- Role: Game Designer/Writer
- Company: Self-employed
- Location: Serbia
QRM sat down with Alexis, a currently self-employed game designer and writer!
QRM: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do in the games industry?
Alexis: I held a spot at a large (some 300 heads at the time) HOPA games developer for a short period of time as a game designer/writer, later moved to a small marketing agency where I did both game design and QA.
QRM: How long have you been involved in the game industry, and what projects have you worked on? What are you working on currently?
Alexis: I worked the two previously mentioned jobs for a total of about 2 years. I wrote dialogue and designed levels/puzzles on two HOPA games, mostly tying together various gameplay elements and scenes which were already given to me. I was not selected to stay with the company and moved on.
My work at the marketing agency is less visible and would probably not be considered "games", as all these games were meant for promotion purposes and the gameplay never went beyond the level of a "minigame" and never included story. Its also corporate stuff so I can't really share any of it anyway, but I also created a couple side-projects within that time that constitue most of my videogame related design work.
As for right now, I've stepped away from working on videogames some two years ago. Instead I am focusing on tiny personal videogame projects. I have also gotten much more into boardgaming/TTRPGs in my free time. Currently I am writing a TTRPG system with the goal to be a Mecha combat system with a low barrier of entry mechanics-wise. Also been doing a lot of RP streams with fellow queer and women as of late.
QRM: What inspired you to get started in the games industry?
Alexis: I played video games since I was 6 and it's been one of my main hobbies throughout most of my life, influencing what things I was interested in, what kinds of music I listened to etc. I wanted to make the things that I loved, and just like many other starry eyed naive young people I tried getting my foot in with the big industry, working minimum wage and overtime.
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?
Alexis: While it might have influenced my writing, I doubt it has influenced my professional work in any substantial amount. I was in the "closet" the whole time I worked professionally and there were very strict demands about what content was expected to be in the games I was working on. The personal projects I work on in my free time are absolutely queer inspired. My first interactive fiction work that I wrote was wlw. The first "indie" video game I worked on had a transgender lead character and I wanted to incorporate the act of taking hormones into the game mechanics.
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.
Alexis: This question gave me quite a headache tbh. There is an absurd lack of openly queer characters that aren't ambiguous. A lot of my friends and I tend to head-canon ambiguous characters into queer roles and when you think about it there's very few that are actually openly stated as such.
I was going to say the lead from Undertale because I appreciated an androgynous lead with the pronoun "they". But when I thought about it for a bit, I don't remember the game actually stating anything specific about them (probably for the best). That game does include a very cute romantic wlw couple and a few other queer characters. Talking about romantic couples, the couple from Gone Home was also a story that stuck with me for the longest time.
Another thing that comes to my mind is games where you can build/play out your own characters, but that doesn't really count does it?
There's also the fact that I consider myself NB, and I think it shows since in my past I have latched onto characters which are less human or just outright machines: The anti gravity cars from Wipeout, the protagonist of Journey, Aegis from Persona 3, the mechs from Armored Core etc.
But at this point I feel like I am avoiding the question. Outside of video games, Pearl from Stevens Universe is one of my faves and eerily reminds me of myself.
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.
Alexis: Professionally, absolutely. The social environment will push back against any feminist content let alone anything queer. When it comes to private projects, the only time I can think of is when I am considering how to make queer content relatable and respectful without it feeling shoved into the players face.
If anything is a roadblock, its the social influence. I sometimes catch myself typecasting stereotypical hetero-normative character archetypes into my stories which reminds me just how all encompassing the influence of ones social environment can be.
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?
Alexis: Visibility matters. I only realised I am queer because of becoming friends with other queer people and learning more about the queer experience. Until then my exposure to queer related content was minimal and sadly limited to mostly pornographic content. In media crossdressing and gayness is always a joke, trans people are always hookers and lesbians only exist in porno movies. If I had had seen positive media with queer characters earlier in my life I would have had a much less awkward teenage period possibly. I could have transitioned/changed my body to something more comfortable in a much earlier stage of my life. I could have sought out queer accepting friends much earlier and lead a happier life. So many ifs and whats that I was denied for over two decades. As for how to change it, we have to start with society and the attitude towards queer people. At every workplace I worked at including both video game related positions, I've heard a queer related "joke" at least once a week, and being in the closet I had to remain silent about it out of fear of being ridiculed or worse. While it is hard, we have to speak up and make our work environments more pleasant to work at. Companies need to hire more female and more queer people and more importantly make them welcome, especially if they want to reach more people with their products. I don't think it makes sense that out of the whole 16 people game-design team I worked with, all 16 were male, despite their products' main demographic being older women.
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?
Alexis: Broadly speaking: one should approach all information critically, especially socially accepted "truths" and norms, and other common misconceptions. Secondly they should welcome queer people with open minds and open ears. Disregard established jokes about queer people and think of them as other human beings first, your coworkers second and then much later as queer. Queer folk just wanna exist alongside with you.
Once Queer people stop being murdered and dehumanized on a daily basis we can talk about the finer details.
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?
Alexis: If you work in video games or any other media, I love you! Please continue! And please know that there is a huge amount of people hungry for queer related content and if you can put out even just one game, one song, one picture, one article out there you never know if it'll inspire a child or an adult in some way and improve their life. Keep making the things you love. And self care, love yourself and take care of yourself please. You deserve it.
You can find Alexis on Twitter.