This blog is not going to just talking about games and gaming culture, I am going to be making stuff too! And I have started a project! It is only in its infancy at the moment but it is a top down shooter, something nice and simple to start me off. However, a game designer is not really a designer if you just do the same thing as someone else (or does a copy and paste job like Call of Duty has been doing for a while). So my top down shooter will have a little unique element. Won’t say to much at the moment as I don’t want someone to come and steal my concept, but watch this space!
If you read this article on Mitch’s Gay Gamer archives you’ll find me briefly taking about Saints’ Row 2. I really enjoy the game, and personally think it is the best open world crime-a-thon I have ever played (GTA 4 bored me and I didn’t play GTA 5 for these reasons). It does have a few issues of course. It can be more than a little misogynistic , uses racial stereotypes and basically glorifies crime.
However, for all that these problems exist, they are balanced out by not being the major focus of the game. There is so much to do in Stilwater that the issues rarely crop up. There are never brought to the front, unlike GTA 5’s torture scene, so you could be forgiven for not noticing them as something else far better is going on.
Anyway, back to the main reason I came to right this post. Saints Row 2 offers an insane level of customisation. Far more than its sequels. Not only is your character and vehicles customisable, but your gang, Tag (spray-painting on walls)and Cribs can all be modified to some degree. With the frankly brilliant character creation system, which you can use at any point during the game for $500 in game money, comes a wealth of ways to experiment. Saints Row 2 is the only game I can name, that allows female characters to have beards, males to have breasts and actually create a Transgender character. You see, the first section asks you to pick your character’s sex, which limits you to, nothing. Your characters sex does not limit any of the options, the only thing it controls is whether your character has eyelashes (slightly annoys me because I had massive eyelashes even before identifying as a woman). TY=he next page offers you the body shape controls, which is masculine at one end, with broad shoulders and crotch bulge, and feminine at the other, with wide hips and breasts. Everything else is likewise open, so you can make muscle-bound bodies, fat bodies, strong jaws, soft faces, shaved heads, long flowing hair, beards or clean shaven. Your sex don’t matter, you could be totally androgynous. Even picking a voice is totally free an you can choose how your character acts from a wide variety of movement styles, taints and compliments, some being very camp and feminine, others more brutal and macho.
The Binary Breaking doesn’t just end within the character creation however. Once you are in the game you get access to stores with a wide variety of cloths. Again, being male doesn’t prevent you from wearing a female clothes, and vice versa. You can dress your character how you wish, and the brilliant thing is that it has no bearing on how your character is perceived. Unlike the Fable serious, where dressing in the opposite sex’s clothes will result in you being considered funny, in Saints Row 2 no one bats an eye lid. While it was likely added for humour, it has actually made it probably one of the best inclusive games as far as Gender Binary Breaking goes.
I would really suggest buying this game, the experimenting with how you want to present yourself isn’t really available to such a degree anywhere else digitally. I know that it was probably where I first began to experiment with my gender, and because it is entirely digital, you don’t have to worry about people seeing you and becoming nasty. Once you gain confidence, you can take it beyond the game, but it stills acts as a good starting point. The story is also really good, better than its sequels, so while you are there you can also enjoy the rest this brilliant game has to offer.
Sorry, ages late, but my Dissertation was due. Brings me to my first point actually. You see, as a student of Computer Games Design, it has been drilled into me that the next great avenue for games are Serious Games. Serious Games are games which have a purpose beyond being fun, they could educate you, influence you or even help physiotherapy. Its actually a really cool field, partially due to the challenge and also because you get a real feeling you are helping people.
So, in my Honours year, the year I began my Transition, I decided I would try to build a game to help the Trans Community. It was a cool idea, and instantly a hit with my chosen supervisor and fellow peers. Mitch (god people are gonna think I fancy him at this rate) embarked on a similar exercise, but on the LGBT community as a whole. It looked like it was gonna be groovy. I drew up a brief idea, and began to write my proposal. Other staff members heard about my project and were very interested. I even got in contact with a local Trans Youth group to help me design the game. The man in charge was very interested and really looked forward to me meeting them to begin drawing up ideas.
There was just one hurdle. The Ethics Committee (insert scary thunder here). I had to be careful, as they could cancel my project if they felt it was unethical. I made sure to inform them the Trans Youth Group was ready willing and able to be a part of the project, and I even tried to figure out how to get my criminal record checked for working with under eighteens. The difficulty was the University only gave guidance for Government Organisations, and the Trans Youth Group was a Charity. They didn’t know, and as far as they were concerned it was a non-issue. So I asked the Ethics Committee for help.
They originally did not respond, till I gave them a second Email. Here was the response;
“I am afraid that the committee cannot approve your Ethics application as it stands. The subject you are addressing is considered a sensitive subject and the ethical issues are complex, and unlikely to be resolved in the timescale required for an undergraduate project.”
So I was told no. After creating an entire proposal, almost nine weeks of work as I started early because I felt so keen to do it, I was told no. I tried to get Trans issues into a game somehow, a long too and fro got me nowhere. Trans issues was a blanket no go zone. The line of it being “too sensitive” carried on throughout. Then, Mitch had his project halted too. We both had to radically shift our projects, mine became recycling. I was obviously livid, and believed that this may well have been discrimination, especially due to the difficulty of getting information. I read the guidelines, got in contact with Groups to help Trans People, I was ready to fight to bring back my project. then I learned something. Many projects were cancelled. My initial though was the Ethics Committee was covering their skin, however I eventually dropped this to focus on my work.
So my school work continued, with me feeling really rather upset at not being able to do what I really wanted too. Then the module Series Games Design came up and I got excited. I could try again! I had to work with a team however, and I was unlikely to persuade them. However my concept could still be pitched, and the Lecturer could pick which they though was best out of all the teams ideas. So I created a brief, which outlined the basic idea of a game where you have to do battle discussions and mini games to learn about the issues that face Transgender people. My lecturer liked it.
The Clients did not.
According to the clients who also judged our ideas, Trans issues was not a broad enough topic to build a game around. Apparently I would be better suited to just do bullying in general. Sweep the Trans stuff away. Who would play it aside from Trans People? People, that’s who! The game was specifically designed to let the player see it from a Trans view point and a Cis view point, and so people could learn what they perhaps do in their own lives that may be anti-Trans. It was designed to be used by both Trans People, and Cis People.
Guess this is just something I’ll have to get used to. Either my ideas are to icky, or they just won’t be attractive to your typical Male Heterosexual Cis Gamer.