and sustaining friendships, drawing in an audience, and engaging that audience in serious discussions of social issues once I’ve drawn them in with dazzling displays of costumed geekery. It’s my hope that we can all find ways to work towards a world that is safer, more inclusive, and more considerate.

My friends and followers on social media know well that I have every intention of raising the collective awareness of the community of folks who enjoy my work. I believe that any sphere of influence can and should be used for the improvement of our society—which brings me to the subject matter of this article:

Maintaining a sense of contextual sensitivity through cosplay (and other works!)

I say contextual sensitivity here because we’ll be exploring concepts that go beyond racial and cultural aspects, including some thoughts on gender and sexuality. Additionally, I’m referring to the context of taking something from a fictional instance and enabling its existence in our shared reality.  I want to make a few things clear before I do begin:

-Full Disclosure: I am a pansexual Filipino-American cis man. These opinions come from me and my experiences. Many of my feelings come from the place filled with the anger and dissatisfaction that my existence in the US is heavily politicized by the myth of the “model minority” and its rooting in anti-blackness. Please keep this in mind as you continue.

-I don’t think I’m always right. By writing all this, I’m hoping it gives you and I an opportunity to share words. Let’s have an open dialogue.

-The focus of my writing here is not to call out or personally attack anyone. Rage can be tiring and unproductive without a clear objective. If you recognize you, your work, or your design from a particular instance, I am not calling you a bad person.

-I’m plenty angry and exhausted at many of the concepts and experiences that will be mentioned here, but it’s my hope that what I’m sharing here raises awareness and sensitivity in not only your own heart and mind, but within whatever communities you may participate in and associate with. My anger and exhaustion isn’t going to help much with that cause, but both are still present.

-Not everything I am sharing here is my own lived experience or opinion. I’ve spoken with cosplayers and non-cosplayers of various communities and will be sharing pieces of our discussions here.

-When I began the concept for what I’m writing here, I originally wanted to write a list of “Dos and Don’ts,” but as the discussions went on, there were many instances without clear answers. So, please don’t read this and think that I’m trying to police all things cosplay-related. However

Don’t ever perform blackface, brownface, yellowface, or use any other type of “transformative” theatrical effect that darkens your skin or adopts/caricaturizes the features of any minority group—these practices are insensitive and perpetuate years of oppressive harm. This is never okay.

-I always want to do my best to celebrate and encourage other cosplayers to love themselves and continue to do what you love most. I just hope it becomes possible for our community to take a look within and see that it has a unique role in creating safer and more conscious fandom spaces.

Representation, Erasure, and Claiming What Isn’t Yours:

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Since the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition in 2014, there have been many cosplayers inspired by the introduction of new characters and new designs for some old favorites—but DA:I also introduced us to a character named Cremisius Aclassi, also known as Krem. He’s lieutenant to the Bull’s Chargers, has excellent taste in haircuts, and often stands on his chair while drinking. The scene where Krem’s status as a transgender man was initially revealed didn’t click immediately. I thought Krem was poking fun at Bull for having huge pectoral muscles when he mentioned binding. Several moments later came the “OH…” moments where I felt awkward for both my lack of understanding of the situation and the seemingly insensitive dialogue choice I made in the conversation.

In the follow-up dialogue with Krem, I enjoyed the opportunity to have a deeper conversation about his experiences that enriched his character and made me feel like Bioware was truly taking some steps forward with their dedication to inclusion. Not once did I feel like Krem was a forced “check box” on the diversity list. However, I won’t say too much more. As much as I dislike the conventions of the gender binary and attributes commonly lent to “maleness” or masculinity, I’m a cis man. I have limited perspective here.

My reason for talking about Krem comes from an instance last year when I was asked to build a set of armor by a friend. At first I was incredibly complimented, as I didn’t believe I was skilled enough to do so, and I felt humbled that someone would be willing to wear a costume I put together! But then came the request: he wanted to cosplay as Krem. Specifically, he wanted to cosplay as Krem at a convention specifically intended as a safe space for people of the LGBTQIA+ community. My eyebrows raised and my head tilted at this, but at the time, I couldn’t articulate the way I felt.

