ICYMI – I was interviewed about @INeedDivGms by the @chicagotribune!

I Need Diverse Games works to give minorities and women a louder voice in gaming

Amina Elahi Amina ElahiContact ReporterBlue Sky Innovation

An Xbox. Two PlayStations. A gaming PC. A Nintendo 3DS. These are the tools of a gamer’s kit, but this is no ordinary gamer. This is a gamer looking to shake up the system.

Tanya DePass is the director and founder of I Need Diverse Games, a Chicago-based nonprofit dedicated to helping underrepresented people gain visibility and access in the gaming industry. She takes donations and partners with conferences to get free passes for minority and female attendees.

The diverse presence could benefit attendees individually — through education and networking opportunities — while also helping the larger gaming scene by introducing more and different voices into the conversation, said DePass, 43.

“I’ve been gaming for a long time. … I am tired of not seeing myself in this media,” she said. “Games are old enough to where we should be beyond the same scruffy white dude as the protagonist or tired racial stereotypes or tropes.”

Most of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization’s funding comes from donations through Patreon, though DePass ran a GoFundMe campaign earlier this month as a stopgap measure.

DePass, who previously worked at DePaul University and the Illinois Institute of Technology, started down this path in mid-2014 with a hashtag. She said she was up early and upset that Ubisoft, the maker of “Assassin’s Creed,” said it was too much work to animate women. (Later that year, the Gamergate controversy exploded online.) Her tweet gained traction and eventually led to a blog and speaking engagements and now the nonprofit, which she’s been running full-time since August.

I Need Diverse Games has given free passes or financial assistance to dozens of applicants, she said. DePass worked with the Game Developers Conference in 2016 and 2017 to get two batches of 25 all-access passes, worth about $1,600 apiece, through the conference’s scholarship program. She also secured three passes for Alterconf, which is coming to Chicago in June and focuses on inclusivity in tech and gaming. Two of those passes are already gone, she said.

DePass said it can be hard for some gamers to attend even conferences with lower price tags because the costs of travel and housing can be prohibitive. She said I Need Diverse Games sometimes gives beneficiaries $100 or so to help cover such costs.

She said the presence of non-white, non-male attendees at conferences is sometimes limited to diversity efforts or panels that end up focusing on how hard it is to be a woman in gaming rather than discussing that woman’s work. Instead, she wants to see underrepresented groups discussing trends and issues in the industry at large.

“If I walk into a room and I see the same … people on the same panel, it tells me you’re not trying,” DePass said. “There are plenty of non-white, non-dudes, queer people, non-binary, et cetera, that can talk about the same issues.”

The topics of conversation don’t have to change, but the voices involved should, she said.

DePass said most of the people she sees at gaming conferences or events are white men, but that she knows people with different identities who also have a passion for the industry.

Nearly half of American adults play video games, with about about one in 10 people considering themselves gamers, a Pew Research Center survey found in 2015. But overall, men were twice as likely as women to refer to themselves as gamers, and 60 percent of respondents thought most people who play video games are men.

Attitudes toward gaming also differed by race and ethnicity. Black respondents were more likely to have positive views about video games, compared to whites and Hispanics, according to Pew. But Hispanics as a group were most likely to call themselves gamers, and whites were the most likely to consider video games a waste of time, the report said.

Rejon Taylor-Foster, a 22-year-old year game developer and a senior at Becker College in Worchester, Mass., said he attended the Game Developers Conference this February for the first time with the help of I Need Diverse Games. He said DePass got him a pass, while the conference gave him a food stipend. Without that support, he said he wouldn’t have been able to attend.

“I was mostly interested in going because I wanted to learn,” he said. “With GDC I (could) go and meet the people that literally inspire who I’ve become over the years.”

He said attending the conference allowed him to connect with others in the industry, and to learn from them.

For aspiring developers without resources or support, going to conferences can give them the confidence to pursue work in that realm, he said. That, in turn, can affect the industry or surrounding culture.

“If you exist in the space, then you can kind of control that space and mold it for not only yourself, but others just like you,” he said. “With I Need Diverse Games, that’s definitely something they’re doing.”

aelahi@chicagotribune.com
Twitter @aminamania

Catch @qgcon panels via Livestream this weekend!

