Tag Archives: game development

Minorities In Game Development Still Don’t Have The Support They Need

The New York Times profiled six minority game developers today on their experiences in the industry. Their anecdotes are both illuminating and depressing.

As a fan, I know how discouraging it can be not to see yourself reflected in the media that you love. A story I often tell is that until I saw Shawn dating Angela on Boy Meets World, the idea that a black woman and a white man could be in a romantic relationship together never crossed my mind. As a young person with no real-life examples to draw on, it seemed like an impossibility.

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In video games, the situation is more dire. I see black characters in games infrequently, and black women even less. On top of that, when I point out these discrepancies of representation, what I hear from the culture at large is that they shouldn’t be important to me.

The developers featured in the Times story, headlined “Fear, Anxiety and Hope: What It Means to Be a Minority in Gaming,” are using their games to try to create change for minority gamers. But they are not immune to that lack of support and visibility.

Davionne Gooden told the Times that he started making games shortly after getting his first laptop in the fifth grade. His game, featuring an all-black cast, is about a woman in a coma battling her nightmares. He said that he is hopeful, though he also points out that the issues that he seeks to tackle in his game—the experiences of marginalized people and mental health—are ones white creators rarely think about.

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“I’m an optimist,” Gooden said. “I hope that things will eventually be better as a whole.”

Similarly, Mitu Khandakar, a professor at the NYU Games Center, told the Times: “If you’re a young person of color playing games, you don’t really see yourself represented. That kind of instills in you this sense that maybe I don’t really belong.”

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The feeling of not belonging certainly applies to Dietrich Squinkifer, or Squinky, who said that they burned out at their job at Walking Dead developer Telltale Games after being vocal about issues of race, sex and gender got them labeled as a “troublemaker” at their job. That kind of pushback was not just a facet of their place of employment Squinky told the Times that the threat of harassment from the larger community of gamers is ever looming.

“I think that’s part of the reason a lot of my focus in my work has gone more toward more experimentality, installation and performance art, following more of an art world tradition,” Squinky said. “I am to some degree scared of creating something that will get popular enough within the video game world community that it does receive that kind of backlash.”

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The rejection from the community at large is part of why Julian Cordero does not call himself a gamer, despite being a person who develops video games. His game, made with fellow developer Sebastián Valbuena, is called Despelote, and is about playing pickup games of soccer in city parks in the developers’ hometown of Quito, Ecuador.

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“With Despelote, Mr. Cordero is trying to use soccer to reject the competitiveness of gaming, which he believes engenders the misogyny and consumerism that have been endemic to the culture,” reads the article.

Reading all these quotes can make it easy to give up hope. It’s hard to struggle, even harder when you feel that you are alone. But to round out these interviews, the Times spoke to Aziza Brown, founder of Dynamik Focus, an esports team. She says that she finds the support she needs in real-life communities.

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“I had a talk with a woman in gaming, where I was like, please come to the offline communities, come to other places, because once the anonymous barrier is gone, you can see the person to their face, you can confront them, that behavior stops,” she said.

Source: Kotaku.com

Xenoblade Developer Once Pitched An EarthBound Sequel For GameCube

The EarthBound, or Mother, series took a lengthy hiatus between the releases of Mother 2 and 3, but that didn’t mean Nintendo wasn’t interested in keeping the series going. In fact, at one point, the developer that would eventually create Xenoblade was asked to pitch Nintendo on a sequel to the beloved role-playing game series for GameCube, and created some adorable craft-style concept art for it.

Those images, created in 2003, were shared yesterday on Twitter by artist and developer Yasuyuki Honne, who had worked as a designer at Square during the 90s where he contributed to a number of now classic games like Chrono Trigger and Xenogears. He left with other Square developers to form Monolith Soft in 1999.

Yesterday, inspired by the recent news about an upcoming book collecting interviews with the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, the designer recalled the time when he first met Iwata and EarthBound director Shigesato Itoi at the offices of Namco, which owned Monolith, in 2003. At the time, Honne was directing the GameCube role-playing game Baten Kaitos, and according to him, Nintendo was toying with the idea of a new EarthBound game.

“With pleasure I did up some visuals and went to Aoyama,” the location of the office, Honne said, according to a translation of his tweets by Kotaku. “Iwata-san was there as well.” Honne showed the two men his concept art, which used felt and cloth to update the game’s simple graphics into something more befitting of the GameCube but still nostalgic and unique. “Itoi-san didn’t seem enthusiastic,” he said. “I thought, ‘that’s strange,’ and kept the conversation going, until Itoi-san suspected something.”