I didn’t have the intent of gatekeeping someone’s participation in cosplay or attendance of said convention—but the request made me very uncomfortable. From my understanding at the time, the request came from a straight cis guy who wanted to “tastefully portray the character and celebrate him,” and do so in a space designed for people of marginalized identities. When this happened, my opposition came through as citing how costumes can come off, and identities can’t. Thus, maybe he ought to talk to more people about his idea (again, because my perspective and understanding is limited).

His response was to reach out to his friends, and to additionally reach out to Patrick Weekes, who wrote Krem in Inquisition. Mr. Weekes, who I believe is an excellent writer and a super swell person, still didn’t seem quite like the correct person to ask on this subject. This exchange with my friend ended with my directing him to a thread I’d seen earlier that day about cis people being cast as transgender characters (as well as me ultimately refusing his request), but the interaction left me with some insight, but mostly questions. I was still thinking “Who is allowed to cosplay as Krem?”

Over a year later, the question stuck with me, and eventually became one of the focal points of this essay. I don’t have the answer, and I’m not sure there is one, singular correct answer. Regardless, I’m not a person who gets to decide. In speaking with people of the transgender community, I heard nearly as many different opinions as people with whom I spoke.

One of the cosplayers I discussed this topic with is a transgender man who emphasized his belief that cosplaying a character isn’t a matter of “checking off a list and matching the features that comprise a character’s appearance, personality or identity, so anyone should be able to cosplay any character regardless of their own traits.” However, he acknowledged that this would require us to live in an ideal world where people are completely cognizant of the power and privilege structures that exist and the ways that people are both advantaged and disadvantaged by these structures. Since we don’t live in that world, he describes the “tasteful inclusion of a transgender man in a major franchise as a victory that perhaps should be left celebrated by the transgender community (for now).”

Another opinion presented was that “while Krem is a transgender man, he is a lot of things before that. Everyone and anyone should be able to enjoy him as a character.” I think this viewpoint is similar to my initial interactions with him as a character before the tavern conversation with Krem and the rest of the Bull’s Chargers. The game gives you plenty of insight into who he is, and continues to build layers without defining him by any single trait.

We’re going to move on to some discussion about keeping in character while in costume. Occasionally (or incredibly often), cosplayers do like to break the roleplay aspects of staying in character and behave in ways that are not only unlikely scenarios for their characters, but hilarious photo opportunities.

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“Warden Mage, let’s see how well you can spell against a Templar!”

Hearkening back to the above comment regarding cosplaying as Krem—cosplay does not demand that the cosplayer must check the boxes for a specific character’s features in order to successfully cosplay as them. However, consider when a character belongs to a marginalized group. Let’s use sexual orientation as a primary example— again we’re going with Dragon Age characters: Dorian Pavus and Sera.

It’s my belief that communities have established that you don’t have to be a gay man or gay woman to cosplay as Dorian or Sera. And it’s certainly none of the other convention attendees’ business if you are/aren’t. And as above, to pick out certain aspects of a character’s mold and sort them out based upon some hierarchy can be largely reductionist. Minimizing Krem to his status as a transgender man may not be the equivalent to minimizing Dorian and Sera to their homosexual orientations, but these aspects of these characters remain and likely should come into consideration at some point during a cosplayer’s thought process.

Cosplayers often present themselves through characters external to themselves, and are seen by many. There isn’t always time to stop and explain your intent or why to justify why you might believe that something that you did or acted out while in costume should or shouldn’t have caused harm to someone. You also don’t get to decide what someone might find offensive or harmful. What you can decide is the way you present yourself.

I’m not saying solely to “stick to canon” or “stay in character.” What I’m emphasizing here is awareness: Awareness of your own presentation and your own actions, so that you can be accountable for them.

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Sera hopes that you don’t make too many breeches in unspoken social contracts.

