MFA Thesis Proposal 2017
THE FEMINIST GAME DESIGN PROJECT
This is my one sentence manifesto.
AS A WRITER, I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.
The stories that I choose to tell will effect subtle - and sometimes not so subtle - changes in belief in those that experience them. As a writer, I must interrogate why I choose to share a story. What am I implicitly saying about women / white men / people of color...? Am I helping or hurting?
I have felt myself hurt by women's representation within media stories. I have had to fight against an internalization that I am only ever capable of being the damsel in distress / the nagging wife / the virgin / the whore. I want to see women who are strong / brave / flawed / capable / loyal!
It is my intent through my MFA Thesis Project to interrogate how I, as a video game writer, can contribute to the cultural milieu through the representation of women in my stories.
MEDIA RECEPTION THEORY
This is the theory that media shapes social reality when media consumers consciously and subconsciously believe that the stories they consume reflect real life. There are a number of sub-theories within this field of study:
Disconfirmation of stereotypes theory: if a member of an in-group can identify with a member of an outgroup, there is a chance that they will unlearn stereotypes that they previously held about that group.
"Good" representation of a marginalized group can combat stereotypes while "bad" representation can reinforce or create negative stereotypes.
Transportation theory: A person becomes so emphatically connected to a character that they are affected by the character's drama in real life. This is heightened by immersion and identification.
Terministic screen: A certain lens for looking at the world that can justify certain actions. Theorists believe that a "strong" experience with a story might cause a viewer to adopt a character's world perspective (their terministic screen).
What have they done for us lately?
For a long time, women's self-representation in video games have had a pretty narrow scope. Often, women are presented primarily as their relationship to the male protagonist (such as the girlfriend, or the trophy to be won). Their personality / likeness / hopes and dreams usually fall within a small number of popular lazy-writer tropes.
Anita Sarkeesian of FeministFrequency.com has done extensive research on female representation in video games. Some of the tropes she has illuminated:
Woman as the "Damsel in Distress" : an extremely common trope wherein the male hero has to rescue a helpless, victimized woman.
"Woman as Reward" : literally turning a woman into an prize object to be won by the player through their actions.
"Woman as Background Decoration" : objectifying and sexualizing the female background characters to add "grit" to game worlds.
Anyone who knows a woman can tell you that we are way more than that, and it sucks to see ourselves portrayed in such powerless roles again, and again, and again. Times are most certainly changing, as we can see across multiple media landscapes - from film, TV, and video games. I'm going to be a part of it.
WORKING THESIS QUESTION:
What do I need to know as I enter the video game industry?
How can I make a positive impact?
How can I help pave the way for others?
DESIGN A VIDEO GAME
My MFA Project Proposal
I will design and iterate on an original video game over the course of the next nine months. I will create a complete game design document (GDD) with a branching narrative script, character bible, level design, and gameplay mechanics detail. I will prototype segments of the game in Unity.
Feature a flawed female protagonist who demonstrates "inspiring" characteristics of resilience, bravery, and loyalty.
Be an entertainment game (not a "serious" or educational game).
Have as an intended audience ages highschool and up.
Atmospheric and immersive "walking sim"
Rich with environmental storytelling
Action adventure with platforming and shoot-outs
Super simplified agile development
Stage one: Prototyping of story structure and the "look and feel" of the game. Begin creating a Game Design Document (GDD), or just skip right to stage two!
Stage Two: Create a team with a programmer, designer, and artist. Collaborative ideation begins.
Stage Three: The team begins prototyping and building the game using Agile methodology.
Stage Four: Once the team has completed a vertical slice of the game, focus on fundraising and marketing to raise money for further production.
Stage Five: Complete the build of the game!
I will have a completed game design document for an original game of my own design, which will live in full interactivity on this website. The GDD will have its contents determined through careful research of existent professional GDDs. If it feels salient and timely to me later on in the process, I will also consider how the game itself might be marketed to garner production support.
Most importantly, the game will reflect the spirit of the purpose that I have undertaken: to offer representation which might cause players to confront their held stereotypes about women and lead them to a more inclusive understanding of women's self-presentation.