When I started Potions: A Curious Tale a year and a half ago, I didn’t know where it would lead me. I didn’t know that it would be an inspiration for girls. I didn’t know that I would become an inspiration for them.
I made a game that I would enjoy and, as I was a woman developing the game, I produced a game that girls and women enjoy immensely. This wasn’t my intent, though, and I only stumbled onto that realization after over a year into development.
This last Sunday, the Games Diversity Alliance hosted a bootcamp called “Amplifying New Voices” at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The event was hosted to help prepare diverse developers that are rising in the game industry for the challenges that await them.
Oculus was the main sponsor of the event and also provided a number of the mentors who worked with the small teams of developers. Other sponsors included Intel, who has been working extensively to promote diversity in the game industry, GDC, Funomena, and Zebra Partners. In addition to receiving one on one mentorship, networking opportunities and some nice swag, the attendees were also provided with a $1,000 travel stipend, All Access badges to GDC (which currently cost $2,099), and access to a professional photographer who was taking headshots for us to use in the future.
The following application guidelines were posted on the site for Amplifying New Voices:
We’re seeking mid-career games and VR developers who offer perspectives that are currently under-represented in the industry, especially those who are not yet an active public figure. This includes women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and anyone who is willing to share how their perspective adds to the “diversity of thought” in our community.
Specifically, the following guidelines are a good rule-of-thumb of who we are looking for:
4+ years in the games, VR, and/or entertainment industries
2-3+ titles/projects shipped or work-in-progress
A developer role, including game design, software engineering, art, animation, production, audio design, etc.
Represents diversity of thought in the industry
Fewer than 2-3 major speaking or media events
Luckily, I was accepted as one of the attendees and was able to experience the event firsthand.
My mentor was Robin Hunicke, who has extensive experience in game design, production and public speaking. Her public speaking skills are highly regarded within the industry, especially by other women in the industry. She will be on stage as one of the hosts of the Game Developers Choice Awards being held tomorrow.
I was honored to have her as my mentor for the day and greatly enjoyed her supportive yet critical advice. My group itself was diverse, including men and women from various countries, backgrounds, ages and identities. Robin made sure to give us each advice tailored to who we were, both as we wanted to represent ourselves and while taking into consideration how other people will view us.
We had three breakout sessions, one of our biography, one on speaking and one on answering interview questions, and the amount of consideration that must have to go into self representation in each of those blew me away. While some of the advice felt like it should be obvious, hearing it directly and in the context of our behaviors and responses made me realize how novice I am in the skills required to present myself well.
There was no dancing around that my gender would color how I was viewed. I was informed in a very matter-of-fact manner that my personal examples would be more highly criticized, that many questions directed towards me wouldn’t be on my talk, but as my experiences or opinion as a woman, and that I would have to fight to not be dismissed because of my gender.
Before Amplifying New Voices started, I was unsure if I would get much value out of the event. It blew my expectations out of the water and I feel like I have gained invaluable knowledge and connections for the advancement of my career and image.
While I can’t provide the same tailored feedback and knowledge that I received to you readers, I would like to share my notes, in hopes that they will be of help to others:
Your biography should be short and goal-driven. Consider who you are writing the biography for and what you are trying to convey before you begin writing. When you write your biography, use empathy and don’t stylize your writing. Write all of the points you think you should cover, then work on editing and trimming it down to a few short, impactful sentences that highlight the essentials of how you want to be seen.
Several revisions on my biography resulted in the following:
Renee is a multi-disciplinary leader with expertise in software engineering and creative direction. She is the CEO of Stumbling Cat, creator of Potions: A Curious Tale. She led engineering and server development at Fixer Studios, designed and developed cognitive evaluation mini-games and health management systems for X2 Biosystems.
Renee is a passionate advocate and connector for developers and diversity in the game industry. Renee organizes game-jams, panels, job fairs and other developer events as a board member of IGDA Seattle, contributes to Broken Joysticks, and actively mentors game development students at Foundry10.
Assert confidence to the audience and show that you are in command of the subject you are speaking on. Ensure that your talk has a narrative and flows across its points without any jumps. The audience should all be able to answer why your talk is important after listening to it.
Use few words on the slides themselves and use pictures and examples where possible. It is your job as a speaker to expand upon your points, not the job of your slides.
Public Relations / Interviews
Consider the image that you are trying to present and keep your image focused on those points. Feel free to even write down the points you want to stress and keep them on you to reference for the directions you should steer all questions.