As such, holding yourself responsible for your actions and maintaining awareness of your presentation as a character might require you to suppress aspects of yourself (albeit temporarily). The instance that spurred this discussion was a Sera cosplayer who did a couples cosplay with her boyfriend as Krem.  What we know is that Sera likes women. Krem is a man. If these two cosplayers engaged in romantic displays in public or posed for photos in such a way? That’d be a visible display that disregards and completely erases the oppression faced by the marginalized groups represented in these two characters.

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Dorian uses his staff as a selfie stick to remind you of who he is (and to remind you of his magnificent mustache).

Dorian’s storyline in Inquisition includes a personal quest where you meet his father–and it’s revealed that his father attempted to change Dorian through a dangerous magical ritual. As a gay man, Dorian does not intend to carry on his family’s legacy through noble marriage. Dorian’s father would risk rather his son’s mind, and perhaps even his life, than lose his family’s prestige in their home country of Tevinter. There are severe parallels in this story to real world conversion therapy and the hurdles that so many people of queer communities face with their families. I myself have had a multitude of difficulties navigating family gatherings as someone who isn’t heterosexual. People in my family aren’t all aware of this, and it’s difficult. It’s terrifying sometimes. So just remember, if you were to cosplay Dorian, it’s not at all necessary for you to be a gay man yourself, but please: remember who he is.

We’re not just talking about breaking fictional canon. We’re talking about trivializing the struggles of others–and often times for a joke, or humorous photo opportunity. This act of trivializing the lived experience of others perpetuates erasure. People in our world are harassed, abused, and killed daily—merely for not being cisgender, heterosexual, or another privileged majority. Acknowledge the experience of people who aren’t you. Be respectful and conscious. Be aware.

(Note: but please don’t actually expect people to pat you on the back for being a socially aware and decent human)

Recognizing the Problem: Appropriation, Caricatures, and Cultural Iconography

Moving past the concept of staying in character, many cosplayers love to focus on source material accuracy—and sometimes, to a fault. In the above example, I hope it was established that being accurate to the in-game portrayals of characters can be positive. But next, we’re going to discuss some of the ways where accepting or enforcing source material accuracy can cause harm.

Let’s start with this example from Super Punch Out!!, released in 1994.

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A+ character design, right?

While the Punch Out! games have never been the greatest source of tasteful portrayals for any minority groups, the games have had “diverse” cast members who hail from many parts of the world. And while these characters might be memorable, they can illustrate the current climate of media diversity when it comes to inclusion and portrayal. In the above example, 1994 could be described as a time when people of Asian descent were seen as heavily otherized martial artists who don’t speak English. I doubt that Dragon Chan is a popular character that sees a lot of cosplayers, but we’ll discuss why he’s a fitting example when we get to the contemporary examples.

So, before even considering a costume, you may want to take a moment to consider more than the source material and how accurately you’re able to recreate it. Try and consider the design of the character itself—what influenced the design (both in the world of fictional origin and our real world), who developed the design, and when the character was conceived. It doesn’t take long to discover that many of our favorite characters and worlds were born from mortifying stereotypes and schools of thought that (hopefully) are on the way out. Conversely, sometimes the artists and people behind these designs claim intent such as homage, celebration, borrowed culture, inspiration, or mimicry. Call it what you want, but often times it boils down to some of my favorite words: appropriation, orientalism, exotification, and whitewashing, which altogether… just ends up insulting.

Let’s look at some more examples:

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Ah yes, meditating in a lotus pose, in a bamboo garden with my prayer beads, orange robes, and paper lantern… A favorite for Asian folks like myself.

Four years ago, in 2012, Diablo III was released and included a Monk class. Monk classes in RPG games aren’t anything new, and this particular instance is not surprising. Perhaps that’s not really bothersome, but consider how many tropes this portrayal plays into: the design calls back to many Asian elements–and so many that it might be difficult to understand where and when they’re borrowed from.

