Can you describe your current job and any projects you have in the works? By day, I work as a mild-mannered software developer, but I devote my free time to developing weird games and digital art projects. Right now I am working on a match-3 game called Carla Duty: Modern Worker 7/10ths: Lord of the Files, which is about the banality of office work with subtext about inequality in the workplace.
How long have you been in the industry? I started making games on an Apple II, but didn’t actually have the nerve to release anything until I was in college (about 20 years ago). I’ve been pretty serious about making my own games for the last 10 years.
What do you enjoy about playing and making games? Whether it’s split-second decisions or data architecture, I really get a kick out of problem solving.
Would you say that your game-playing habits changed over the years? They have decreased somewhat in my 30s, as I try to devote more time to my personal life… and because the last thing I want to do after coding all day is spend more time staring at a screen.
Would you say that the current “culture” of gaming has affected your playing and/or interest in games? Or is it a non-factor? I have learned to avoid a lot of multi-player games because of the toxicity of “gaming culture”. There is a vocal subset of gamers that use racism and sexism as tools for harassment and intimidation, or at least think that they are acceptable forms of entertainment – and a larger group of players that remain silent or advocate a “mute and ignore” policy for the worst offenders (which, in my opinion does nothing but embolden the offenders when no one else says anything about their hateful tirades) It makes playing some games a distinctly unpleasant experience.
In recent months, the lack of diversity in gaming and other entertainment mediums has become a hot topic. Consumers and industry professionals are calling out creators for not producing content that reflects their customer base. Is this something that is of concern to you or impacts you and your work? Or are you able to see past this?
The ongoing vitriol-filled reactionary backlash against gaming critique is especially ironic because it wasn’t long ago that gamers were decrying the academic community for not treating games as art. I don’t think they realized that “art” also meant “artistic criticism” and not just putting Mario in a museum. Criticism is something every creator should embrace as part of their creative process, as it often highlights issues or angles that you didn’t take into account.
I think that diversity in games is very important, if for no other reason than because I am Chicano and am not a drug dealer, Latin American dictator, frightened maid, or grateful peasant that speaks in broken English. I don’t expect every game to have a character “like me”, but it would be nice to see one every so often.
Are there any “lessons learned” you like to share about your time in the business so far? Is there any advice that you’d like to pass along to someone interested in the gaming industry? The software industry is not very diverse. It can be hard to communicate ideas or concepts that speak to your background, your cultural upbringing, or your outlook on life to a group of people that doesn’t share any of those same things.
However the gaming public, the people that actually play the games you are making, are MUCH more diverse, and there is a segment from every background imaginable – don’t get discouraged!
Since this series does revolve around gaming, can you list your all-time favorite games? My all-time favorites are games that let me develop my own story – games with algorithmically generated worlds, open world RPGs, and strategy games.
I think it’s much easier for me to identify and empathize with a character or world I built from scratch than with one made by someone else. I can become a traveling cheese merchant, build my own cities with more funding for libraries than jails, or play out scenarios where the Iroquois Confederacy takes over the world through the power of diplomacy. In no particular order, my all-time favorites: Morrowind/Skyrim, Minecraft, Civilization III, Fallout II, Sim City 4 (although I think Cities: Skylines might be replacing this soon), Portal II, Drop 7, Galaga, Ultima IV and Syndicate.
Where can people find you online? My Twitter handle is @mojiferous.
Black Girl Nerds would like to thank Joe for sharing his story!