The present is always recovering from the past. When times are good it takes energy to sustain them. When times are bad it takes energy to change them. The best way to know how to sustain or how to change is asking questions.
Questions reveal the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we reach our conclusions. Telling a story, cultivating a discussion, or building a world, involves asking and answering the hard questions. I was lucky enough to record my conversation with Dr. Sarah L. Webb, Fenyang Smith, and Jabari Alii. These three creators provided answers that not only informed the discussion, they also expanded it.
Why the Same Questions?
There’s this thing called the Proust Questionnaire. It’s a list of 35 questions that were created as a parlor room game. The game is designed to establish a series of baseline answers people and then offer deeper insights. These can reveal the inner desires and surprising details that show the little differences in why and how we think what we think. It is named after novelist Marcel Proust who made it famous with his claim that when answering the questions a person reveals their true nature.
The host of the show Inside The Actors Studio uses these questions at the end of interviews with renowned actors. Vanity Fair has made a practice of including the questions on the last page of its magazine. The answers are supplied by public figures and always interesting and nuanced.
The questions are a valuable way to understand a person’s motivations, thinking, and more. It is also a popular way to create compelling characters and understand how their values can shape the direction of a story.
Why these Questions are different?
The Planet Rise team attended a panel on Black Representation in Gaming at the 2018 Game Developers Convention in San Francisco, Ca. We listened to a series of questions discussed at a panel called Black Representation in Gaming at the 2018 GDC in SF.
What I wanted to know is how does what we do change the way we answer and interpret the questions and how does that impact the creative process?
Why is this important?
I work on a video game that features a heroine who is a strong black woman and a commanding young leader. Two of the other prominent characters are also black. The success and failure of projects that feature persons of color have had mixed degrees of success and the questions in his panel were addressing the elements that led to success or failure. And the limits that this has placed on recent opportunities.
The questions were helpful because they offered the chance for speakers who work in the video game industry and represent the small percentage of people of color that are employed by these companies.
If our game is going to be successful then we must be aware of the way that our answers compare with the answers that we heard at the panel and how that will influence the game we are creating.
These are some of the questions that were raised at the panel.
Why are there so few games/movies with diverse main characters?
One Myth is that they are hard to sell or market, what do you say to this?
What is the value of a story that crosses all borders, and more?
Is it important to create a spectrum of diverse characters?
My first conversation was with Fen Smith, a musician and story writer for the game Planet Rise. Fen provided insight on the viewpoint of writing the environment and the characters that make it real.
You can listen to his answers here.
Sarah Webb Photo – Courtesy of Hodges Media Team
The second conversation was with my friend Dr. Sarah L. Webb. Dr. Webb runs a website and writing contest called Colorism Healing. She has written numerous essays and published collections that feature emerging voices who are shaping a reflective discussion about colorism.