A spiritual martial artist who draws power from within and speaks in confounding proverbs might not be the worst inclusion of elements of East Asian culture and religion, and certainly not as misguided as Dragon Chan’s portrayal, but both are built from similar molds. Cosplaying as this particular iteration of the Monk might not bring offense to the people whose culture was used for its inspiration–but the cosplay might reinforce the idea that cultural appropriation is perfectly fine, so long as it was sourced from a video game and not from the countries directly. I obviously can’t speak for all Asian people, but whenever characters like this appear, I at least raise an eyebrow and question it.

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Hey look Diablo III included another person of color! …oh.

Pictured above is the Witch Doctor class, from Diablo III as well. Gameplay for this class is centered around using zombified creatures and unleashing plagues on your enemies. I feel like making the only dark-skinned class into a tribe of mystic “wild” folks isn’t the most tasteful design choice. For the folks still reading, I feel as if cosplaying as some of these designs wouldn’t even be a question of “Should I make this costume?” but more a question of “Why does this design exist?” However, remember that this was put into a game, and by a team who thought it was a good idea. And perhaps no one in the design process saw that this could be an issue, or maybe they weren’t comfortable voicing their opinion during production.

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“Gods of Egypt” might have taken casting cues from Smite.

Above we see the portrait used for Isis, one of the playable gods in the multiplayer online battle arena game called Smite. The game allows players to choose from many gods and immortal creatures from various mythological sources from around the world. I’m not an expert on mythology around the world, or Egyptian mythology in particular, but Isis and some of the other gods seems as if they haven’t seen the sun in a while… Even if Isis isn’t the worst perpetrator on Smite’s cast of characters, there are numerous examples of borrowed cultural iconography that presents a skewed image of their places of origin.

After looking at some of these images, the last few decades in gaming character design really have a long way to go in terms of tasteful inclusion and sensitivity of portrayals. Representation is not always positive for marginalized groups. And by no means am I saying to never cosplay as characters who might follow similar design choices—what I’m saying is that it’s possible to keep in mind the context of your costume with respect to people around you, while still remaining recognizable and having fun (just not at the expense of marginalized folks). Maybe the offense won’t always be so clear, or won’t even be present—but just as you may not have intended to hurt anyone, your intention can mean and often means very little.

On a final note about gaming: Hi there, Overwatch.

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Reconsider how important source material accuracy is to you, in lieu of how that accuracy might harm others. Leveraging your privilege in a fashion that outwardly exhibits and perpetuates the modes of oppression that have been in place for centuries can be just as hurtful and silencing as any overt act of hatred.

Remember that when one more person reinforces the stereotypes, the tropes, the molds that are never broken, or when typecasting goes unchallenged… that role tells countless numbers of us that we can be nothing more. Internalization of these messages can be hell to cast off, and for many, these thoughts never leave us completely.

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Thanks, Nic Cage. Maybe you can give ScarJo some pointers?

On the subject of perpetuating centuries of oppression, we’re going to have a few words about blackface, yellowface, or any other type of transformative theatrical effect used to change someone’s features to appear more like a minority group. I originally didn’t want to include this section, but with many recent Hollywood casting decisions… we’ve seen that this problem has been continuing long past the days of minstrel shows of the 19th century, Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi 50 years ago, or any other horrid roles tastelessly brought into our entertainment media.

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The only thing I like about this picture is that his expression matches my face when media is questionable.

The key lesson here is to learn to recognize the potential problems: Are the participants in the relevant media part of the marginalized group being represented? Was the narrative created from the perspective of the marginalized group, by members of said group? Or was it created by an outsider looking in, from a place of privilege? Are people of marginalized groups being used as props for a white male protagonist? Are you finding that you must justify to yourself that your costume “isn’t that racist,” “not that bad,” or “not entirely appropriative?” If these questions are on the table, I would ask that you step away and take a look at what you’re doing, and try to build some understanding by educating yourself. That way, you can make a conscious decision knowingly if your actions as a cosplayer are perpetuating the institutionalized forms of oppression that so many still face as you read these words.

My belief is that you, as an individual, can do better. If you understand that these practices have brought harm and continue to bring harm to the world’s marginalized communities—then simply don’t participate. It’s that easy.