Folks are always asking me if panels will be streamed when I go to conventions and conferences. Well luck is with you, as Queerness and Games Conference has you covered! They have two twitch channels:

twitch.tv/qgcon

twitch.tv/qgcon2

If you want to catch a specific speaker over the weekend, the schedule is below. Remember all times are in PDT (Pacific Daylight Savings Time) so -2 hours from CDT, -3 hours from EDT, -1 hour from MDT.

Saturday, 4/1

10:00 am – 11:00 am

Opening session: “Queerness and Video Games Today” – 2017 QGCon Organizers – SCI 106

11:15 am – 12:30 pm

Panel: “Getting Games Made (Right)” – moderator Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz – SCI 106
– Ashley Brown, “Cultural Differences in Creating and Financing a Serious Game for Sexual Health Project”
– Mo Cohen, “Navigating Self Care While Making Queer Quest
– Tanya DePass, “Gaming as POC: Where the Industry Has Failed Us, Where It Hasn’t and What to Hope For”

Panel: “Consent and Control in and around Gaming” – moderator Josef Nguyen – SCI 108
– Stephanie Boluk, “Feminist Killjoys and Magic Circle Jerks
– Josef Nguyen, “Reframing Consent through Debates on Control in Games”
– Amanda Phillips, “Unruly Bodies: The Queer Physics of Fumblecore”

Workshop:Making the LGBTQ Games Archive” – Adrienne Shaw, Alayna Cole, Evan Lauteria, Christopher Persaud – SCI 206

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm

Break (light lunch provided for speakers and volunteers in SCI 201)

1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Panel: “Games and Community” – moderator Andreas Kratky – SCI 106
– Evan Conway, “Proud Labor: the Visual, Material, and Social Branding of a Queer Gaming Community”
– Amanda Cullen, “Who Watches the Overwatchmen? A Digital Ethnographic Case Study of Queer Overwatch Fans”
– Kate Ringland, “Minecraft as a Site of Sociality for Autistic Youth”

Post Mortems: “Making Queer Games” – moderator Archie Prakash – SCI 108
– Josie Noronha, “Consideration In Your Core: A robo-tea! Postmortem”
– Yifat Shaik, “Humor on Behalf of the Ridiculous”
– Kara Stone, “Ritual of the Moon Post-Mortem: Queer Narratives, Mental Health, and Time”

Workshop: “Creating Positive Queer Characters” – Michael Wilde – SCI 206

Round table: “People of Color in Game Development and Community” – facilitator Tanya DePass – SCI L114

2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Design KEYNOTE: John Epler, introduced by Jasmine Aguilar – SCI 106

“The Privilege of Default: Unconscious Biases in AAA Games”

4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Panel: “Queer Movements through Space and Time” – moderator Alenda Chang – SCI 106
– Maureen Engel, “Go Queer: A Ludic, Locative Media Experiment”
– Miguel Penabella, “The Politics of Driving Queerly: Policing Movement and Urban Spaces in Roundabout
– Lisa Yamasaki, “Playing Queerness in Life Is Strange

Open microtalks: You! Any and all attendees are invited to sign up to speak for 5 minutes on the topic of their choice. – SCI 108

Workshop: “Pedagogy for Social Change” – Irene Chien, Jen Malkowski, Jane Pinckard – SCI 206

Workshop: “Make a Zine with the L.A. Zine Fest” – Rhea Tepp and Kenzo Martinez, L. A. Zine Fest – SCI L114

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Micro-talk session: “Out of Sheer Spite” – Kris Ligman, Tanya DePass, Innes McKendrick, Zoe Quinn, Dietrich “Squinky,” Squinkifer, Carli Velocci – SCI 106

Post Mortems: “Queer Game Creation” – moderator Gordon Bellamy – SCI 108
– J.C. Holder, “Jamming Along to Game Jams: An ILU Game Jam Post-Mortem”
– Emilia Yang, Downtown Browns: Diversifying Interactive Media and Mapping Oppression”

Info Session: “Getting into Queer Game Studies” – Bonnie “Beaux” Ruberg, Teddy Diana Pozo, Whitney Pow, Claudia Lo – SCI 206

Sunday, 4/2

10:00 am – 11:00 am

Post Mortems: “Gender, Identity, and Game Design” – moderator Allison Comrie – SCI 106
– Michael Annetta and Erin Reynolds, Nevermind Post-Mortem: How a Cis Team Approached a Trans Story”
– Steve Cha, “Design as Drag: Performing Identity via Autobiographical Game Design”

