Alice Grunstra

We sat down with Alice, former QA lead for Perfect World and tester for companies like Crystal Dynamics, Sega, and Bandai Namco.

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

Alice: Most of my experience is in quality assurance. I've also done some customer service and community management, and more specialized QA work such as compliance QA and localization (my favorite).

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

Alice: About ten years. Some of the more well-known titles I've worked on include Phantasy Star Universe, Yakuza 2, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Tomb Raider: Underworld, and Little Nightmares, as well as a number of MMOs including Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and RaiderZ. I've done QA testing for some indie games, too, such as Christine Love's Hate Plus and Wadjet Eye Games' The Blackwell Epiphany. I'm currently doing some freelance QA work for the upcoming game Elsinore by Golden Glitch Studios.

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

Alice: I sort of fell into it, to be honest. I've been playing games for as long as I can remember, but never really considered it as a career until I happened to spot a recruitment ad for QA at Sega and thought, "I could totally do that." Turns out I was right!

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?

Alice: I haven't really found a whole lot of opportunities for my queerness (such as it is) to manifest in QA. About the most I could ever do was look at how a character was presented and write up a bug about it if they were being portrayed as an offensive stereotype or something. I probably could have gotten away with a lot more in the work I did on localization of Chinese and Korean MMOs, though; I could and did rewrite entire quest lines if necessary, and now I'm kicking myself for not doing so in such a way that could have added more queer representation to the games.

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.

Alice: There are quite a few good ones I can think of, but I'd have to say Kaine from Nier is among my favorites. For one thing, she occupies a queer identity that is hardly ever represented; for another, she's a rude, crass, deeply flawed person, which is a really important thing for queer characters to be—they need to be portrayed as just as human as any other character.

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.

Alice: Not personally, since QA doesn't tend to have much say in what's included in a game and what isn't, but I think one of the biggest barriers is money. Major game companies tend to be very risk-averse these days, and don't dare include openly queer characters for fear of alienating their customers and losing profit. I think it's really important for that attitude to be overturned; we can't depend on indie devs for everything. AAA studios need to step up and say, without any equivocation, that this is how things are going to be from now on, and if their customers decide not to buy their games anymore because of the inclusion of queer characters, then those customers are welcome to leave and not let the door hit them in the ass on the way out.

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?

Alice: Games have the potential to portray a literally infinite vista of possibility, so to not include queerness in that spectrum of constructed realities is irresponsible and unimaginative at best. It's also important to present a wide range of possible identities; for someone who might be struggling with or questioning their own, seeing what they could be might result in an epiphany that they might never have had otherwise, or at least provide options that they might not have realized were available. You never know what will click with your audience, so don't be afraid to experiment!

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?

Alice: Education is a very important tool and should be employed whenever possible, but for a certain subset of people who refuse to listen and learn, I think a more useful tool would be social stigma. I think it's important for people who rail against diversity, who harass game devs, who whine about "SJWs ruining games", etc. etc. to learn that there are consequences for such actions, and for the people around them to learn the same thing. They need to be ostracized, isolated, and told in no uncertain terms that their kind is not welcome in this community. It's been said before, but it's the responsibility of non-queer folk to push toxicity aside and make room for more diverse voices, and sometimes the only way to do that is to speak to the perpetrators of that toxicity in the only language they understand.

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?

Alice: Keep being your strong, brave, beautiful selves!


You can find Alice on Twitter and Twitch.