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Episode 33 - Insider Interview Transcript

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Aug. 5th, 2012 | 01:27 pm

Insider Interview Transcript for Episode 33

Host: wook77
Guest: David Gaider


Wook77: Welcome to Slashcast Episode 33’s Interview segment. This month we have a very special guest: David Gaider. David, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

David Gaider: Er, sure. I’ve been a writer with Bioware for 13 years now. I started when we began Baldur’s Gate II. I went on to work on Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights, and then Dragon Age is when I became a lead writer, responsible for managing the writing team and being in the of narrative design for the project. So that was Dragon Age: Origins and then Dragon Age 2. So that’s where I sit currently.

Wook: Cool. Now when Dragon Age 2 came out you had some fantastic things to say that really got the LGBT gaming community sort of inspired, with articles like on gaygamer and different areas. And that’s because you have this epic post on entitlement and LGBT gaming, addressing this guy calling himself the Straight Male Gamer.

David: Right.

Wook: And EA and Bioware specifically have this great commitment to LGBT portrayal in video games and so my first question is why? Why is Bioware so committed? Why is EA so committed? Why are you so committed to having same sex relationships in games?

David: Well, I guess there’s three different questions there: Why is the company interested? Why is the project interested? And why am I, personally?

As far as the company goes I think, you know, when you boil it down a little bit it makes sense. Games are getting much more expensive and there’s all this talk about we need to bring in more people playing the games. And I think that a lot of people think that only means increasing the fanbase that we sort of already have, you know the young male demographic. But there’s a large population of what I would think of as underserviced gamers, women for instance are no longer a minority. And I mean, you look at the figures and of course they’re talking about games overall, they’re including MMOs and sort of the puzzle games, and things like that where the female demographics are much higher, but, the jump from someone playing a puzzle game or an MMO to playing an RPG for instance is much smaller than a jump for a non-gamer. So, these people are playing games and getting them to the point where they’re willing to look at our games and feel like, ‘well these games aren’t made for other people, they’re made with us in mind as well’ is an important business consideration, because I mean, not only do you have female gamers, you have gay gamers, you have people of different ethnicities. I mean, they’re all looking for games to acknowledge that they exist. I mean, it’s not that they wouldn’t play a game, many of them do, and they play it despite the fact, they acknowledge that these games don’t really have their lives in mind, right? But I think if we make it easier, we reduce the barriers for entry you get more people willing to come in and play your games, and being committed, and that’s what we’re looking for. So from a company standpoint that just makes sense.

From a project standpoint we make role playing games in particular and that sort of goes to a different level because what you’re asking from a role player is for them to personally identify with their character. So, you know, when we bring in elements like romance, that’s a very personal consideration, right? If the romance element wasn’t there at all it’d be probably easy enough for a player to just have their own sort of story going on in their mind, but we’re telling them a story, we’re asking them to get invested in this story and role playing means they don’t necessarily have to be themselves, they can play something else. I think a lot of people, gay gamers in particular who play roleplaying games are just very accustomed to that, but I think if you take that to the next level they can get that much more committed, right? ‘Cause I know for me personally, you know, playing role playing games and there’s just the standard romance with a female character, if that’s just part of the story it’s like ‘whatever, play it’. It’s the same thing if you watch movies, the majority of them are portraying straight relationships, you’re just used to that as the environment, right? But I think because these are role playing games and because we have the opportunity to allow a wider variety of viewpoints to be incorporated into that, so that it makes the player feel like they have some control over their options so that while they don’t have to play that, it is considered. I mean it goes the other way around too, the telemetry we got back from Dragon Age: Origins for instance showed the percentage of people who played the gay romances was quite high, a lot higher than I think anyone actually considered at first, or assumed it would be. The figure that gets thrown up all the time is that ten percent of the population is gay so therefore you’d expect, what ten per cent of the player base to play the gay romances, but it was quite a bit higher and so that either means that the concentration of gay players is higher or what I think is more likely, is that there are a number of players that a willing to try this content regardless of their own personal sexuality. So, you know, a roleplaying game is about playing different people so that applies there as well. From a project standpoint that behoves us, as RPG makers, to test out the waters on that front.

As for me personally, I mean, as a gay man I liked the idea of us going in that direction. When I first joined the industry it wasn’t something that really occurred to me as possible, I mean thirteen years ago, not even thirteen, five- ten years ago, it was kind of a different world. I mean, you just didn’t do that. It just wasn’t thought of. I think the assumption was that the public just wouldn’t agree with that. I don’t know that anyone really sort of questioned that idea, I know I didn’t really and so that’s when the company started bringing it up, I think Knights of the Old Republic was- there was some talk- and then Jade Empire was the first game where we had gay relationships possible. So when it was brought up to me as on Dragon Ages and ‘well, would we think about doing this?,’ I was on board. I mean, I thought that was absolutely fantastic. I was even a little bit chagrined that it hadn’t even occurred to me, why hadn’t it occurred to me? As a gay man why wouldn’t I have pushed harder for that? It really felt quite liberating to be offered the opportunity from the company. Bioware is full of very liberal, open minded people who, you know, we’re really just trying to make good stories and get people involved on a personal level with the stories we’re making, so this helps with that. And the fact that the people in charge are so willing to forge ahead despite what a lot of the naysayers will say. I find that really gratifying, makes me glad to be working for the company.

