Game Development Journal XXVII: Looking at the World of Games Through Different Eyes

Hi all!

Don’t worry, Manic Pixie Dream Girl is still coming!  But right now all the writing and programming on my end is done and my artist has a couple of other projects she is working on along with mine.

So while I wait I figured I might as well start mapping out the concepts for my next game!

I have to give credit to my husband J for the basic idea.  I told him I was wanting to make a game based on John Scalzi’s amazing blog post explaining privilege called “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficult Setting There Is” (along with Lisa Nakamura’s brilliant response “Queer Female of Color: The Highest Difficulty Setting There Is?: Gaming Rhetoric as Gender Capital“). He suggested that I create a game that players have to go through twice: once as a typical straight white male hero and once as a woman of color.  The first character would receive lots of love and support from folks who are used to seeing people like him as heroes.  The second character would meet with lots of confusion as to what exactly she is doing.  Is she some sort of sidekick?  A priestess who will take care of the hero’s wound while he is on his journey?  She will have to do a lot of improvising, as the world is not set up to accommodate her in her chosen role.  For example, when she goes to buy armor, she has a choice between skimpy armor bikinis or plate that is much too large for her (because it was built with a man in mind) and so she has to scrounge around and build her armor from what she can find around her: a frying pan as a shield, a knitting needle as a dagger, a pair of thick leather gardening gloves for gauntlets, etc.

In one chapter, I imagine our male hero being welcomed by a trio of fairies, who declare him to be the Hero of Prophesy and bestow upon him a potion that will grant him great might and fortitude.  When our female hero comes along, the fairies are embarrassed to learn that she actually fits the prophecies much better than he does.  However, since he already took their potion, the heroine will have to gather herbs and regents for them if she wants their magical boon.

Many of these relate to the three memes about women in gaming culture that I identify in my dissertation: the sexy support, the casual girl gamer, and the fake geek girl.

In other words, the male knight was born on third base but thinks he hit a triple.  And the female hero is just trying to fight her way out of the dugout and on to the field.


I will be using RPG Maker for this project once again. However, since diversity is an even more important part of this game, I will be generating many of my own character sprites with Game Character Hub. I was fooling around with it earlier and it is definitely not as intuitive as I thought it would be.  If you have any tips for me or any ideas for funny men vs women in fantasy tropes that I could skewer in my game then let me know in the comments!

And now, because you are all hearing it in your heads…

7 thoughts on “Game Development Journal XXVII: Looking at the World of Games Through Different Eyes

    • Thanks! I am not even close to writing yet. I’m more at the level of figuring out how to code some of the different mechanics that I want to include. But I would love to collaborate with other writers/artists/musicians on this! Once I get a few more things locked down and have a presentable proposal worked up I will start looking for consultants/co-creators.

      I’m thinking it would be really neat to specifically collaborate with the undergraduates at Stephen F. Austin State University, maybe not for this project but for a project in the future. I would love to get students involved in writing dialogue, creating music, and even designing pixel art. Shoot, now that I’m thinking on it, I could even involve some of the computer science students to work on the programming! Now I’m imagining an interdisciplinary course where students from across the campus come together to make a serious game on the topic of their choosing. Programmers do the coding, artists do the visuals and music, and my very own tech writers in the English department design the website where people can download the game, write the instruction manual, and write a press release describing the overall “argument” of the work.

      Now I’m excited!

  1. This is a great idea! It would be interesting to know how players would react to this game. Maybe you can also have them switch roles where the the straight white male goes through discriminating experiences and still finds himself unaccepted as a hero and the female of color gets all the love and glory.

    • I love this idea. I want to emphasize that, in the real world, attitudes about gender and race don’t change overnight. I’ve been thinking about an ending where the WOC in lauded as the true hero and it looks like everyone has learned their lesson about making assumptions about who “real” heroes are…. until… flash forward about 20 years and we see another little girl aspiring to heroism. She is told, essentially, “well we already had one of those, she was the exception to the rule.” Essentially, the dominant ideology will have taken a small moment of revolution and incorporated it into itself. But the little girl won’t accept this and she goes out determined to prove herself. In this way I hope to illustrate that there are no “magic” solutions to this problem and that creating a new, more inclusive community requires constant work, work that typically gets thrust upon women and people of color.

      Although, it would be really fun to have a secret ending in which a magic solution does happen and our original WOC protagonist is able to change her world forever. This would be the special reward for a perfect run through or for finding all of a series of hidden tokens or something. A fun bit of wish fulfillment that acknowledges the impossibility of things changing overnight.

      Anyway, obviously I am in the “concept” stages right now. A lot of things are going to have to crystallize before I know what shape the game will actually take. And, as I learned from my previous project, oftentimes the limitations of the RPG Maker software (or rather, my limitations in terms of what I can and can’t figure out how to do) will sometimes change the way a game will unfold.

      • That’s true. It’s one of those lessons that people need to be reminded of every now and then, and that sort of ending is a nice way to send that message. I hope to see how this game will take shape!

  2. Pingback: Game Design Journal XXVIII: “Princess” is a Set of Skills | Megan Condis

  3. Pingback: Game Design Journal XXIX: Collaboration | Megan Condis

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