Kaelan Shepley

Queerly Represent Me spoke with Kaelan, the co-founder of Lonely Beetle Games, who works as a dev, artist, and musician.

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

Kaelan: I'm a full time 2D animator in television, but I work on my game after work and on weekends.

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

Kaelan: I started programming in December 2016. I'm still working on my first game right now, a murder mystery spooky adventure game, which you can find updates for at @Lonely_Beetle on twitter!

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

Kaelan: I have friends in animation who started making games in their spare time. It was really fun seeing their work! Over time I wanted to learn how to program myself. I've always loved games and I think I have some unique ideas, experiences and skills to bring to the table!

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?

Kaelan: I think growing up feeling like I was alone in my experience made it more important for me to tell stories that involve queer people. The protagonist in my game is non-binary like me and the characters in my game will be working through things I've worked through or have seen my friends go through.

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.

Kaelan: Todd Chavez from Bojack Horseman and Raymond Holt from Brooklyn 99 come to mind. I watched Bojack knowing that in the 3rd season Todd would be revealed as asexual, but I wasn't expecting his asexual arc to be as well done as it was. Raymond Holt is also a really fun and well-rounded character. I'd like to see more of that in games as we go!

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.

Kaelan: Since I'm an indie dev, I can include any character I want without having to worry about getting approval from higher ups. I think one of the bigger problems is that including queer characters is still considered a political move and companies like to appear neutral to keep as many customers as possible. Having no queer characters or subtext of queer characters is safer financially, especially on a worldwide scale.

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?

Kaelan: For people who feel really alienated by their queerness, seeing themselves in a game can be a great comfort and a way to boost confidence and mental health. Making sure there's diversity among your writers, artists and directors will foster better representation within the games themselves.

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.

Kaelan: My friends were very encouraging when I first started to program. They would teach me what they knew so far and I joined a lot of indie dev communities to ask questions when I get stuck. I really like interacting with people who are also making games like me. Feels like you're all in it together, working on something as long term as a game.

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?

Kaelan: If your company has a job opening, try advertising it to minority groups first to encourage more diversity in your workplace. Minorities may be more nervous about applying if they're not sure if they're welcome. So mentioning them in the job listing or asking for them directly will really fix that problem!

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?

Kaelan: If it feels like there's no room for you, don't be afraid to make room! Start that club, make that podcast, make that game or studio. Even if you don't make something yourself, support creators with your wallet or sharing their work on social media. It makes an enormous difference!


You can find Kaelan on their Twitter, SoundCloud, and Tumblr.
You can check out Lonely Beetle on Twitter and Patreon.