Are women “too smart” for a career in the game industry?

Crossposted from The Border House. I’m probably going to do this with everything I write there from now on, because this blog doesn’t get updated enough as it is.

I was recently pointed to a post on Slashdot where it is suggested that women are “too smart” for tech careers, rather than “not smart enough”, as common and misguided wisdom seems to suggest. To wit, “only ‘boys’ are stupid enough to go into a field that’s globally-fungible, where entry-level salaries are declining, and it’s common to think that staying up all night for a company-paid pizza is a good deal.” This is actually a suggestion I’ve heard more than once regarding the unicornification of women in the game industry; maybe, just maybe, it’s not a matter of women actively being denied entry, they say, but a matter of them simply having better things to do with their lives. Right?

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Awesome New Group Blog of Awesomeness

I just wanted to let all you wonderful folks know that there’s a new video game blog in town called the Border House. It’s feminist and progressive in tone, and aims to be friendly to marginalised groups of all kinds, which is exactly the sort of thing that we need in the young white male-dominated gaming blogosphere. Oh, and I will sometimes be writing for it.

Anyway, do poke around and see if it tickles your fancy. I, personally, look forward to seeing how it evolves. After all, with a reference to an old, well-known adventure game in the title, how could one possibly go wrong?

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OMG I’m being funded!

Yesterday evening, I was pleased to discover some very, very good news: the $1000 goal line for the Life Flashes By Kickstarter drive has been crossed! This means that no matter what people pledge from this point forward, this project is definitely going to be funded. And with 62 days left, at that!

To celebrate this occasion, I’ve decided to make a new reward available for backers: anyone who pledges over $50 gets a devastatingly witty T-shirt, along with the handwritten postcard and boxed copy of the game I’m already offering. Those who know me in real life will no doubt know how fond I am of devastating wit in the form of clothing, so I figured, why not offer up a clever shirt of my own with a Life Flashes By theme? Hence, if you’ve already pledged over $50, do feel free to edit your pledge and select this reward, and if you would, by any chance, like to bump your pledge up… well, I certainly won’t complain!

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Updates Flash By

So far, the support I’ve gotten for putting Life Flashes By up on Kickstarter has been impressive and overwhelming. At this point in time, I have $595 pledged from 26 backers, and I simply can’t express how much it means to me that there are actually people out there who would pay money to see me make a new game. Thank you all so much!

Those of you who have backed the project and/or follow me on Twitter have likely already seen this, but in case you haven’t, I’ve started posting Exclusive Video Updates™ on the Kickstarter project page, as a means to let people know how the game’s progressing and what’s going on behind the scenes. I’ve never done project updates in anything other than text form before, so this is rather new territory for me, but I thought it might be fun to experiment with this more personal approach, particularly in this age where watching videos online has become ubiquitous. So, if you’re interested in hearing a little bit about the thought processes that went into the creation of Life Flashes By, getting a sneak peek at what the game looks like so far, or simply want to make fun of my Canadian accent, do check out the video! [1]

Finally, my friend Corvus just wrote a lovely blog post of his own about my project and his thoughts on indie game patronage in general, which I suspect accounts for the slight spike in backers I received early this morning. He’s got some great things to say about the subject and how we as consumers can make an impact in creating more of the games that we want to play, rather than what huge, monolithic corporations with ad campaigns tell us we want to play. Definitely a sentiment I can get behind, and not just because I’m trying to fund a game this way myself.