Talk: “Orcs and Bowsers and Bara, Oh My: The Complicated Case of Monstrous Queer Male Bodies,” Todd Harper – SCI 108

Round Table: “Invisible Gender and Sexual Identities in the Queer Community” – moderated by Dietrich “Squinky” Squinkifer – SCI 206

11:15 am – 12:30pm

Academic KEYNOTE: T. L. Taylor – SCI 106

“Play as Transformative Work”

12:30 – 1:00pm

Break (light lunch provided for speakers and volunteers – SCI 201)

1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Panel: “Representation and Character Creation” – moderator Melinda Stang – SCI 106
– Dan Gardner and Josh Tanenbaum, “Charting Performative Possibilities in Games: A Large-Scale Census of Characters and Representation”
– Rebecca Stimson, “Beautiful Monsters: Building Space for Queer Gaming in Monster Factory”
– Aaron Trammell and Nicole Crenshaw, “The Damsel and The Courtesan: A History of Gendered Game Design”

Panel: “How Queerness (and its Intersectional Themes) have Shaped our Experiences as Student Game Developers,” Ryan Bobell, Jocelyn Kim, Heather Robertson – moderator Margaret Moser – SCI 108

Workshop: “Imagining LGBTQ History through Games: A Game Design Workshop in Collaboration with the ONE Archives” – Loni Shibuyama and Chelsea Howe – SCI 206

2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Panel: “Identity and Resistance” – moderator Richard Lemarchand – SCI 106
– Gabriela Aveiro-Ojeda, “Resistance through Play: Latinx Indigenous Culture”
– Niamh Schönherr, “Cute Games: Using Icelandic Krútt Music to Understand Revolution and Resistance in Alt/Queer Games”

Panel: “Academic Perspectives on Development, Industry, and Code” – moderator Derek Burrill – SCI 108
– Eric Freedman, “Engineering Queerness in the Game Development Pipeline”
– Aleah Kiley, Cheerleaders and Martyrs: Feminists and Queer Women in the Indie Industry
– Claudia Lo, “How RimWorld‘s Code Defines Strict Gender Roles”

Workshop: Supporting Queer Students as Game Makers & in Games Studies in the Age of Trump, Amanda Phillips, Alexandrina Agloro, Rachel Burton, Jezz Lucena, Hong-An Wu, Klew Williams, Josef Nguyen – SCI 206

4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Panel: “New Queer Perspectives” – moderator Vicki Callahan – SCI 106
– Emily Marlow, “Subverting the Heteronormative (?) Jesus in Video Games”
– Kaelan Doyle Myerscough, “I’m Taking Care of You: Pharmercy and Sensation in Video Game Romance”
– Whitney Pow, “I’m sure your woman-arms will be able to lift it: Queering affect, interface and phenomenologies of privilege in Anna Anthropy’s Realistic Female First-Person Shooter

Panel: “Queer Design” – moderator Virginia Kuhn – SCI 108
– Matthew Balousek, “Racist Bridges and Smelly Horses: What Is a Queer Game?”
– Heidi McDonald, “Don’t Fear the Queer: Audiences Are Ready”
– Klew Williams, “Trojan Horse Narratives: Sneaking in Queer Stories”

Workshop: “Diversity Backwards and Forwards” – Sarah Schoemann – SCI 206

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Closing Session: The Future of Queerness and Games2017 QGCon Organizers – SCI 106

Next weekend kicks off a super busy month for me!

I’m doing sooo much stuff in April, but it’s cool and I’m excited even if I’m a little tired just thinking about it. That means streams will be sporadic and not on the usual Tues/Thurs/Saturday schedule.

Here’s what I’m up to starting next Friday:

April 1 & 2: Queerness and Games Conference  Los Angeles, CA

I’m doing three things!

1) Gaming as POC: Where the Industry Has Failed Us, Where It Hasn’t and What to Hope For 

2) Microtalks: Out of Sheer Spite

3) Facilitating a round-table on POC in the industry

April 8: GenVidCon, Gender and Videogames  Keynote speaker, San Jose, CA

April 12: Let’s Talk Gaming!  Montreal, CAN

April 17: Guest Lecturer at NCSU

April 18-20: East Coast Games Conference, Speaker in Career track. Raleigh, NC

April 21-23: C2E2, Panelist  Chicago, IL 

My panel schedule for C2E2

29 & 30 April: GX Australia, Boss of Honor , Sydney, Australia

Excited to visit University of Oregon this week!

