Leena Van Deventer

leenavandeventer

  1. Could you tell us a bit about how you started out in the games industry?

I started off wanting to blog about games and talk about what I liked about them and was considering possibly even going to university to give journalism a go, as I loved writing and games. But soon after doing a bunch of interviews with games makers I started to get jealous of them — I wanted to be making the cool stuff, not writing about other people making cool stuff! So I asked around if there were any jobs going, and my first ever games boss handed me a project to work on that was within my skill set (editing) and it sort of took off from there. 

  1. What inspired you to join the industry? Was there a particular game you were obsessed with as a kid?

I was obsessed with a couple of games as a kid, I didn’t have a huge library but what I did have I devoured over and over. I loved the first Mario (and Duck Hunt!) early on, but I really fell hard when I got my Nintendo 64 and Mario was in 3D. I also loved playing on PC way back when, and loved the trivia game You Don’t Know Jack, and this zombie game called Catacombs of the Abyss that used to scare the pants off me. It was sort of a Doom clone but the jump scares got me every time. I wanted to start making games because I thought they could tell stories in an interesting way.

  1. What project(s) are you currently working on?

At the moment we’re (Dan Golding and I) finishing up our book on games cultures that will be out early 2016. That’s a book about misogyny in gaming culture and will hopefully serve as a good primer for people who are finding themselves scratching their heads about how hostile the games world has seemed from the outside recently. I’m also preparing my interactive storytelling syllabus for RMIT this year, too. I love getting in a reflective mood around Christmas and New Years so I find making notes about a new syllabus during that time is a good reflective place to dump all my observations and thoughts on how to make improvements to the unit. 

  1. What particular types of games or aspects of interactive storytelling interest you?

I like interactive stories where the choices have a really heavy weight to them. Where it’s less about turning left or right and more about moral dilemmas. I want to sit there agonising over my decision for a bit! It makes it feel like I can shift not only the path of the story but the tone of the entire work, which I find exciting. It’s definitely a freeing feeling compared to novels where they’re really strictly paved out and immovable.

  1. Do you think approaches to interactive storytelling differ along gender lines? If so, how?

I’m not 100% sure if there is a difference between the way different genders tackle the making of interactive fiction, or whether that distinction would be useful, but I do think that a lot of marginalised groups (women, queer people, people of colour, trans*folk, many others) are drawn to this kind of work. Not only is it accessible in terms of cost and training (it’s very easy to learn, and often the tools are free) but I think the freedom of giving agency to the player is something that people who perhaps aren’t given much agency in their lives can sort of play in like a sandbox? I don’t think that would be harsh to say? That choice is empowering and that certain people would be drawn to that more than others, I think? I lot of my favourite pieces of interactive storytelling are made by queer people, and it might just be a coincidence because that’s what I dig, but I think there’s a large representation in these forms from parts of the community that aren’t well represented in other games spaces, and I think it’s probably not a stretch to sort of associate that with the abundance of choice and agency and freedoms that we get when making and playing interactive fiction. Real life choice and agency and freedom is robbed from so many of us. It makes sense that when people feel disempowered that they may create art that features empowering themes.

  1. What are some of your favourite games created by a woman or featuring a female main character?

I really like Jade from Beyond Good and Evil because she’s no nonsense and kind of sarcastic and fun, but she also is still afforded the ability to nurture. I feel like Beyond Good and Evil doesn’t put a divide between “masculine” characteristics and “feminine” ones and then say “for her to be strong she must be only the masculine ones” which I think is a problem we see in a lot of media at the moment. The “strong female character” as reaction to a narrow space for women to exist has become narrow in of itself.

  1. Which upcoming games are you most looking forward to being released and why?

I was super excited about Overwatch, but then realised I’d have to buy a beefy PC to play it, so I’ve gone off that a little but I will still watch other people have an amazing time with it, I’m sure! I’ll probably be watching a lot of Twitch during that time. I’m also looking forward to Wander, and the full release of Push Me Pull You, both on PS4.

  1. What are your tips for anyone wanting to break into the games industry?

Sometimes when you feel the pressure to be quiet, you should shout your loudest. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat, our boat needs a good shake up. But in terms of practical advice, start making as much as possible as soon as you can. Get a portfolio going, get some games online, even if they’re prototypes or a work in progress. Get eyes on it and share your work with people and take their feedback and be open to it.

  1. Are there any Twitter feeds, websites, Facebook pages, forums etc you could recommend for people who are interested in games and interactive storytelling?

Emily Short is a must-follow on Twitter! (@emshort) as she’s a giant in the field of interactive storytelling. Her work is amazing and she’s very generous with her knowledge on her blog, too. (https://emshort.wordpress.com) It’s also great to keep up with @philomela_twine on Twitter as they publish the twine games they host for free. As for forums I hear good things about http://www.intfiction.org/forum/, and there’s an Interactive Writers Australia facebook group, too.