  1. A bit of a disclaimer: I did the entire video in one take, and though I made notes on what I wanted to talk about beforehand, there’s still a fair share of rambliness and pregnant pauses. Instead of editing, I left them as-is, because I wanted to give the video a more conversational feel. Oh, and I’m sure laziness is a factor too, but don’t tell anyone.
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Not Cool

There’s been a lot of talk these past couple days about a certain promotional video for a certain upcoming video game that uses certain derogatory slurs towards women and gay men for a certain comedic effect on a certain predominantly young male audience. I won’t talk about it in detail here, because quite a few people have already done so, and to be honest, there are a lot of games these days that are being marketed in a similar way — a lot of media in general, even. However, what I do have a few choice words for is the overarching trend for “edginess” that’s altogether too prevalent in today’s society. You know what I’m talking about: the excuse that “we’re saying it to be ironic; nobody’s REALLY sexist/racist/homophobic anymore”, where people perceive that progressives — or what they call the “PC police” — have “taken things too far” with “limiting free speech”, meaning that if anyone’s in the least bit outraged by what one has to say, it’s become some kind of a badge of honour. It’s a view so prevalent, in fact, that marketing executives apparently think they’ll sell more copies of whatever it is they’re peddling if they appeal to it.

Of course, the problem is, no one’s really being edgy. Edginess is biting social commentary. It’s supposed to change the way we think about the world, make us feel uncomfortable, turn us into better, more informed people in the process. What I describe above does nothing of the sort — the people who are made uncomfortable are those of groups the slurs in question are directed towards: slurs that, regardless of what we want to believe, still have power to harm and ostracise and even lead to violence. The only ones laughing are those with the luxury of never having experienced anything remotely similar. No one is experiencing any kind of paradigm shift or seeing the world from a new vantage point. Instead, everyone gets to continue holding their ground, staying in a place that’s easy and familiar. That’s not edgy to me. It’s the status quo.

As for irony? Well, let’s just say that if the people you’re purportedly mocking are able to laugh at your joke and continue to inflict pain on others with a clear conscience, then you’ve pretty much failed to convey your message.

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Kickstarting Life Flashes By

In all the time I’ve been making my own games, I’ve never really felt inclined to charge money for them. Oh, sure, I’ve often thought about it — it’s always nice to be compensated for hard work, even when it’s a labour of love — but it’s never been a plan that I’ve put into action, save for maybe a short-lived donations button that appeared on an earlier incarnation of this blog. At first it was because I was a relative beginner at game development, and didn’t feel comfortable competing with the “big boys”; today, it’s because I already have paid work in the game industry, so the projects I work on in my spare time tend to be chosen for personal self-expression rather than commercial viability — and as we very well know, it’s very, very difficult to have both when you’re as iconoclastic as I am.

Then, this new site called Kickstarter went live, which I discovered after a handful of indie game development teams started using it for fundraising. I found myself really liking that the site focusses specifically on quirky, personal art projects and encourages a general atmosphere of creativity and personalisation, so I figured it might just be the perfect home for a project like Life Flashes By. A couple of weeks ago, I asked my friend Vince Twelve, whose game Resonance [1] is on the site, if he had any invite codes to spare, and as luck would have it, he had exactly one left. So, I grabbed it, and after spending a good chunk of time tinkering around, my project page is now up! [2]

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  1. Which, as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m doing some writing for.
  2. I would’ve had it up sooner, but I ran into a few bumps trying to get my US bank account validated as a Canadian, and I’ve been much busier than usual at work on DeathSpank as of late.
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Once Upon a Time, The End.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a Blogs of the Round Table post. This month’s topic is dénouements:

How can the denouement be incorporated into gameplay? In literary forms, it is most often the events that take place after the plot’s climax that form your lasting opinion of the story. A well constructed denouement acts almost as a payoff, where protagonists and antagonists alike realize and adjust to the consequences of their actions. Serial media often ignored the denouement in favor of the cliffhanger, in order to entice viewers to return. Television has further diluted the denouement by turning it into a quick resolution that tidily fits into the time after the final commercial break.

But the denouement is most neglected in video games where it is often relegated to a short congratulatory cut scene, or at most–a slide show of consequences. This month’s topic challenges you to explore how the denouement can be expressed as gameplay.

Now, as many of you no doubt know, I’m a big proponent of interactively exploring the consequences of one’s actions. I’ve even written an entire game around that subject! That said, the mention of a lack of a dénouement was what piqued my interest about this topic the most; in fact, it reminded me of a post I wrote two years ago on unresolved endings, particularly as they pertain to slice-of-life stories.

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