Friday, April 22, 2011

Eight more questions with auntie pixelante (or, why she won't make a game about 'a boy who hates his dad and wants to bone a princess')

In an interview I posted earlier this week, Anna Anthropy (aka auntie pixelante) kindly answered a few questions about her latest creation, the fabulously addictive Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars.

Well, consider today's follow-up to be a "bonus round" of sorts--in which the affable Anthropy answers questions related to two subjects that are near and dear to my heart: LGBT content in games and... Bubble Bobble.

The Gay Gamer: Pretty much every one of your games includes an LGBT character or storyline of some sort. Is that simply because you're gay, or are there other reasons you tend to include LGBT characters/storylines in your games?

Anna Anthropy: Well, who would I make games about if not myself? I'm a perverted queer transwoman--I'm not going to make a game about a boy who hates his dad and wants to bone a princess. That's why it's so important to me to make my voice heard, though: There are so few games by and about queer women.

Screenshot of Mighty Jill Off

GG: Why do you think so few of your colleagues in the industry do the same (include LGBT characters/storylines in their games)? Is it because most of them aren't LGB or T? Or maybe it's because even in this day and age there still isn't a much of a market for games that feature LGBT characters and/or storylines?

AA: Video game publishers cater to a very specific, exclusive culture: Straight manchildren. Because they're the ones immersed in the culture of video games, the ones who all the video games are designed for, they're the ones who become excited about making games and become the next generation of game developers. then they make games with their values, intended for an audience that is themselves. It's a vicious cycle. People to whom video game culture is hostile and dismissive do not tend to be the people who make space in their lives for making video games. That's something I'm trying to change: To get people like me excited about creating games outside the established games culture.

Screenshot of REDDER

GG: What is the key, in your opinion, to making LGBT characters and storylines more palatable to publishers, developers and even so-called mainstream gamers?

AA: Don't ask me how to make queers more appealing to publishers. I had to argue with Adult Swim for the inclusion of the word "lesbian" in the title of [Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars].

GG: Part of me wonders if the key, or at least one of the keys, to this may be to treat LGBT characters/storylines like you seem to, which is to adopt an attitude along the lines of, "Don't like it? Too bad!" Would you agree with that?

AA: Video games are never going to have anything to say to anyone until they become a place where sex and identity can be discussed in a healthy way, the same as any other form. I don't see any reason to be apologetic or coy; mainstream developers certainly don't apologize for their dull male power fantasies.

GG: Moving away from the whole "gay thing," you obviously have a fondness for the games of yesteryear. All of your games have a retro feel, look and sound to them, although most feature some more modern trappings too. What is it about old games that appeals to you so much?

AA: Digital games have come a long way in the past thirty years toward looking like a vague simulacrum of photoreality, but they haven't come very far at all in terms of interesting and enlightening rules and interactions and ways of teaching the player and staging player dynamics. Game designers have by and large imitated trends rather than learned lessons, and so older games still have many lessons to teach us.

Screenshot of Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars

GG: Speaking of old games, what are your absolute favorite old games (arcade or otherwise)--and why do you consider them to be your favorites?

AA: Eugene Jarvis' Blaster is probably the perfect video game. Playing it, sometimes, I feel like there's no reason to bother making more of them. But by the time I'm done playing I'm inspired to make a thousand more. If you look really close at all the flashing colors in Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars you can see how much Blaster inspired me.

GG: Do any current games appeal to you? If so, which ones and why do you find them appealing?

AA: We're in a golden age for games outside of the mainstream. More people than ever who are outside the games industry--who aren't programmers and professional developers--are able to make games with tools like Game Maker and distribute them on the Internet. That's much more exciting than anything big publishers are pushing, most of which don't pass my loose rule that I should be able to play through a game in less than an hour.

Fukio Mitsuji's Bubble Bobble

GG: You often publish "level design lessons" on your site. Which game do you consider to be the best ever in terms of design, and why do you think that?

AA: I've always been impressed by how clearly Bubble Bobble communicates what is really a pretty weird set of rules. Fukio Mitsuji, Baron von Blubba rest his soul, was one of the early geniuses of visual metaphor in games--everything from the enemies turning red "in anger" when they speed up to the "popcorn" level that demonstrates how fire works in Bubble Bobble's world through the use of a giant frying pan. More recently, Star Guard by sparky--who lives two blocks away from me, by the way--is a strong example of good design.

See also: 'Ten questions with auntie pixelante' and 'A somewhat gay review of Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars'


Viewtiful_Justin said...

I could read a thousand more questions with her. She's so interesting! I find her discussions about level design on her blog to be incredibly interesting. They've changed the way I think about games, judge games, and enjoy games.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Me, too, Justin!

After reading her responses to my first set of questions, I asked her if I could interview her every time I write about games. She's that good/smart/witty :)

I'll definitely interview her again sometime, if she's up for it. Maybe after she releases her next game (whenever that is)? Or, maybe I'll have to pick her brain about some of her other games at some point...

StickHead said...

Anyone who loves Bubble Bobble is alright by me!

I've never played Blaster, but that YouTube vid looks awesome. I love the different ways developers used limited hardware to create the impression of 3D. Does it emulate well?

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, StickHead!

Sadly, I've never played Blaster. I'll try it soon (via emulation), though, thanks to Anna's recommendation.

Like you said, the video certainly makes it look awesome!