- this past week, my friend mattie brice posted a game that she made called MAINICHI, which means "every day" in japanese. it's a game about getting ready to meet a friend for coffee, and the way people react to and judge you on your way there depending on how you present yourself.
- depending on whether you've put on make-up, dudes may harass you as you pass by. a white girl might touch your hair without your consent. a guy may come on to you, realize you're trans, and try to warn everyone in earshot of your "deception." people may call you miss or mister depending on how much care you've put into your appearance.
- mattie gave her own name to the protagonist of the game - when a character calls out to her in ignorance and hatred, they call out her name. mattie told me some of the dialogue in the game came verbatim from people who have harassed her on the street. that's real.
- games aren't often real the way that MAINICHI is. they avoid opportunities to be personal, to tell the player something honest. to treat the player like an adult, as it were. the mainstream games industry operates on budgets of, in some cases, millions of dollars. in this system, marketers have a lot of power: a game has to sell overwhelmingly well to make back any money.
- unsuprisingly, this inspires a certain cowardice in what kinds of games are made in this system and what they're allowed to say. i was given a complimentary subscription to game developer magazine: for a while, every month i would open straight to the two-page spread, and every month it would be a picture of a big white guy with a big gun.
- we're adults. why is it that the videogames that are being made and marketed for our generation in 2012 are so similiar to the games that were being sold to our generation when we were children? an art form whose authors are mostly adults and whose audience is greatly adult should have more to say about the human experience than the same tale about a solitary male hero conquering overwhelming enemy forces, you'd think.
- that's why i've chosen to work outside of that system. as a creative adult i want my work to have some connection to my community. a game like KEEP ME OCCUPIED, a fifty-player collaborative experience i made for occupy oakland as part of a march, would never have come out of the mainstream game industry. neither would a personal game like MAINICHI, a potential tool for education about the lives and experiences of trans people of color.
- neither of those games generated any money for their creators, either. a challenge to any artist is convincing people to value your work. and that's what i'm talking about here: the game creator as an artist, as an author. thinking about games as the products of people, of working hands, not of corporations.
- and it's not easy to make money as an artist, as an artisan. but there are two things that i think are important here. the first is that game-making does not have to be a full-time job. we often think it is, because the only images we have of game developers are people who allow game development to subsume their entire lives.
- game-makers can dabble. game artists can have lives. game creation can be something you do on the side. MAINICHI was made with a program called RPG maker. KEEP ME OCCUPIED was made with a program called game maker. both programs are designed to make game creation easy for people with no programming experience. game-making doesn't have to be a full-time vocation.
- the other thing is that game artists are clever. they can find new ways to be compensated for their work. i know people who survive off of donations, sponsorships, patrons. the way that i was able to survive for a long time - making flash games for portals - is going away. so i'm finding new ways.
- as our idea of what games are, who makes them, and what they're good for changes, our ideas of what's valuable in games, what's worthy of paying and promoting, changes. kickstarter is part of that for some people. direct donations are part of that for some people. i'm in a grant proposal that was submitted to the national endowment for the arts. they're willing to pay money for games now. time will tell whether they value the kinds of games that i'm trying to make.
- if i leave you with one thought, it's that this is an exciting time to be involved in games, as a creator, as a critic, or as a player. as all three of those things. we're in a cultural moment where any one of us can point and ask "what's over there?" and have the entire beast turn to look. i hope that we all find somewhere to point.
speech for sf art institute (by anna anthropy)
queenofspace Nov 13th, 2012 650 Never
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