Wook: Yeah, and I think that it engenders a lot of commitment from your fanbase. I can really only speak for myself, but Jade Empire actually blew my mind. Knights of the Old Republic got me into fandom, but Jade Empire blew my mind to the point where Bioware became an auto-buy for me, any that game out from Bioware. I don’t play first person shooters. I can’t shoot a gun to save my life, and yet I bought Mass Effect.

David: Right.

Wook: And it’s because of that commitment to even giving the opportunity to have a female Revan versus only ever having to play a male character in any of the Star Wars games up to that point really made an impact on me as well. So you know, personally, I’ve got to say that it’s great that you guys are so willing to go for that diversity.

David: I remember that after the forum post that you referred to – the Straight Male Gamer – I had a lot of mail from people who just felt it necessary to remind me that our games had affected their lives personally. I know we got some emails from a few people who told, like Jennifer Hepler and myself, that playing through the games was an eye-opener for them realising that they weren’t alone, made them feel like they had a place as a gamer that they weren’t just the other, you know. And I think for gay people in particular you spend a lot of your life feeling that way. You’re surrounded by messages that tell you what’s normal and I think it’s only recently where that’s changed and so it’s nice that we can be part of that. And it’s gratifying that there’s so many people, whether they are gay or not, that are on board and supportive.

Wook: Dven Yahtzee came out during this whole fiasco with the Straight Male Gamer, Yahtzee’s a game reviewer and was like ‘look I played the queer storyline as well and I was totally fine with that’.

David: Right

Wook: And so I think it’s fantastic, and I love that you have the metrics on who plays what relationships and when. And speaking as not only a female gamer, but a bisexual gamer as well it was really important to me to be able to play - to romance any character that I wanted, like the Isabela relationship was fantastic to me because there were subtle changes between the male Hawke versus female Hawke relationship with her, but I just loved Isabela anyway so… [laughs]

David: [joins in laughter] Sheryl Chee was Isabela’s writer and she did a really good job with her, I think she comes across as a sexpot, right? And I think that it would have been very easy to leave it at that, that she was there to be a sexpot and had no greater depth than that, but I think Sheryl walked a fine line between Isabela being exploitive and being empowered by her sexuality. You know what I mean? Does that make sense?

Wook: Yeah. And that’s actually one of the things that I wanted to ask you, is how do you walk that line? Something like that you obviously have to walk with a lot of sensitivity because you do – your company does appeal to a lot of female gamers. How do you walk that line? Because her sexuality versus say Wynne, who is a completely a blank slate for sexuality, as far as I’m concerned.

David: Right

Wook: It’s kind of interesting, how do you walk that line?

David: I’m not sure actually, I’m not sure that we always do. I think it’s a matter of just incorporating different viewpoints. I mean we have, I know on Dragon Age in particular we have a lot of female writers. Right now I have seven writers on the team, five of whom are female, so you get those different voices on the writing team, on the development team in general and they can sort of point out when you’re making a mistake. When you make a mistake, when you know when you create a female character that makes it quite obvious that she’s there for the Male Gaze, right? [Wook makes a noise of agreement] I mean, you don’t do that sort of thing on purpose, you just do it unthinkingly because, you just sort of do those things because that’s what’s done, right? And then somebody, you need somebody to point out to you and say, ‘hey, you know that makes it really obvious that you’re not being inclusive’, and then you’re like ‘okay, you know what I didn’t actually think of that’. So being able to hear- to have those voices on the teams and hearing it when it comes from the fans as well, and being able to acknowledge when you’ve fallen short and keep trying. I mean, I know there’s a lot of people that feel that our highest priority should be to crank it up to 100% right away, but I think that what we’re trying to do is push the envelope as much as we can and keep the right frame of mind. I think it’s important to aim for inclusivity and including it as often as we can. And there are a lot of places where we can do that.

Wook: Yeah and I think that even as something as subtle as, not that it’s your project, but Mass Effect with having the ability to have female Shepard on the cover of my game [David makes noise of agreement] made a huge impact to me. To be able to just see her sitting on my shelf, because it’s very rare that unless you’re Lara Croft, you’re not going to be seeing a woman on a cover of a video game very often.

David: Yeah, I think that part of that is the industry has a lot of assumptions over, I mean undeniably our biggest demographic is still, you know, the Straight Male Gamer, no question. But I think the industry has a lot of assumptions over what will affect sales and I think it takes some pushing at that envelope to, and proving that those assumptions aren’t always true to sort of gain that acceptance even within the industry, never mind among the fans, as to what’s possible, right? What- I know that- I think there was even some surprise initially when it came to the gay relationships in the game that the effect on our sales was actually noticeable. And only in select instances, because a lot of times when a game fails commercially or succeeds commercially there are all sorts of opinions among the fans as well as within the industry as to why that is. There’s lots of second guessing and probably the truth is that it’s always a lot of different factors as opposed to one thing in particular, but occasionally something comes along, and something very specific happens and you can sort of mark a change in sales based on that one thing, and you’re like ‘hmm that’s very interesting and it’s good data’ and it proves that by and large our- the gaming fanbase is enthusiastic about this kind of inclusion. I think that the people that are fighting against it, I’m sure they have their reasons and, but I think that we actually get more out of that type of inclusion than we lose.

