Game Review: Beyond Two Souls

Apparently, interactive films/games (?) are encouraging more women to pick up the controller and get into games. Beyond features a strong female protagonist and due to the expertly crafted storyline and fleshed out characterisation, it is refreshingly gender neutral.

Interview: Kate Killick – Award Winning Game Artist

Heroine Junkies caught up with Kate Killick, a BAFTA Cymru ‘New Media’ winner, for her role as lead artist on the Xbox Live for Windows Phone game, Mush.

After studying at University of Wales, Newport for her foundation in Art, Media & Design, game fan, Kate Killick discovered they offered a Computer Games Design degree, “It was an obvious choice – I wanted to do something creative, and computers had been a hobby from a young age. Working in games seemed like the perfect way to combine all my interests and skills,” she says.

Games have always been an important part of Kate’s life, as a child she loved the sense of adventure and exploration that they captured better than other media. “I think that’s what originally inspired me,” she admits, “although I’ve realised over time that the games I love playing aren’t necessarily the games I want to make.”

The first games that grabbed her imagination were Ocarina of Time and Pokemon.

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Girls and Gaming

Do you feel games are geared towards a male audience, and the idea that boys don’t want to play as girls is misinformed?

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the majority of games are geared towards a male audience, at least when it comes to hardcore games. Less so for mobile and casual. I don’t know that I would say the idea is misinformed, but maybe it’s a little self-perpetuating. Ultimately, it’s developers that need to take the risk and introduce more diversity – I don’t think gamers are as close-minded as marketing teams believe.

Do you think it is any more difficult to enter the games industry as a female?

“I do think there are extra challenges facing women in terms of the facing sexist behaviour. Nearly everyone I’ve met in the industry has been perfectly professional and respectful, but sadly there are always exceptions. One instance that stands out happened quite recently. I was contacted on LinkedIn by someone who was in need of some art assets. We exchanged a couple of messages, and I asked whether the job was on a freelance or a contract basis. The reply I received:

‘It would also be beneficial to have a pretty girl like yourself in the Kickstarter video. Would you be able to make a 30sec video introducing yourself and why you think [game I’d never heard of] is Amazing?’

Both he, and some of my friends on Facebook who couldn’t understand why it was sexist, got a piece of my mind that day.”

With so many companies taking such a narrow minded view of what attracts a female audience and online platforms being rife with bigoted language – Do you feel girl gamers are taken seriously enough?

“I think attitudes towards women in games does vary. There’s always going to be companies driven by ‘market research’ which push out patronising ‘pink games’ etc. There’s studios that are happy to disregard the female audience completely with continued use of sexualised imagery of women. But there are also studios making great games that don’t rely on massive gender stereotypes.

I don’t play much multiplayer, so I haven’t encountered the sexism and abuse that women seem to face with online gaming. Most people I meet in person who are either gamers or involved in the games industry haven’t treated me any differently because of my gender.”

Do you think it is important to promote women within gaming, and to attempt to get girls accepted as real gamers?

“It’s a hard question, I’ve never felt less than accepted as a gamer by people I’ve met in real life, but I know there are big problems with online gaming communities and also games media. I don’t know whether changes to these attitudes can really come from within the games industry though, or whether they’re something that need to be addressed across society and the media in general.”

Do you think more strong female leads, who are not scantily class animated sex objects, would attract more female gamers or is it dependant on content?

“I think more strong, diverse characters should exist, but not to attract female gamers. They should exist because there is a huge variety of human experience that games could explore in interesting ways – picking characters from the same couple of moulds every time is painfully limiting.

I don’t know whether female leads are necessarily the biggest factor in appealing to women, but we can be certain that having sexualised women alienates the female audience. I’m sure there is research that shows women prefer certain types of gameplay, etc. but I try not to take those kind of statistics at face value – I’ll leave the stereotyping to the marketing departments. I think if studios want to make games with wider appeal, they should just focus on making great games, with great writing – and that means not basing characters on sexual fantasies.”

Do you see more women getting involved in the gaming industry in the future?

“I think women are getting more involved. Casual and mobile games have seen big success whilst being pretty gender neutral, so I think that’s a very positive development. I’d also say that indie games seem to have gained more ground in the last few years, and they don’t seem to have the dedication to objectifying women that some of the bigger studios have. Overall, I do see progress being made, but there’s always a lot more that needs to be done.”

Kate hopes to be leading an art team in a games studio in the near future and continues to try and learn as much as she can about the medium and the industry. To find out more about her and her projects check out her website.