It’s my last speaking gig where I have to travel in 2016! Excited to visit with Edmond Chang at his campus.

Keywords for Video Game Studies: Diversity

 

Speaker series

Date: November 30, 2016
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm

“Why Diversity and Intentional Inclusion Is Needed in Our Games” with Tanya DePass

A brief talk followed by Q&A with students, staff and faculty on why diversity and inclusion in video games and tabletop is not just important but vital to keeping the genre alive.  From Street Fighter to Mafia III, games are slowly getting better about who’s in the lead, who lives, who dies and who’s story is told; but it’s still moving at a snails pace.  This talk will go into why representation is important for the player base that is not reflected in advertising, or who we see as the “industry” versus who is actually making, playing and researching games.  The history of why #INeedDiverseGames, where it started, where it’s going and why it’s important to bring diversity of race, gender, sexuality and ability to the table along with the latest killing everyone simulator will be threaded throughout the talk.

Tanya DePass is the founder and Director of I Need Diverse Games, a not-for-profit foundation based in Chicago, that is dedicated to better diversification of all aspects of gaming.  She’s also the founder and Editor In Chief of  Fresh Out of Tokens podcast where games culture is discussed and viewed through a lense of feminism, intersectionality and diversity. She’s also the Diversity Liaison for GaymerX and often speaks on issues of diversity, feminism, race, intersectionality and other topics at multiple conventions throughout the year. Her writing about games and games critique appears in Uncanny Magazine, Polygon, Wiscon Chronicles, Vice Gaming, Paste Games and other publications.

uofo-event-poster

Series made possible by Women’s and Gender Studies, English, Environmental Studies, the Center for the Study of Women in Society, the New Media and Culture Certificate program, the LGBTQIA Scholars Academic Residence Community, LGBT Education Support Services, UO Housing, the UO Residence Hall Association. and UO Think.Play.
Contact Dr. Edmond Y. Chang for more information at echang@uoregon.edu.

MY @GaymerX East schedule!

gxeast

Not long until GaymerX East in NYC!  Here’s my panel schedule which is much lighter than it was at GX4!!

Saturday November 12th

1:oo pm: Gaming Journalism from an LGBTQ Perspective

TimesOUT the LGBTQIA affinity network for The New York Times would like to moderate a discussion about the LGBTQIA perspective in gaming journalism.

2:30 pm: How to Twitch Safely as  POC/LGBTQIA/Female ID’d streamer 

Streaming on Twitch can be fun, but it can also be perilous for some of us. This panel will bring you some tips and tricks such as using bots, human mods and other methods to make your experience as stress free as possible.

4:00 pm: Miss Representation

Women from diverse backgrounds discuss the terrible job that media does of representing us and others from marginalized backgrounds. We focus on discussing women, but we’ll discuss all genders, and sexualities.

Sunday November 13th

12:30 pm What Playing RPG’s Can Teach you About Yourself

Playing an RPG is a great way to explore someone else’s mindset for a few hours a week, but the characters we make can teach us about ourselves too. A bard might show you love helping people out, or a sorceress might help you realize you’re a woman.

2:00 pm Your Story Doesn’t Need Cis Straight White Dudes

Tired of hearing about how some setting has no one like you because “the lore?” Let’s talk about stories where people like you (or like someone else) get to be the default, and straight white cis men are rare or not even present for a change of pace!

ICYMI – I’m in this @Offworld piece by @sangfroid_san

alreadyheroes

What can game developers do to better represent black women in games?

“They need to get some fucking empathy,” says Tanya dePass, a campaigner for better representation inside game worlds and among those who create them. She curates websites, hosts podcasts, maintains the#INeedDiverseGames tag on Twitter, works as a diversity consultant andspeaks at conventions and panels.

Work is steady, but change is slow. For critics and activists, the pushback on inclusion is constant, from other gamers and the industry itself. DePass finds it baffling: “why don’t you all like money?” she asks.

One of many black women disrupting an insular culture, DePass critiques games and offers an alternatives to often-toxic online communities. Hashtag activism this is not. As DePass notes, “change needs to happen from the ground up.”

