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Three Writers, Two Musicians, and One Doctor Respond to Questions Raised at the Black Representation in Gaming and Media Panel at GDC 2018 and Where the Conversation is Going Next

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.


Why 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.

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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.
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The questions

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?

Who Answered

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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.

 


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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.
Part 1

Part 2


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The third was with my friend Jabari Alii.
Jabari founded the company Blue Alchemy Studio. Blue Alchemy is creating the digital strategy-card game Planet Rise which is nearing its final stages.
Creating a company and a game, and making them both run requires a lot of planning.  How do these questions inform that process?
Take a listen.


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New Anchor Podcast Post: More GDC 2018 Reflections & Rememberings You Want – Networking While Standing Outside the Creed Rise to Glory Boxing Ring

“Life’s greatest comfort is being able to look over your shoulder and see people worse off, waiting in line behind you.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Rant

Ever get that feeling that you are in the right place, the right line for the first thing that caught your eye?

I stood in line at the for the VR Demo for Creed: Rise To Glory.

I chatted with others who were at the GDC to network and witness the newest innovations.

Then I got the bad news that I was in the wrong line.

Listen in for more.

https://anchor.fm/seth-the-storyteller/embed/episodes/More-GDC-2018-Reflections–Rememberings-e18tkr

Do you know how Black Lightning’s Spectrum of Black Characters Supports Diversity? Debunking Character Myths with Colorism Healing

By Seth Singleton

Our conversation on the topics raised by the “Debunking Myths around Black Representation” steps away from the world of gaming and into a discussion with Colorism Healing founder Sarah Webb.

Click to listen:

https://anchor.fm/seth-the-storyteller/embed/episodes/Do-you-know-how-Black-Lightnings-Spectrum-of-Black-Characters-Supports-Diversity–Debunking-Character-Myths-with-Colorism-Healing-e1com6

Sarah offers a perspective gained from her own writing, submissions to her annual writing contest, and daily writing prompts to help answer questions like:

  • Why are there so few games/movies with diverse main characters?
  • What is the value of a story that crosses all borders and more?
  • What are your thoughts on creating a spectrum of diverse characters?
  • Oh, and we talk about Black Lightning…

Who is Sarah Webb and What is Colorism?

 

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This is Sarah Webb Founder of Colorism Healing – Photo Courtesy of Hodges Media Team

About Sarah

According to my mother, I was five when I whispered the words: “That’s cus she’s light skin.” That whisper at age five was followed by many years of silence. Then at age 26, I started blogging. In a very public way, I confronted all my fears of speaking about colorism. Reactions ranged from admiration to curiosity, to rage (even from people I identified as friends). I believe having to face that initial anger over my decision to openly discuss colorism gave me determination and confidence going forward. What began as a few posts on another blog eventually grew into ColorismHealing.org.

I’m currently a Ph.D. student in English at Louisiana State University with interests in literacy, digital media, race, and gender. I have previously taught college composition and high school English managed online content for local news and TV stations and done freelance writing and editing for blogs, small businesses, and local magazines. I’ve also spent significant time as a youth mentor and coach for writers and performers. A number of my own poems, stories, and essays have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies, and in 2013, I won the “Free Angela” blogging contest for my post about Angela Davis. I’ve most recently started blogging for Teaching Tolerance, and I continue to speak and offer workshops about colorism.

What is Colorism?

Colorism is bias, prejudice, discrimination, or inequality based on the relative skin tone, hair texture, and facial features among persons of the same race. Some people affected by colorism may even develop a dislike for their own skin and features. One of the most common myths about colorism is that it’s just a problem for dark-skinned people. The reality is that colorism affects all of us, regardless of race or skin tone.

Anchor Podcast: Storytelling with Seth – My First Podcast & My First GDC

By Seth Singleton

I wanted to record my first podcast while attending my first GDC.

The most important thing to remember about trying something new is the first step.

The first step is not about firm footing or starting off on the right foot.

The first step is a beginning.

Whether you stumble or sprint, that first step is leading somewhere. It can feel dizzying, but that doesn’t mean you stop.

Mistakes were made.

Lessons were learned.

Memories were forged.

Want to see how I did?

Click the link below to listen and don’t forget to subscribe below to receive updates.

https://anchor.fm/seth-the-storyteller/embed/episodes/My-First-Podcast-e18fat/a-a2s9d4

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Through these doors lies the future of gaming…

Echoes from the “Debunking Myths around Black Representation in Gaming” panel at GDC – A Conversation with Planet Rise writer Fen Smith

By Seth Singleton

The Blacks in Gaming Panel at GDC raised important questions about diversity and representation.

I sit down with Fen Smith, a writer for the upcoming game Planet Rise from Blue Alchemy Studio.
Together we discuss hardware bias, Black Panther, and the ideal diverse character.

Topics Include:

  • Why are there so few diverse characters in gaming and other media?
  • How importing bias can directly impact hardware.
  • Should the decision to have three lead black characters in a game be an issue?
  • What it’s like working on a game with a black main character.

https://anchor.fm/seth-the-storyteller/embed/episodes/Echoes-from-the-Debunking-Myths-around-Black-Representation-in-Gaming-at-GDC—A-Conversation-with-Planet-Rise-writer-Fen-Smith-e1buh6

About Fen Smith:

Fen Smyth is a Writer, Game Designer, and Musician from the Bay Area. When not doing any of the aforementioned, he can often be found embarking on zany adventures or playing whimsical instrumental music deep in the forest. His musical work can be found at www.fenyang.me

You can read his blog posts for Planet Rise here.