With regard to the first scenario of a character having darker skin than yours: consider the earlier discussion of not needing to reduce a character’s identity to a series of check boxes. Also take into account if it’s truly necessary to maintain your loyalty to the source material accuracy. And perhaps ask yourself why it is you’d like to cosplay the character—maybe the way they act resembles you? Perhaps they share a hobby, such as music or dance. These are aspects you can represent while in costume without treating darker skin as a costume. This logic applies to any physical feature, such as eye-structure or body shape. You can successfully and accurately portray a character without succumbing to harmful and oppressive practices.

So please, do better.

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Hollywood isn’t setting a very high standard. I believe in you. Please do better.

Believe it or not, there have been several themes throughout this mass of words. And you might have noticed that everything here need not only apply to the cosplay community. So here’s the big message:

The various institutions and structures of the world are already imbalanced in favor of people belonging to the privileged groups—whether this refers to people who are white, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgender, male, thin, neurotypical, wealthy, or any other advantage. What I’m requesting is simple: Please consider others who do not share the same advantaged experiences.

This is a loaded statement, so I’ll break it down further.

-Your intentions may not be overtly malicious, but that does not mean your words and actions are inherently harmless. Microaggressions are the daily reality and part of the continued oppression of many (if not all) marginalized groups. Try to do your best in reducing and eliminating these unnecessary impacts felt by so many.

-You do not have to center yourself in order to build empathy, to support a cause or group, or to be an effective ally. Sometimes the best thing you can do is step back, stop making noise, and let others speak. And occasionally it’s helpful to give others a signal boost, or a platform to stand on. People all have different reach and influence, and giving others access to those can form connections and reach ears that would’ve previously been inaccessible.

-“I have a friend in (group) that said it was okay!” No. That person, while having the lived experience of that group, does not speak for all people of that group. Communities are diverse, and do not have any obligation to share any single opinion, nor can one person speak for an entire community. The consent of one does not equal the consent of many. In believing such, you’ve also effectively asked your friend to tokenize themselves for your own gratification.

-Not everything is yours to claim. Not even outrage. Nor is a victory yours to celebrate for a community to which you don’t belong. When you speak over the voices of the people who are directly affected by certain events–consider that adding your voice to the discussion isn’t necessary. You also have no right to decide if others should be offended and hurt by your actions, words, or intentions. The sincerity of your intention doesn’t determine the impact’s severity.

-Recognize your privilege. You can take off a costume. You can enjoy inherently oppressive and harmful media without critical analysis of how stereotypes affect your community’s future generations. You can look anywhere and see people like you in the media you enjoy portrayed in a multitude of ways. People with the lived experience of the marginalized group you’re selectively portraying? They don’t get that luxury. They may not have these opportunities often, if at all.

Back to the subject of cosplay, video games, and popular media:

-Remember that it is okay to be critical of media while still enjoying it. If you acknowledge that there are harmful aspects in a piece of media you enjoy, you are consciously choosing not to ignore it. Ignoring the problems doesn’t make them go away, but recognizing them is at least a start. You don’t need the consent of marginalized folks to justify your interest in something.

-If you are unsure of a design or have little context about it, it might be best to stay away. Even if you have the best intentions, power structures and marginalized identities don’t work that way. Your loss of an opportunity to cosplay a character you love doesn’t equal the systemic oppression that allowed for the proliferation of inconsiderate media facets.

Be caring, conscious, and cosplay well with others.

 

Signal Boost – Talk to Me, Visual Novel Kickstarter

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/836732297/talk-to-me-visual-novel/widget/video.html

A plot-driven romantic visual novel with an LGBTQ+ cast that explores themes of mental health, loss, and identity. [BxG/B]

About this project

Talk to Me is a romantic Western Visual Novel.  [BxG, BxB]

There are no typical “bad”, “good” or “true” endings. Just endings. 

Originally, Talk to Me (then named You Can Talk to Me) was written and programmed as a Twine game. I really enjoy playing dating sims, but I found that the tropes really got to me and not in “wow, this is so interesting” kind of way.

So I thought I would write my own.

