Written by Isabella Harford
Edited by Nicholas Uster
While many in-person Pride Month events have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, EGD Collective is still celebrating by hosting a virtual Pride Week Panel with industry professionals tonight at 7 pm EST.
The panel will include independent game developer Joshua Casiano; Visiting Assistant Professor of Game Studies at University at Buffalo Cody Mejeur; an Assistant Professor of Game Design Juno Morrow; regional coordinator for International Games Developer Association (IGDA) James Seetal; a GLAAD award-winning games narrative and writing designer Tori Shafer; and technical artist for Insomniac Games J Tuason.
In recent years, the games industry has made positive strides towards greater inclusion and diversity, highlighted by the GLAAD Media Awards new category for excellence in LGBTQ+ representation in video games.
However, this trend often consists of tokenized characters, typically portrayed alongside heteronormative protagonists, that merely assist in perpetuating harmful stereotypes. In 2018, a Gamesradar article revealed that of the 179 games that have been released with queer characters, only 83 are playable characters, and only 8 are main characters.
While many large games companies have publicly stated their commitment to increased representation, these promises continue to fall short again and again. Most recently, for example, the main character in the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s latest expansion is forced into a heterosexual relationship, which explicitly backtracks on Ubisoft’s commitment to same-sex options.
Beyond the large developers, inclusivity and acceptance is also greatly lacking amongst players themselves. An ADL report revealed 35% of LGBTQ+ players reported harassment on the basis of their gender and sexual orientation. Additionally, for a multi-billion dollar industry, larger than both music and movies combined, there is an insufficient amount of information and research regarding LGBTQ+ identifying members of the industry. For example, the Entertainment Software Association’s “2019 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry” reported findings from only female and male-identifying respondents.
Therefore, the EGD Collective Pride Panel will offer a space to discuss these obstacles and allow attendees to gain insight and perspective from industry professionals that are actively working to increase LGBTQ+ representation in the games world.
The first panelist, Joshua Casiano is an independent game developer and graphics editor at NewsMax Media. Since 2015 Joshua has been developing their own series, Striped Swipers, which pays homage to the cartoons, comics, and adventure games of the 90s. The game follows a trio of burglars as they search for treasure alongside the help of a ghost pirate, Captain Downbeard.
Juno Morrow is a multidisciplinary artist, independent game designer, photographer, and professor. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Game Design and Unit Coordinator at the City University of New York’s Eugenio María de Hostos Community College where she is creating the first public game design degree program in New York City.
Cody Mejeur is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Game Studies at University at Buffalo. Their research and teaching focuses on new media, game studies, and narrative theory, particularly drawing on feminist, queer, and cognitive narratologies.
James Seetal is the founder and creator of Plausible Studio, an indie game studio that develops tabletop and digital games. As an advocate for game developers, they have also served as Co-chair for the IGDA New York Chapter, which works to empower and support game developers. James is currently the IGDA Regional Coordinator for the Northeastern US and serves on the IGDA’s Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Steering Committee.
Tori Shafer is the narrative and writing director for Spellbreak, a fantasy and spellcasting game. Their quest content for “Manor of Masques” received the first GLAAD award for excellence in LGBTQ+ representation in a video game. The quest focused on Alchemy, the first openly transgender character in Elder Scrolls, and her struggles to be accepted by her twin sister.
J Tuason is a technical artist at Insomniac Games, with previous experience working on Marvel’s Spider-Man for Playstation 4. They graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA in 3D Design, and they developed a mobile game, The Woodsman, for their senior capstone project which explores gender themes in Little Red Riding Hood from the Woodsman’s perspective.
EGD Collective’s Pride Week panel will be held this evening from 7-9 pm EST. Please join us at Discord.gg/egdc.