- Role: CEO/VP of Content and Community
- Company: MidBoss/Jump
- Location: San Francisco
We were lucky to chat to Cade Peterson of MidBoss and Jump!
QRM: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do in the games industry?
Cade: For MidBoss, I took over to stabilize the company after scandal rocked it in early 2018. Since then, I have begun the process to turn the already renowned indie company that makes games focusing on characters and stories of LGBTQ+ and other minorities into a global platform for queer content around the world.
For Jump, I am in charge of finding and selecting the finest award-winning and highly rated indie games to add to the highly curated platform. We also seek to highlight unique and special games that include characters and stories that do not shy away from potentially provocative topics.
QRM: How long have you been involved in the game industry, and what projects have you worked on? What are you working on currently?
Cade: I've been in the industry for a decade, having first created Moderation Services for PlayStation (Americas), then moved into Community Management, PSN-wide.
After leaving PlayStation, I moved abroad to get a very internationally-flavored MBA, having completed my core studies in Shanghai, and did my electives in São Paulo, London, and Dubai, before returning to San Francisco.
As a personal side, I have been an ardent supporter of indie game development for about 9 years, and have continually worked hard to support them, mostly staying involved with IndieCade. Before joining Jump, I was a business mentor at Core Labs, an indie game incubator in the Bay Area, sharing my expertise of digital marketing and community management with 3 classes of development teams, many of which have gone onto great financial success with their games.
QRM: What inspired you to get started in the games industry?
Cade: Roberta Williams of Sierra was my inspiration to make my first game with my best friend when I was 7. The wonderful worlds she created enchanted me, and gave me the spark of an idea that would eventually blend my creative streak with my very logical mind.
She's one of my heroes and I can only dream to get a chance to meet her one day to thank her.
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?
Cade: During my 5 years at PlayStation, I worked tirelessly to gain some traction for official corporate support of LGBTQ+ gamers, and did my best to make sure their interests were taken into consideration.
When I first created Moderation Services, I immediately began to tackle the problems of sexual harassment and hate speech in online game play. I feel those are two of the most destructive and common forms of offensive behavior, and through tireless efforts, got PSN's general behavior metrics to improve over time. It was a slow journey, but consistent and fair moderation proved to be key to teaching a massive community what is acceptable behavior, with some I like to believe taking it to heart in 'real life' offline.
When I was on the PlayStation Home team, I was out to my community of players, and made sure that any of the minority groups that popped up within the community had my ear to ensure that all of the operations of the platform could have their interests brought to the table internally. On top of that, I made sure ways to celebrate things like Pride with rainbow virtual goods and other parties were not only encouraged, but helped ensure the citizens of Home felt they had a safe space to do so. It was small, but hopefully very meaningful to them.
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.
Cade: Growing up in the 80s, there weren't any queer game characters that I knew of, but I can speak about those in other media.
Coming of age (and coming out as well) in the mid-90s, TV shows began to have more and more main characters that were queer. This was revolutionary for me and my friends. We had a watching party when Ellen came out on her show. Will & Grace slayed us to tears, but warmed our hearts with simply their representation of those we could identify with. Then the American version of Queer as Folk came out and it seemed that every week, on every television around the country hosted watching parties to laugh and cry to each new episode. It was amazing.
To specifically answer the question, I don't think I had a favorite character from among them—I just felt like my existence was validated and even celebrated in an authentic way, and that felt unbelievable.
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?
Cade: The first time I played a game where I could have a character that was queer was a total surprise—Skyrim. Long story short, I accidentally proposed to this rogue-looking mercenary in a dark bar (I swear this is not a joke about some botched pick-up line from real life), and after he ran off to wait for me at the alter, I sat there stupefied. Did that just happen? I was clicking through the dialogue tree too fast, and BAM! I was apparently not only getting married to a guy, I realized this I was the first time gay marriage felt like something I might want. Something warm and fuzzy cracked and sizzled through in my brain, and I have Bethesda to thank for it.
It's these sort of experiences that make me believe that without a doubt, representation in games, even simpler ones where characters can court, love, and even marry other characters, regardless of gender, are vitally important, and they should be in every game that it makes sense to.
As queer devs, they should just be a default option, unless specific narrative makes it not work, but otherwise, all options should be on the table and considered normal. For straight developers out there, we should always warmly encourage them to do the same, and when it comes to characters in their narratives, we should guide them to resources on how to make full, rich characters that we can embrace and don't accidentally cause harm or offense in.
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.
Cade: I didn't have someone I worked for mentor me, but someone I met and got to know did help me realized that my own actions could and should help bring about change was Gordon Bellamy. He's a very smart man I met, who made me realize that I, in my own way, could help gaymers (and all queer people) feel recognized and represented if we just take action and put ourselves out there—and also realize that we, individually, 'are enough.' This concept of self-acceptance combined with a strong will to stand out and be counted was profound, and I will never forget it.
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?
Cade: I believe that sharing our experiences is vital, but for allies in the industry, we need to build resources for them to help create more positive representations while also being available as resources to them ourselves.
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?
Cade: Be yourself. You are enough.