The first thing I wanted to do was to write a flawed but interesting protagonist. A lot of times, the protagonists in Dating Sims have these tragic pasts that have a hold over them. I thought I could find a way to write that in a way that made sense and made for a good story.

I thought I could find a way to write that in a way that made sense and made for a good story. The story line is utterly mundane. No apocalyptic event has happened, the world remains basically the same and the main character isn’t chosen to do anything.

It takes place in a contemporary setting in a Northern town. Every character within the story has been created with their own personal narratives and motivations.Just like in real life, there’s very little that’s straightforward and making particular choices will sometimes take you to unexpected places.

The game is designed to be hard, in the sense that the outcomes of your choices may not be clear until much later down the road. There’s also no stereotypical way to win any of the characters over.

 

As you go further into the game, you’ll start to learn everyone’s personality, what each character responds or doesn’t respond to, and what you can do about it. The relationship you have with each character also affects the way they will respond to certain choices that you make.

When writing the project, one of my main goals was creating a varied and diverse cast.

Once we decided to move the project forward and make it into a visual novel, it was important that the appearance of the characters also reflected their diversity.

The entire game is from the perspective of a clinically depressed character and as such, it’s often difficult for him to make clear-headed choices.

At the same time, the main character is looking for a connection with someone — whether that connection is romantic or not is up to the player to decide.

The game also deals with themes such as grief, sexuality and identity.

Regardless of the character you choose to pursue, the game includes an LGBTQ+ storyline that is integral to the game. This project also deals with heavy topics.

The game addresses issues such as mental health, sexuality and domestic violence, among other things.

 

• Over 85k words of story. One story line can be completed in one sitting, but can also be saved for your convenience. One full story line can take anything from 1 to 3 hours, but playing every story to completion can take up to 20 hours •

• Nearly 600 unique encounters. Different encounters will be available to you depending on the choices that you make •

• Difficult choices that could turn the tide of your relationships with characters•

 

• Interesting, three dimensional characters that you will love, and maybe grow to fall in love with •

• Explore up to 20 different outcomes of the game. See how your choices have affected Ordell’s lifestyle. •

• Extensive cast of characters •

• Full HD resolution •

• 30+ CG’s •

• Available on Windows and Android •

Talk to Me is a Visual Novel experience in the style of a dating simulator. Not actually a dating Sim. [BxG, BxB]

Due to a recent tragedy in Ordell’s life, he’s recently hit rock bottom and he needs help, your help!

Guide him on his journey through life and maybe even find the love of his life. Or maybe not. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Demo

Play our demo! The story isn’t very linear so we recommend that you save a lot.

 

Minimum demo specs: 

  • OS: Windows 7
  • Processor: 1 Ghz
  • Memory: 1 Gb
  • Graphics: Integrated Graphics

 

 

Now for why we need you. Talk to Me is an incredibly ambitious project and we have a whole host of talented artists and creators to help build the world and give the characters a true voice.

It will take a lot of hours to make Talk to Me the best experience for you and to make something we would be proud to put our names to.

You can already see what we have managed to put together on a shoestring budget.

A team of skilled people has already dedicated a huge amount of time in order to make this happen, and we will continue to do so until the entire game comes to fruition.

Funding will allow us to hire the extra help we need, get the assets in shorter time and hopefully deliver the game more quickly — in fact, we are aiming to release it this year!

While the team really believes in the project and we’re all working together to make it happen, we also believe in the value of paying for creative work.

That does, in fact, include paying ourselves — though the fee we each intend to take is nominal compared to the amount of work that needs to go into making the game happen.

We’re hoping to make the difference through royalties, which can only happen if we’re funded. Funding the project will allow us to make it happen quickly and with more ease. While we’re all passionate about it, we still have things we need to pay for.

There’s a little wiggle room in our expenses, because we wanted to make sure that we could get the game done in the event of an unexpected delay.

That was the most important part. So these values are our best approximations for what we think everything will cost.

Art: The most expensive of the assets, this will cost us a whooping 56 % of our budget. There are a lot of artists we have to pay if we want to make this thing happen, and while their rates are reasonable, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. We have over forty backgrounds, a huge amount of sprites, outfits and poses, not to mention all the CGs that need to be done. That’s on top of a complete rehaul of the demo’s GUI.

