Monday 2014.04.07

Prepping for PAX East and looking back, from the outside in

FRACT_booth

It was yet another busy week and weekend, we’ve been super busy trying to get everything lined up for PAX East and release. There’s been so much to prepare – tshirts, posters, equipment, booth deco, press schedules, packing – not to mention everything that’s involved with getting the game ready for release! Richard and I were up late Saturday night readying the review copy list for press – it’s crazy to think that we’ll be sending FRACT out in the world this week. Kind of terrifying, actually. Trying to think about it too much.

It’ll be our first PAX – we’re really looking forward to it, it’ll be exciting to get FRACT in front of people’s eyes, it feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve done it in that kind of setting. Probably the last time we did a booth-like thing in this scale was IGF 2011, when we demoed the original FRACT prototype as part of the Student Showcase.

Puzzles!

What a crazy experience that was. I mean, Richard had made the whole game on his own, in complete isolation – while not quite a basement-dwelling shut-in, he wasn’t that far from it either. I think the first time he had even really gone out into the indie space/community was shortly before that GDC, when he went to his first Mount Royal Game Society and demoed FRACT, which at that point had been chosen as an IGF finalist. Aside from the people he met during his program in Game Design at U de M, it was probably one of the first times meeting people making indie games. IGF/GDC was of course this on an even grander scale. It was pretty surreal, as he got a chance to meet a lot of people he had always admired: game designers that had made beloved games, games journalists/podcasters that he had long followed, and just a remarkable amount of talented, passionate people. It pretty much blew his mind.

I, on the other hand, was completely new to this world. Sure, I had grown up playing games where possible (consoles weren’t allowed in my household) – simple games on our old Mac (back when it was Apple in the 80s), board games like chess and Axis and Allies with my older brother and dad, “educational” computer games like SimCity and Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego that were permitted, RPGs and other games on my brother and I’s shared GameBoy. But I had never thought of myself as a “gamer” – and to be honest, I still don’t. Not because I don’t enjoy games or play games – just never thought to define myself that way. Even now, after spending three years making FRACT, I find it hard to think of myself as a game dev – I think of myself more as someone who likes to make stuff, games included.

Anyways – at GDC, I was definitely a fish out of water – but it was still a lot of fun. Strangely, it probably helped that I was a bit oblivious to what as going on and who I was talking to, otherwise I would have felt a lot more nervous about it all. And since then, it’s been an interesting experience, coming in as an outsider. While I’ve never encountered outright hostility or anything like that, I didn’t really feel like I belonged, either. I mean, I think a big part of that was me, and how I perceived things, as a relative “non-gamer” coming into an industry full of people that are really really passionate about games, almost to the point of a strange kind of competitiveness. I feel like there’s a sense of “oh yeah, well I know more about games that YOU do” attitude that I’ve seen, even towards Richard, who’s always loved games. Admittedly, I also think we’re more sensitive to that because we are new to this world, and we feel like we have a lot more to prove. And for me especially – I started out more as a “girlfriend/wife” and then moved to “producer” and then more than that. It’s been a real process for me to come to own my part in making FRACT, to explain that yeah, I’m not just managing the project, I have been making and designing the game, too.

Indie Picnic

I think a lot of this stuff has been on my mind since there’s been greater awareness and discussion about issues of inclusivity in the games industry, especially the indie sphere. Looking at it, it’s hard to say whether I’ve ever felt excluded because I’m female, because I think I already came in feeling like an outsider. So it’s not that I was ever treated differently, as so much felt different of my own accord. I can imagine that for ladies that have been in the industry longer, who have a legitimate and rightful place with an equal passion and knowledge for games, it must be frustrating to not be taken seriously because they’re female, or to be the subject of sexist or discriminatory attitudes. I’ve been finding it’s hard from my perspective to assess these issues because I haven’t been exposed to this as much (largely because our day-to-day work is removed from the industry). But I’m glad people are starting to talk about it, at the least.

And I think (hope?) there’s increasing realization that there are a lot of “non-gamers” like me, who do in fact play games (although maybe not as fervently so) – who represent a significant audience for games. Not only that, but as tools become more accessible, there’s more opportunity for people – “outsiders” like me" – who may not traditionally be gamers, but want to use games as a medium for their expression. I hope that the gaming community will welcome these new voices and faces. Games are a medium with incredible potential for depth, expression, and diversity, and new ideas and perspectives will only enrich them.

Again, sorry for the long post. I guess it’s been a pretty reflective time for us lately, since we’re almost done. What do you think though? Do you think outsiders have a place in games, perhaps even a necessary one? Or do you think one does have to “earn” their place? Anyone had similar experiences? All thoughts are welcome!

-Quynh