Iwata, playing matchmaker, had apparently set up the meeting without Itoi knowing he was about to be pitched on a sequel.

Honne went on: “Itoi-san: ‘Iwata-kun, you arranged this, didn’t you?’ Everyone went dead silent. Iwata-san made an ‘uh-oh’ face. Eventually the conversation was able to proceed. Itoi-san even seemed interested in the images of 1980s America I was able to evoke in the felt-like art I’d made. I never would have thought these pictures would appear in public. My 2003 summer memories.”

While the game industry has no end of stories about games that might have been, the two pieces of concept art Honne shared on Twitter make this hypothetical especially heartwrenching. The “felt-like” look of the characters and the rest of the world’s tactile aesthetic are remenscient both of the clay-looking character sculptures originally used to promote Earthbound and Nintendo’s recent turn towards textile-inspired design with Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Wooly World.

EarthBound originally came out in Japan in 1994, where it was called Mother 2. While Nintendo did eventually make a sequel in 2006 called Mother 3, it was released for the Game Boy Advance rather than the GameCube, and to this day has never been officially released for audiences outside of Japan. We’ll never know if the potential collaboration would have yielded another cult classic or a dud, but with only three games in the Mother series and nothing new in over a decade, I would have been content either way.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Parental Struggles In 2018’s God Of War Echoed Those Of The People Making It

“A lot of this performance is a love letter to my kids and it’s an apology,” says voice actor Christopher Judge in a new in-house documentary about the making of the PlayStation 4 hit God of War. Judge played the game’s lead character, Kratos, and when he talked about his performance, he teared up. As an actor working on projects requiring him to be away from his family for long stretches of time, he says he saw a lot of his own experience in what Kratos is dealing with in the game.

The stress of raising kids while doing your job is a constant theme in Raising Kratos, the 115-minute documentary that Sony released on YouTube today.

It’s fitting given the themes of the game itself. The 2018 God of War takes the mythology behind a bloodthirsty action hero and uses it to tell a more mature story about being a parent as players direct Kratos through an adventure in which he is constantly accompanied by his pre-teen son Atreus.

Executive producer Shannon Studstill when asked about the personal sacrifices involved in making God of War.

Game director Cory Barlog attributed that creative choice in part to his own experience of becoming a father, and the protagonist Kratos’ struggle to bond with a child he’s never known in many ways ends up mirroring some of the same struggles of the other people who worked on the game.

At one point one of the documentary producers asks Shannon Studstill, the game’s executive producer, about the sacrifices she’s had to go through during the making of the game. She tears up and declines to answer.

Making the game was rough. The documentary chronicles the personal struggles and the creative challenges. God of War began development in 2013, which is where the documentary, a combination of behind the scenes footage and sit-down interviews, begins. “Doubt is the demon that lives in the ear of everyone in this industry,” Barlog says at one point, and much of the documentary focuses on the team trying to figure out when things need more work and when they’re finally good enough.

Voice actor Christopher Judge discussing his own time as an absentee parent.

In one part of the documentary Barlog watches a group of play testers try out the game for the first time and is unable to parse their facial expressions. Afterwards they tell the person leading the focus group that Kratos’ son, Atreus, is simply too powerful and makes the game less fun. This leads the team to go back to the drawing board and try to balance enemy encounters.

In the homestretch of development, as Barlog’s questions and requests for changes continue, some of the developers let their frustration show. At one point he grills someone working on the game’s user interface about how the menus work. Right before the camera cuts the person flashes an exasperated Jim-from-the-Office look directly into the lens.

“‘It would be nice to have this effect. It would be nice to have this breakable. It would be nice to have this and that,” one member of the team says while paraphrasing Barlog. “And it’s like dude, we’re 10 days away from beta.”

Director Cory Barlog asking the team about how the menu system will work.

Throughout production, the game’s parental themes kept reverberating through the real lives of the people involved with the game.

Near the end of the documentary, Studstill opens up about her anxieties as a parent. “We as working parents always wonder and question do we really spend enough time with our children,” she says. “I carry that with me everyday and I never have the right answer. All I can do is be the best that I can be in those moments when I do have my children. That I’m really able to engage and hopefully the stresses of the job don’t get in the way of being the best parent that I can be.”

Her comments echo the remarks she eventually made last December after accepting the award for Game of the Year at the Game Awards. “I want to thank my children for being the very best, and all the families of the God of War team who road this wave with us, and for the support that we were given over the course of many months, many hours, many years,” she said.

You can watch the full documentary below.

Source: Kotaku.com