Fees: This rather wide demographic covers things like kickstarter fees and administrative fees, including things like Steam Greenlight and Google Play. This also includes a little emergency money, in case something were to happen.

Writing: The writing has mostly already happened, except that it was originally written as a Twine game. We need to transcribe the text into script form, change some descriptions to assets and generally rewrite a few things that are not feasible to do. Additionally, we need to hire editors and copywriters to make sure that the story shines.

Programming: You know that we need a programmer to put this entire thing together. We’ve luckily managed to snag a really good one that will work — mostly — on royalties. This is still going to take a lot of work, so there’s also a small contingency in this area.

Music: We have an amazing in house composer whom we are paying a fee to — just like everyone else — and we’re also bringing on some other, amazing musicians, while we still try to keep the work congruent. This is a challenge and could take a bit of time and money, but we believe we have budgeted for that.

Rewards: As you can see, the majority of our rewards are digital, which keeps our costs low when it comes to delivering. We do have a crochet kitty and we’ve accounted for shipping costs in that particular reward tier.

Due to the fact that most of our Kickstarter rewards are virtually delivered, our costs are very low.

There is one very limited physical reward: a commemorative crochet kitty of Calvin, Evan’s cat.

Each one is handmade to order, so you’re going to get a totally unique commemorative kitty, along with several other surprise goodies.

If you have any questions about the rest of our rewards, don’t hesitate to ask!

Music is a hugely important part of our project, especially because getting the mood right is so important when it comes to a game that deals with such sensitive issues.

The bulk of the music will be done by Fluffyrobotdog, a professional, and totally wonderful, music composer.

We are going to be keeping some of the music done for the Twine version, composed by Jimmy Changa.

And we’re also going to be bringing in a couple tracks by folk singer-songwriter Meghann Clancy. You can listen to a little sneak peek of the music below.

 

We’re a little team full of very ambitious people. This is who we are. Some of our duties overlap but we’ve done the best to divide them and make it easier to read.

Writing/Marketing

L. M. Langley has a postgraduate degree from Newcastle University in Creative Writing and a B.A (Hons) in English Literature and Creative Writing from Northumbria University. She grew up in Colombia and currently lives in Gainesville, FL with her husband. Her novel The Whole Trying Thing was recently released by Ninestar Press. You can contact her through Twitter or her site. 

Dubisek is an editor, he spends most of his free time reading visual novels and his current list contains more than 150 pieces. You can contact him via dubiisek@gmail.com

Matt is a writer/ filmmaker in Cardiff. He has just come out of Uni studying Documentary filmmaking and has been working on a web series for the past year which he hopes to be finishing mid 2017. He doesn’t have a professional website but he does have a Twitter and a Tumblr.

Art

SigmaPiBond is a self-taught digital artist in Massachusetts. She loves working on line art and makes it a point to emphasize the importance of clean and detailed line art. Her deviantart is: sigmapibond.deviantart.com

Jaye is currently a third year graphic design student at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary and probably hasn’t been replaced with a robotic look-alike. This is Jaye’s site. 

Oktolio is a visual artist and visual novelist whose work has been featured in Nanoreno’16 “Heartbaked”. You can reach them at twitter.com/oktolio

Bái Yù is a Chinese-American freelance writer and budding graphic design artist. She enjoys drinking tea and getting overly excited about things. You can find her at twitter.com/baiyu

Music 

Matthew K Mahoney Grew up in Central Massachusetts and pursued a B.M in Sound Recording Technology at the University Of Massachusetts Lowell. He has composed music personally for 8 years, and has since begun composing for independent video games. He currently lives in CA, working as an intern at Bangzoom Studios in Burbank.

Meghann Clancy is a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and tutor. She has been described as “a striking singer/songwriter, whose open approach to lyrics often leaves a listener breathless” (Yorkshire Times). Her brand new EP “Lay it on the Line” is available now for purchase and streaming, along with her debut release, “Take Flight” (2012).

