- Role: VFX Artist
- Company: Velan Studios
- Location: New York State
Queerly Represent Me had a chat with Josephine Doggett, of Velan Studios.
QRM: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do in the games industry?
Josie: I'm a nonbinary lady working as a VFX artist. I mostly make VFX (smoke, fire, magic, explosions) but I also work with engineers to build out tools and try to help out where I can!
QRM: How long have you been involved in the game industry, and what projects have you worked on? What are you working on currently?
Josie: Current project(s) all TOP SECRET but I've been around for AGES. Recently wrapped up a stint working on Just Cause 3 and 4, before then I was working on Dance Central and Fantasia for Harmonix, the ill-fated Kingdoms of Amalur at 38, Titan Quest, Enter the Matrix, Anachronox... I go way back.
QRM: What inspired you to get started in the games industry?
Josie: I was at art school for 3D modeling/animation and most of my close friends in that track were all game nerds. We played together constantly ( this was in the Quake/Half-Life 1 era), so when folks started getting serious abt game development careers, it felt like a natural path to take! Buddy who got into ION Storm helped me score an internship there and that was that.
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?
Josie: I think it's really helped me empathize with marginalized folks? There's so many aspects of art and design that get... tunnel vision, I suppose, when your dev studio is homogeneous. A lot of times, ideas won't INTENTIONALLY alienate marginalized folks, but if the issues have never been raised, they're hard to consider! I can't bring a lot of queer energy to my specific discipline ( tho all my VFX are gay as hell, I promise) but I've really tried to take advantage of my position as a queer trans lady within the dev team and raise my voice and my concerns to make the games I work on more accessible and accommodating to everyone.
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.
Josie: Haha so he's a controversial choice, but Bridget from the Guilty Gear series was important to me early in my transition. More cute femme dudes in games plz! But if I had to pick one, Birdo will always be my videogame trans icon. She's adorable, confidently femme, and unashamedly a little grotesque! I stan.
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.
Josie: Oh GOD yes. Scout ( the protagonist of Fantasia: Music Evolved) is a rad tomboy chick who we internally decided was canon trans, but everyone CLEARLY understood that no overt in-game reference to her trans-ness would ever be made, because Disney would 'never go with it'. Lots of stuff like that. 'Why can't he have a boyfriend? Why do goblins care about our concepts of heteronormativity?' That myopic lens I mentioned is very strong in gamer/gamedev communities because white/male/cis/het folks have been overwhelmingly catered to for so long, it's a tough status quo to buck. But as time goes on and more diverse folks get a seat at the table, it's been getting steadily better. Also, the WILD success of queer characters (Tracer! ), queer scenarios (romance EVERYONE!) and high profile queer gamers (SonicFox! EnchantressOfNumbers! ) has been steadily shifting the Overton window. We have a LONG way to go, but I'm cautiously optimistic.
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?
Josie: It's hard to explain feeling like you're the only queer kid on the team. That outside-looking-in feeling is pernicious and easy to accept, but it's SUCH a breath of fresh air to feel like you belong. An important gaming-while-trans thing that happens is that Professor Oak asks if you're a boy or a girl ONE TIME and that's it! No one misgenders you. Having games respect who you are and really, honestly, allow you to be who you are and see other characters share your experiences and perspective... It's an intoxicating validation. And as a queer dev, I can push to PROVIDE that validation. And that's an incredible power. To tell folks 'you're not alone. You're not broken.'
As for improving the industry, we KNOW how to do it; the status quo just has an inertia. Studios are starting to ban players for racist speech in chat... But why was that EVER tolerated, let alone allowed to become part for the course for online interaction. As I mentioned before, things are shifting, and they'll keep shifting. We just gotta push. I'm very fortunate in that I can afford to be out and loud and proud, so I'm trying to leverage that privilege to push as hard as I can
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.
Josie: It's not an opportunity I've had! Most teams I've been on have only had one VFX artist, and when they've hired another it's been a dude who was positioned above me. But I'd adore the opportunity to help someone get ahead in this industry. It can be really rough! Hopefully in the future I'll get that chance.
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?
Josie: We collectively need to see each other more. Complexly. If someone's practices or actions are different from our own, we should try to see where they're coming from, and allow for ideas beyond our own. And the paradox-of-tolerance flip side to that is that we are ALL obligated to shut down bigotry of all stripes, not just the bigotry that affects us. Fight racism and sexism and homophobia and classism EVERYWHERE. Make bigots uncomfortable and unwelcome, and we will strengthen and nurture a powerful and positive community. We're all in this together, so we need to fight to protect each other. ESPECIALLY those from different social/gender/cultural communities than our own.
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?
Josie: I've been soap-boxing a lot, so I feel like I've said my piece. Don't be a jerk, don't tolerate jerks, and know that you're not alone.