John Kane

Queerly Represent Me invited John Kane, director and developer of Gritfish, to chat with us.

QRM: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do in the games industry?

John: Well, I make games I guess? I constantly feel like I have one foot in the games industry and one out of it. I've made and released a couple of fairly successful games, but I'm not quitting my day job making websites any time soon.

QRM: How long have you been involved in the game industry, and what projects have you worked on? What are you working on currently?

John: I've been making digital games probably close to ten years start-to-end, but most of that's been as a part of the "web industry" which was surprisingly separate at the time. My first job was making promotional flash games for movies and TV shows.

Right now, I'm doing a lot! I'm helping out on other people's games, rather than directing my own. I'm writing a story module for Alcyone: The Last City (pictured), and doing the programming for It Will Be Hard (pictured), a digital comic with some light choice mechanics. I'm also working on porting the two games I've released to other platforms, and releasing tools that I made in the process like HTMLE, so that other people can use them. Oh – and my day job.

QRM: What inspired you to get started in the games industry?

John: Well, flash kind of died for a bit, and I fell completely away from games for a year at least. My job completely shifted from making promotional flash stuff to HTML sites. But, when Android phones started coming out, and supported flash (through Adobe AIR) it was like, "I can make games? FOR PHONES?" and I dived back into it again. It was a long time before I released anything big though!

QRM: In what ways do you feel your experiences as a queer person manifest in the games you work on, and influence the work you do?

John: To be totally honest, I don't really have a lot of experience to draw from. I've always been fairly straight passing. Most of my relationships have been straight. But my social circles are about 50% queer so – I can't really see me ever making a game that didn't strive for a similar make up. Games that are 100% straight characters just feel "off" to me.

I think, if I had a goal for what I want to do with games, it'd be to release something that me, as a 16 year old who was definitely questioning things but not really understanding, could play and understand that there's nothing wrong with him.

QRM: Do you have a favourite queer character—in games or media more generally? If so, what is it about them that makes them your favourite?
Question asked by @kamienw.

John: Iron Bull. He's a big goof who cares about people. Also, a pansexual flirt-machine who's NOT a rogue? Yes please.

QRM: Have you ever encountered roadblocks in trying to include queer characters in games? What do you think is preventing greater diversity within games?
Question asked by @dustinalex91.

John: I decide what I work on, so the only roadblocks I hit are worrying if I've written them well enough.

QRM: Why do you think it is important that queer audiences are able to see themselves represented in the games they play, and in the developers who make the games they see? What can we do to improve the industry for queer audiences and devs?

John: It's really hard for people to understand something when they've never seen it. I don't think I'd even heard the word bisexual before the age of twenty, let alone seen or met one.

Quite honestly – I think the best thing we can to improve things is provide metrics to show it's profitable to do so. There's a lot of people out there shouting pretty loudly to maintain the status quo. But you can't argue that including queer characters is an unacceptable risk if there's overwhelming evidence that queer representation done well can provide a huge boost in hype and sales.

QRM: Have you ever mentored somebody in your role in games, or been mentored? If so, what made these experiences worthwhile for you?
Question asked by @pepelanova.

John: No, sorry. I think it's something I'd like to do though.

QRM: In what ways can non-queer folk increase and support queer diversity present within games, as well as in the industry more broadly? How can we all work to support intersectional approaches to diversity, and why is this important?

John: Hire queer people and listen to them. That's the simplest way.

As far as why it's important, Teddy Diefenbach said it better than I probably ever could in his GDC talk.

"You know when you're at a Chinese restaurant, and you giggle at some bad English on the menu. You wonder 'Why didn't they just get one native English speaker to error check it?' That is what your game looks like if you don't seek the advice and perspectives outside your own."

QRM: Is there a message that you would like to share with the queer game players, game studies researchers, and other interested folks who comprise the Queerly Represent Me community?

John: Things are measurably better now than they were even 10 years ago. Things might look grim right now but there are SO MANY people working to make things better. You might feel alone sometimes but your tribe is out there waiting for you.

*

You can find more information about John at his website.
You can check out his games, Mallow Drops and Killing Time at Lightspeed at their websites too.
John is currently working on two projects that you can support on Kickstarter: It Will Be Hard and Alcyone.