$23,485
pledged of $85,000pledged of $85,000 goal
724
backers
0seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Thu, October 9 2014 12:00 AM UTC +00:00
Lazy 8 StudiosBy Lazy 8 Studios
First created
Lazy 8 StudiosBy Lazy 8 Studios
First created
$23,485
pledged of $85,000pledged of $85,000 goal
724
backers
0seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Thu, October 9 2014 12:00 AM UTC +00:00

Games with Agendas

Posted by Lazy 8 Studios (Creator)
6 likes

To start, I want to thank all of our backers so far! We're 10% of the way into our campaign and we're just a few dollars away from hitting 10% of our funding goal. Not only do we have 365 backers, but more than 1200 new players created Extrasolar accounts over the last 2 days -- far more than we've ever seen in such a short time!

That being said, hitting our funding goal is going to be tough, so keep sharing the project and encourage your friends to give season 1 a try. And now, on to the meat of the update...

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We’ve never really tried to hide it: Extrasolar has an agenda -- several, in fact. We want to create positive role models for young scientists, and particularly women in science (Did you know that our in-game biologist is written by a real biologist?). We want to bring attention to issues of the long-standing struggles of sexual minorities (Try Googling the last name of game character Robert Turing). And we want to inspire an interest in space exploration.  

Rob Jagnow with the brand new Alan Turing plaque in San Francisco’s Castro district.
Rob Jagnow with the brand new Alan Turing plaque in San Francisco’s Castro district.

For some people, this idea seems strange. Most people have seen games as diversions rather than as platforms for advancing an agenda. Sure, we all know about educational games, but we tend to see these as something different -- explicit educational content, often wrapped in a thin veneer of gameplay.

Even big companies have had trouble accepting the idea that games can and should have a social or political impact. As Apple infamously explained, "If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store."

To us at Lazy 8 Studios, we see things differently. Our first priority is still to make games that are fun to play, but that leaves tons of room to take a stand on issues that are important to us -- issues like positive role models and gender bias.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to rely on our own good intentions to fix problems like gender bias. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has done some fascinating research on the depiction of women. Though the institute focuses primarily on TV and movies, many of the findings are just as applicable to games. For instance, consider what Geena Davis had to say in an interview with NPR:

"We just heard a fascinating and disturbing study, where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there's 17 percent women, the men in the group think it's 50-50. And if there's 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men."

In other words, if we want to achieve gender equality in media, we need to make a conscious decision to analyze and fix our existing biases.

Anita Sarkeesian runs the Femenist Frequency blog, where she has a video series called Tropes vs Women in Video Games. This well-researched vlog specifically addresses problems with the dehumanizing depictions of women in the game industry.

 Having observed these biases, comic writer Alison Bechdel in 1985 devised a simple check that has come to be known as the Bechdel test. To pass the test, a movie or game must have at least two women with names who talk to each other about something other than a man. That’s it! Seems simple, right?

Comic and issue by Alison Bechdel, circa 1985. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Bechdel test via Wikipedia
Comic and issue by Alison Bechdel, circa 1985. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Bechdel test via Wikipedia

Sadly, a huge number of mainstream movies fail the test. A few failed selections from this year include The Boxtrolls, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Edge of Tomorrow, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

We’re not perfect either. We’re fully aware that Extrasolar currently fails the Bechdel test -- something we plan to fix in season 2 with the introduction of two new women into the story. We’ve found some simple solutions to help address these shortcomings. For instance, as we write characters, we try to make an effort to ask ourselves questions like, “could we have a bigger impact if this character was a minority woman rather than just another white guy?”

If designers make a conscious effort to include women and minorities as characters in games with positive portrayals, we can have a positive impact on the world around us. But to do this, we need to be willing to create and support games with a social agenda. For game studios of all sizes that agree with Apple and think that games aren’t an appropriate place to advance an agenda, we encourage you to reconsider.

Kickstarers to Watch

To close out, we want to give a shout out to our friends over at the Silence in the Library Kickstarter. They're an independent publisher with a very reasonable goal. In fact, they're already 100% funded, but don't let that stop you from pledging $5 for one of their sci-fi e-books, sure to please Extrasolar fans.

Owen Jennings, Matthew C., and 4 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Dan Whitehead on

      After all the unpleasantness in gaming over the past few weeks it would have been very easy to put these issues to one side, so I really respect the fact that you're actually bringing them to the forefront and making a point of them. Loved the first season, can't wait for the second.

    2. Missing avatar

      Javier Meseguer de Paz on

      I must say that I really like your agenda! :)

      As for the Bechdel test... well, since the player is part of the history in Extrasolar, season 1 passes the Bechdel test wheneve a woman plays it... so at least there's that ;)

    3. Peter "araziel" Cruickshanks
      Superbacker
      on

      One of the reasons I loved season 1, keep fighting the good fight.

    4. Lazy 8 Studios Creator on

      Grace hopper was amazing! It was cool to see her work celebrated with a Google Doodle last year. Another one of my favorite computing poineers is Ada Lovelace. There are several names in Extrasolar that serve as an homage to our heroes. One of the names you'll encounter in season 1 is Jemison (Google it).

    5. wererogue on

      "[...] games can and should have a social or political impact"

      Not only can and should, but any game that has a user base has a social impact, without exception.

      I loved the characters in chapter 1 - I'm beyond excited to hear that you're pushing further with the next chapter.

    6. Vryl
      Superbacker
      on

      If you want a good female role model to exemplify, there's always Grace Hopper. A pioneer computer scientist, she invented the first compiler for a computer programming language. She also made it to rear admiral in the United States Navy. I know that I'd like to see someone based on her in a game.