Rose Morgan

Rose Morgan—a freelance illustrator, developer, writer, producer, and more—shared some insights with Queerly Represent Me.

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

Rose: I've been working in illustration since 2005, and I wanted to do concept art for games or become a surgeon in highschool—both career options fell through, the first because I had no idea game development was accessible at the time I graduated (2007—indie wasn't as loud then), the second because my chronic illnesses destroyed me for seven years and have been a huge inconvenience every year after.

I ended up at Melbourne Global Game Jam in 2015 by accident, and have attended each year since, making assets and concept art.

I am currently studying a Bachelor of Computer Science majoring in game development and minoring in biomedical science. I want to make educational science-based games, and some imaginary ones with science-based worldbuilding—I'm working on one with the latter idea in mind right now.

It's a good middle ground for my earlier aspirations. I still think I'll go to med school when I'm 40, though, if I can afford it. Who knows what life will bring?

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

Rose: I used to design games as a kid—like, age 8; I made backgrounds for levels in MS Paint, filled books upon books of creature and character designs, I wrote game manuals. But it wasn't until 17 years later I discovered I can actually make all that into something tangible.

So, 2014. I've been to three Global Game Jams, the results of two are in my itch.io (one is pending upload, I need to learn JavaScript better to fix it first), I'm attending TIGJam this weekend [at time of interview], and have been commissioned for a game recently that is hush hush but will hopefully achieve funding soon.

I'm also working on Hyaline, a symbiotic survival game set on an alien planet, based on a worldbuilding effort I started around a decade ago.

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

Rose: The Oddworld games, definitely; I've been drawing morbid things for as long as I could hold a pencil, and playing them as a child was reassuring to me.

Heart of Darkness was my other favourite game growing up that further convinced me my art had a home somewhere. Which surprised me; adults were always disturbed by it.

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?

Rose: It's a difficult thing to measure since I don't really think about it a lot? I know I'm queer and that's the extent of it. Naturally it will influence everything I say and do, but quantifying it is something I struggle with. I don't know what it's like to not be queer, so I have no frame of reference.

With that said, the main language of Hyaline has no gendered pronouns or set words that describe gender, just words for genital configurations etc. That is 100% driven by being non binary.

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.

Rose: I can't think of any off the top of my head. Not many queer characters cater to me—a non-binary grey ace aromantic person.

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.

Rose: No; I include genderless/androgynous characters mostly, so they're always read as either male or female as a result, which is frustrating. Then there's the fact that androgyny is read differently by different people.

So the queer characters I design and implement are ultimately invisible.

I don't touch on sexuality or relationships due to my brand of queerness. So that adds another complicated layer.

Greater diversity is probably hindered by people's fear of change, and a fear that marginalized folk being treated like human beings will somehow remove the rights already privileged people have. They don't want to think or work too hard, they want life to be a breeze so they don't have to change or evolve. Which is wild to me.

A kinder world means greater teamwork; more people willing to participate in your projects or product development; a larger pool of people to contribute to the hellscape that is capitalism. I see no downsides, apart from the capitalism thing.

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?

Rose: Feeling alone and broken and like the world isn't made for you is detrimental in so many ways. It stunts those afflicted. It's hurtful. A lack of representation is stripping humanity from a huge number of real human beings. They become easier for privileged folk to toss aside as a result.

Representation enriches everything. Why wouldn't you want to learn about the perspectives of people not like you? I find that hard to comprehend.

As for improving the industry, hire more queer people. Queer PoC. Queer disabled people. Transgender people, including enbies. I am so sick of hearing about women in games—non binary people and trans men struggle too and are erased constantly.

On that note, stop labelling diversity initiatives as Women In Games. I'm not the asterisk at the end. I'm not going to participate when I'm misgendered by default. Gender diverse initiatives are far less alienating and have a more nuanced approach.

Hire a huge breadth of queer folk and listen to us and make sure the people you hire are relevant to the conten—e.g, for a narrative about a queer PoC, don't hire a queer white person. Intersectionality matters and nuance is everything. Don't assume that as a queer person you're an expert on other queer people's stories, either.

It's a learning process for all of us, and we will mess it up—embrace that wholeheartedly. Apologize genuinely. Learn from mistakes made. Move forward. And most of all understand you can't please everyone, marginalized groups contain individual people with diverse opinions. We just want people to try.

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.

Rose: Not really? I'm kind of nomadic. Which isn't to say I've learned from no one or taught no one, it's just been a huge number of people over short periods of time each. Which I prefer anyway; learning from many has widened my knowledge in ways I didn't even think possible.

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?

Rose: I touched on this a lot in an earlier question, I think. But I'd like to add: boost the voices of the marginalized. Not just the pain and anger, though. Boost our work. And pay us, for goodness sake. Merely existing as a marginalized person should qualify as labour, because it is. It's exhausting.

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?

Rose: Remember that those who try to silence and erase us marginalized folk are afraid of what we're capable of. Our very existence angers them, and you know what that makes us? Powerful.

And it takes a lot more than that to make progress. The world is a dark place. But the next time someone tries to bring you down for merely existing as a marginalized person, remember it's because you are a tenacious force of nature and those people could not achieve what you have under your circumstances.

Which is sometimes just survival. I see and love you.

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You can find Rose at machinesbleedtoo, and support their work via Patreon.
Their work is available on itch.io, and you can find more information about Hyaline on Twitter.

QueerlyRepresent.Me was founded by Alayna Cole (@AlaynaMCole)
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Pico was made by Gilbert Pellegrom