Watching this insightful #PAXAus2014 yak-session that focused on gender disparities in games [and game development] has prompted the following brief reflection on Pluto, our in-production transmedia project co-produced with Dreaming Methods. What stuck in my noggin when watching the above was the section where these switched-on PAX panelists discuss just how – when given a choice – a player chooses the gender of their in-game character: do they choose to be female? Male? Genderless?
The core of Pluto is a 3D gameworld. This world is navigated by a player protagonist who is backstoried as male. Although [at this stage in development anyhoo] Pluto players are not given a choice regarding their character’s gender, we’re deliberately constructing all transmedia aspects of the project within a conceptual framework that stresses the importance, and narrative interplay, of both passive and [inter]active characters. In our Pluto gameworld, the player’s identity/gender is grounded as male without a deliberate, and weighted, emphasis on that fact: the main narrative focus of the integrated storyworld [revealed through transmedia elements present on platforms external to the gameworld] actually revolves around an ensemble of female characters. Comprehending these gal-characters [some ancillary, some crucial] is redonkulously important in regards to piecing together aspects of Pluto’s overall plot.
At their conceptual core, at least two of Pluto’s female characters embody questions related to identity formation and the corresponding experience of the “real”. It’ll be crazy-interesting to see [both as a developer and a gamer] just how critical these characters become as the project approaches release.