Lauren Warren is a contributor to Black Girl Nerds, an online community “devoted to promoting nerdiness and Black women and people of color.” In addition to panel appearances, cosplay showcases, TV spots and endorsement by Shonda Rhimes and others, BlackGirlNerds launched two new series profiling women and people of color.

“I hope that the Women in Gaming and Diversity in Gaming series reach people who are interested in pursuing careers in the games industry, but may be hesitant because they don’t “see” themselves fitting into the existing corporate culture,” Warren writes. “It’s no secret that our presence is lacking behind the scenes on the game development side, on streaming sites and at major industry events and publications. The larger the community, the more visibility we have and the bigger our impact will be in the future.”

Warren says that substantive progress towards inclusion requires changing corporate culture, but also its perception by prospective employees. It’s cyclical: the more resistant toward change the industry becomes, the less that women and people of color will want to invest their time and energies into a potentially unwelcoming space. This breeds further insularity. The cycle continues—unless it’s disrupted.

Samantha Blackmon is one of the creators of Not Your Mama’s Gamer, a feminist gaming community made up of podcasts, livestreams, critical essays and their latest project, Invisibility Blues, a video series exploring race in gaming.

Blackmon told me that issues have gotten better over time, but many mistakes are still being made.

Infamous_2_Nix“When I look at playable women of color in games now I have more hope, but I still cringe at the characters that fall back on old racist stereotypes and add things like “tribal” costumes and “urban” language patterns,” Blackmon wrote, “or some clueless writer’s take on what those language patterns are.”

Color has meaning. And without people of color involved in the designing process, games are routinely unaware of these meanings. For Black women, this problem arises in a very specific way. DePass used the phrase ‘fantasy-black’ to describe the “not too black” design trope in games. As DePass notes, women in gaming designed to read as “Black” frequently have blue or green eyes, straightened or silver hair, or lightened or red-tinted skin. Preferencing black women who read as biracial or display some otherwise exoticized trait has troubling overlaps withcolorism, discrimination based on skin color. Colorism is a serious societal issue, evinced both by the disparity in punishment for black girls with darker or lighter skin and the huge industry of harmful skin-bleaching creams.

kara

So while all women in games are subject to staid metrics of desirability, black women have their blackness negotiated in a way that assumes blackness itself is undesirable. (Conversely, black men in games are almost uniformly depicted as having very dark skin—their color is ostensibly measured according to metrics of threat and physicality.)

“I know the lack of options is often the result of a lack of diversity amongst the development teams and there is no one present to advocate for creating and pushing these choices,” writes Warren. “Real change would need to start there and then consumers will ultimately reap the benefits of having more realistic images to choose from in their gaming experience.”

But instead of a robust and dynamic experience, players are instead faced with repetitive, one-dimensional and largely overlapping portrayals of Black women. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the overreliance on the “strong Black woman” trope. This derisive meme limits portrayal of black women in pop culture to, as author Tamara Winfrey-Harris writes, “indefatigable mamas who don’t need help [and] castrating harpies.”

Continue reading “ICYMI – I’m in this @Offworld piece by @sangfroid_san”

Dipping my toe into Twine dev…

So a while back I had a conversation with Sidney Fussel about black women in games/gaming. Out of that conversation came an idea for a game where the WOC protag would control her own fate and not be the princess in a castle, or the hapless damsel. If she wanted that you see, because so often WOC (women of color) don’t get to be rescued, or saved or the object of desire that I can’t really think of a game with set WOC protagonist where that’s an option.

So I started puttering in Twine with “Not Your Princess”. The idea is you are a black woman and you are a gamer. You want to find your own narrative in the games you play. She tries to find that in the anticipated high fantasy game she just bought, and is pleasantly surprised by the character creator cause surprise, surprise, natural hair exists in this land and it’s well done.

I’m still working on how the in-game fantasy game will play out and her choices. That’s one thing that’s made me pull back and reconsider how I write, and how I construct a narrative for a game. I can’t just write and write and write with no real sense of connection or how the story fits together.

I have to be aware of how things go together, how to weave the tale and do it well. That’s something I’ve not really been forced to examine while writing. Usually when I do fiction or fan fiction you can kind of write how you please and not get into too many loopholes or you can try to write yourself out a corner you put yourself into.

So for now, could you check it out and give me constructive feedback? I lost the thread and want to finish this game, maybe even update with artwork and simple things like being able to put your name in for the character.