David Hollingworth

Queerly Represent Me got to have a chat with David Hollingworth, editor of Hyper, PC PowerPlay and Techlife!

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

David: My day job is writing about, reviewing, and generally reporting on video games. I look after a couple of websites, and produce eight print editions of various magazines each year. Outside of that, I'm your classic struggling novelist, and I've been active in the local roleplaying convention scene, writing everything from large 40 player political simulations to more personal five-players games.

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

David: Look at it this way - I reviewed Half Life when it first came out. I've worked on a lot of PC and gaming mags and websites. I've dabbled in doing narrative work for video games, but it's a radically different kettle of fish from my normal games writing. My current RPG projects include a game about masculine identity during the Trojan Wars with a co-writer, and writing the final part of my Star Trek trilogy of freeforms for a Canberra roleplaying convention.

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

David: Professionally-speaking, writing about something I enjoyed seemed like a good idea at the time! As to the roleplaying side, I'd been going to cons for years and decided I'd like to give something back, and people seemed to like what I had to offer. And it really is amazing, to shape an experience and then share that with people in a face-to-face environment. You kind of gift a piece of you to this room full of strangers and close friends, and they take it, and add their own experience to it, and you get back something wonderfully different.

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?

David: I've got a wide range of viewpoints I can draw on, which really helps me write diverse characters for my games. I've grown up with apparent straight white male privilege all my life, so I know what that level of assumed power feels like; I've been out as bisexual for 25 years, so I know what it's like to be an outsider both in the mainstream, and to a degree in the queer scene, from when it was a struggle for bi people to be seen as validly queer. And more recently, I've been identifying as gender queer...

A lot of this came together when I wrote my last big convention game. I had a basic idea, but the real heart of the game came about while I was with friends after a day at a convention, and news of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting broke. It was... heartbreaking, and made me question how we could get past such hate. And that became the throughline for a freeform about putting society back together in the aftermath of a hateful war. In the game, there were no real villains - everyone felt they were the wronged party, and could justify even the bitterest actions. And the challenge was to create a game where the players could see that, and move past it, and create a new peace.

And there were lasers and cool aliens :)

It's all make believe, right? But I watched that room full of people put aside these made up differences and find reconciliation... and it gave me hope. And gave the players hope, too.

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.

David: This will surprise no one who knows me...

Hannibal Lecter, in the Bryan Fuller TV series.

If we assume all relationships have their rough patches, and that we can all be monstrous every now and then, then Hannibal is that turned up to 11. The fact that I think the blood-filled series finale is one of the most heart-burstingly beautiful things I've ever seen probably says some interesting things about me...

Also Garak from DS9. Huh - it's all about the suits, apparently, and generally giving no fucks for conventional society.

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.

David: Given the arena in which I write, not really. The roleplaying scene is generally pretty queer friendly, and the cons I write for especially so. Diversity and representation are actually key planks of the community.

But generally speaking? It just seems to be ignorance and fear, which is a dangerously potent combination. Take the response to the romance options in the latest Assassin's Creed game for instance - some of the responses ("But the ancient greeks were Christians they can't be gay!) were just ludicrous.

And while that is a minority voice, it's nonetheless a loud one, and it's all too easy for publisher to focus on that. Thankfully, we seem to be heading in the right direction, however. But there's still work to be done.

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?

David: Media shapes who we are, and who we can be. Anyone who grew up wanting to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo should understand the power of that. So seeing a queer character with that kind of power and agency is massively important - it means we can be part of the creative life of society, part of its myths and legends. And it doesn't have to be hard to do, either. I love the new Battletech game for so many reasons, but I think the thing I truly love is the option for they/them pronouns, and the way you can choose to look however you want regardless. That matters.

Basically, if your game has more than a few characters, some of them must be queer. It doesn't need to be a plot point, or anything momentous - just show queer characters existing, being normal, being accepted, and without the world ending.

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.

David: I've helped a lot of work experience kids and interns over the years, and while most of them try their hand at writing and journalism, when someone decides YES, this is what I want to do, and they work at it... It's really rewarding. I've always told people that in such a crowded industry the one thing they have that is unique is their voice and experience - helping to develop that is fantastic.

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?

David: For one, I think people really need to realise that asking for more queer representation doesn't mean we want to take away the kind of games that many people take for granted.

We just want more cake, is all, with lots of different flavours. And how can more cake be bad? There'll always be cake you like, but cake that other people like is important too.

And we need to realise that once we start holding the door open, we need to keep it open (wow, how many metaphors can I use? LOTS!).

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?

David: Be as brave as you can. Be yourself, and know that being yourself, and being seen, will mean so much to so many people. Every bit of work you do in archiving, creating, writing, supporting, or... whatever. Everything you do for queer representation means something to someone. It enriches their lives, and shows them what they can be.

And while this may sound hyperbolic, your queer work will save queer lives. Keep it up. It is good work.


You can find David on Twitter.
You can also see some of their writing/editing work on their blog or at PC PowerPlay.