Additional music provided by Jimmy Changa.

Programming

Isaac Garcia is an aspiring IT Technician and Programmer. He has been programming for approximately 4 years, since he found a passion for computers. He is a first generation American who grew up in Illinois with hopes and dreams to become the very best, like no one ever was. He currently resides in the state of Arizona and has experienced his fair share of heat strokes. He has a long life ahead of him full of stress, choices, knowledge, and Lamborghinis

 

 

Continue reading

.@GaymerX Call for programming submissions from our POC community members!

Call for more programming submissions from our POC community members!

Only Four Days left to submit programming!

Hi!

I’m putting on my Diversity Liaison hat before I start waving at you for a moment of your time. GaymerX 4 is coming up this fall and programming suggestions are open until July 1st. Convention content comes from the community. We want and need more POC on panels that are NOT just about diversity.

We know there’s a great community of game makers, podcasters, cosplayers, artists, musicians and more who should submit programming items for GX4! There’s more to our stories than being a marginalized identity within another marginalized identity.

We love games, all facets of making them. So bring your knowledge to GX4 and let’s make this year better for representation across all programming and events September 30 – October 2nd

DSC_3878Hello one and all! Thank you for being as excited about GX4 as we are. We love how diverse our community is and look forward to building this year’s programming together. So without further ado please fill out the form below to submit for a Panel, Talk, Workshop, or Networking event. Programming submissions will be open until July 15, 2016.

Programming Submissions – Submit a talk, a panel, or a workshop!

If you want to request a slot for a tabletop game please fill out our Tabletop Form! Tabletop Form Submissions are open

Co-presenters must fill out an additional form and confirm attendance on sched.org or will need to confirm their information through a handler. Failure to do so can result in your program item being cancelled. Co-presenter form

Should you have any questions or problems please email: panels@midboss.com

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If you have questions about diversity and GaymerX, you can email diversity@gaymerx.com

Thank you,

Tanya DePass

GaymerX Diversity Liaison

tanyad@gaymerx.com

 

Introducing Found Loot: Pledge $50/Month to diverse games/gaming related projects

Found Loot is an initiative inspired by and modeled after Fund Club (created by Ashe Dryden ofAlterConf and Shanley of Model View Culture) to help fund gaming & gaming related projects by diverse creators. Funding is provided by members who agree to a $50 per month donation directly to the organization or group that we pick each month.

Found Loot is needed among a lot of other initiatives to fund gaming projects, diverse work and creators. There’s a lot of diverse, game related projects that don’t quite fit into a Kick Starter, IndieGoGo or Go Fund Me campaign.

Sometimes creators need a little extra to cross the line from idea to fruition, to make the difference between a prototype and a finished product coming to the masses. What we want to do is help those folks who need that lift to continue their work.

We’re starting off small, asking members to commit to a $50 donation per month for the first year, after that we’ll raise member donations to $75 and in our third year, we’ll go to a $100 per month donation.

Funds will be transferred directly to the recipients via a PayPal donation link they set up once we have chosen them as our pick of the month.

If you are a creator, you can apply for funding via a short Google form.

So, consider joining us on the quest for Found Loot, and helping marginalized voices in our gaming community get a bit of spare coin.

Thank you,

Found Loot

.@INeedDivGms & @GaymerX have passes for #GaymerX4!

So, in addition to mod cypheroftyr working with GaymerX on diversity review, we’ve collaborated with them again to get twelve passes to give away. Each pass will cover general admission to the convention (a $80 USD value) or $80 off other tickets such as VIP, etc.

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So, here’s what you need to do:

Write us at: whyineeddiversegames@gmail.com with “GaymerX 4 Pass” in the subject line

Tell us briefly why you need assistance with getting a pass to GaymerX4. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or lengthy.

We have twelve passes to give out for the convention. Note at this time, we can only give out the passes, and not assist with travel costs.

Requests accepted until all passes have been distributed.

Please note that we will be away for CONvergence through the July 4th holiday so replies will be sent after July 5th.