While media in the medium, reports are the filters and they are looking for stories that will bring traffic their way. They look for new stories, ones that relate to current events and holidays, show conflicting views of popular held opinions, or are unusual or sensational in some manner.
Finally, the medium itself greatly varies the form of responses. For all media and interview questions, keep responses small so that they can be used for soundbites and also so that they cannot be taken out of context. When doing pure audio interviews, make sure to smile while talking, which is apparent in your voice. Similarly, in video interviews, use intentional body language to compliment your words.
EA DICE released Star Wars: Battlefront on November 17, 2015. While the game has been criticized for not having the same range of weapons, vehicles and campaign play as its previous iteration, the new Star Wars: Battlefront has made some awesome advances, including absolutely gorgeous graphics and stunning sound effects and music.
One notable different between the new Star Wars: Battlefront and its previous versions, is its inclusion of female and minority Stormtroopers. In fact, the game has gone to great lengths to provide a diverse range of skins to choose from, male, female, young, old, black, white. Each are listed innocuously as “Human” followed by a number, with a brief descriptor for each version of the skin of their hairstyles. This is a wonderful way to allow people to put themselves into these skins without labels telling them. I looked at one of the skins for a long time, trying to determine if it the character was supposed to be of Greek or Middle Eastern origin, before realizing it doesn’t matter. In the Star Wars galaxy, those labels have absolutely no meaning. Anyone could play with that character skin and relate to it as they wish.
The “Human 1” skin in Star Wars: Battlefront.
When Polygon asked Patrick Barch, general manager at DICE, about the existence of women Stormtroopers, he responded:
“Why wouldn’t there be? When you talk to Lucasfilm, they’re like, ‘Yeah, of course there are. We just haven’t shown you [in the films].’ For us, it’s about filling in the details in the universe. We help out by asking the question, ‘Can we do this, can we do that? Should we do this or do that?’ And then we work it out [with Lucasfilm].”
Thus, female Stormtroopers during the reign of the Galactic Empire are canon and Star Wars: Battlefront has been sure to include them. This is a great step forward for the community, especially for people like me, who have been desiring to step into some Stormtrooper armor both online and in real life.
Star Wars: Battlefront does a great job of having slight distinguishing physical features for females from males without making them seem sexualized or out of place. The Stroomtrooper armor looks basically the same between the two sexes. The only noticeable differences between the female and males versions of the Stormtrooper is that the female has a slight taper on the lower half of her chest piece, a smaller waist, slightly less bulge on her codpiece and a higher belt. Overall, it really does look like standard issue Stormtrooper armor on a female body– No ridiculously curvaceous proportions, no missing armor protection and no “boob plates”.
The base Stormtrooper skins in Star Wars: Battlefront (male on the left, female on the right).
EA DICE deserves applause for this, they have done a great job making the Star Wars universe more open and inclusive for all. However, they’ve fallen short of being a truly welcoming game.
It is easy to get lost in overwhelming joy of the sheer amount of diversity of skin selections in the game and overlook where they are lacking. First of all, on a pure numbers side, there are still simply more male choices, with 70 male skins (42 male Rebel skins, 28 male Empire skins) and only 55 female skins (31 female Rebel skins, 24 female Empire skins). Some of this can be attributed to male skins having combinations of hair and beard combinations. Where it is inexcusable, though, is for the high level skins.
In Star Wars: Battlefront, you unlock skin variations as you progress in level. For the most part, these skins are hair customization. However, at level 40, you begin to unlock more noticeable skins that clearly show your peers and the enemy team that you are of a high level. For the Empire, this first skin is a Scout Trooper skin and for the Rebel Alliance it is three alien skins (Sullustan, Duros and Rodian). The problem? All of these skins are male, with male voices.
In fact, of all of the high level skins (of which there are 9), only two are female skins and both of those are aliens on the Rebel side (Zabrak and Twi’lek). The complete lack of special female Empire skins means that, if you prefer to play a female character, you will never get to fully flaunt your accomplishments while on the Empire side.
The two high level Empire skins in Star Wars: Battlefront both only have male variants.
With the base Stormtrooper skins, EA DICE showed how little modification is required to provide both a male and a female version. Why would they leave out female Scout Troopers and Shadowtroopers? Using Barch’s own words, “why wouldn’t there be” female Shadowtroopers?
It seems quite a pity that EA DICE worked so hard to be inclusive in their character options only to leave out women at the highest reward tiers. At level 50, I am reminded of this every time I end up on the Empire side and have to choose between having a character that speaks in a voice like mine and one that shows my accomplishments.
Progress has been made, but we don’t have equality yet.