Wook: Definitely. I think that just having that open base, like you had mentioned with why it makes business sense to open up to a larger audience. [David makes a noise of agreement] I mean, I’m, I am not a man obviously but I have played the male Warden and I’ve played male Hawke.

David: Right

Wook: And so it’s kind of fun because my brother actually is a big video game player as well and he likes playing as female Hawke much more than he likes playing as a male Hawke. So it’s kind of interesting the way that that works, and my brother is kind of the biggest “Dude” you’d ever want to meet.

David: Yeah, people – some people assume that putting in the option to be putting in male or female, or to have different sexualities in the romances that people would only play what they personally are. But that sort of goes against the very nature of roleplaying, right? I mean just because a guy plays a female character doesn’t mean that he’s feminine, any more than someone playing a gay romance means that they’re bi-curious, or whatever, right. [Wook makes a noise of agreement] People will often change the argument to suit whatever their viewpoint is. But I think people are more willing to accept those sorts of options than a lot of people, both within the gaming community and outside of it, would give them credit for.

Wook: Yeah and I think that the best part of what you said in your post to the Straight Male Gamer guy was that just because you add the options in doesn’t mean that anybody has to take advantage of those options-

David: Right.

Wook: - or that it takes away from their experience.

David: Yeah, I mean, not everything needs to be optional. I mean, as far as what the character does, sure, but I wouldn’t have anything against the player encountering a gay character who was gay regardless of what they want, right? I mean we don’t offer options to remove violence because it makes you uncomfortable, we don’t offer options to take out uncomfortable situations like slavery or really heart-rending decisions. So why would we remove parts of the world that you could just encounter? And yet people have actually promised that. It comes up every now and again, someone says ‘can I have a no-homo option in the settings so that when I set that it just isn’t in my world at all, ‘cause I don’t want to face it in my fantasy escapism?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, [chuckles] we don’t offer that option any more than we would the other sorts of story elements that we bring forward.’ But I think that when it comes to what the player themselves chooses, yeah, you don’t want to, especially in the context of a game where you’re allowing the player to make decisions about who they are and what kind of personality they are, you wouldn’t want to force that on them. I don’t think that would go over well.

Wook: Mmhm. [agreement] And speaking about the idea of no-homo, and keeping the exposure down. While we’re talking about that-

David: Sure.

Wook: What’s the possibility of having more transgender characters? More overtly transgender characters, where – ‘cause I know in Dragon Age II you had, like one of the courtesans was transgender.

David: Serendipity, yeah.

Wook: Yeah. So what’s the possibility of having more of them somewhere in the future, whether it’s your own personal projects or a game or anything?

David: Oh I think so. I mean, I’d like to have some that aren’t prostitutes.

Wook: That would be nice, yeah. [both laugh a little]

David: I mean, a poster came on the forums and actually reprimanded us that all the ones we’ve shown to date in Dragon Age, for instance, have been prostitutes and we’re like, it’s like I mentioned before sometimes it takes someone to point that out to you for you to go ‘yeah, you know we didn’t actually intend it to be taken that way but I can definitely see that if you were transgender that would be a little disheartening.’ So I mean - at what point would you- including a transgender character to the point that it would be obvious that they’re transgender, how do you make that obvious? How do you make it obvious without- I remember, there was um one of the prostitutes in DAO was transgender, I mean one of the nameless prostitutes, right? And I think it was a female prostitute but the female was in quotes, and that wasn’t looked on kindly either, so it’s like how to you go about that? Because I mean properly displayed a transgender woman just looks like a woman. How would you get the subtlety well, okay this is really a man, like, how would you get that across? Without it being offensive, without actually trying to do that, trying to be inclusive but then having those elements sort of fly in your face and make it obvious what you’re doing, because I would resist having characters that are there just to be soap boxes. You know, for a character to stand up and their entire thing is ‘I’m transgender’. It’s the same thing with having a gay character. I don’t want the only thing about a gay character to be ‘I’m gay and that that’s the most important thing about me.’ I don’t think that that’s true. It’s not true for me. It’s not true for any gay person that I know, so to sort of underline it to that extent would seem to be a little bit counterintuitive. But, but from my perspective if there was a character that came up where I thought ‘wouldn’t this be cool if this character was also transgender’ that they had this other interesting stuff about them but they just happened to be transgender and maybe if it was a character that you interacted with enough that that could come up and you’re like ‘oh, okay, I didn’t realise that about you, wow, that’s really kind of cool’. Um that’s where I would personally go there with that, as opposed to trying too hard and ending up going to tokenism where that wouldn’t be helpful to anybody.

Wook: Yeah, I mean, that’s definitely a fine line to walk, and it’s not like you’re not already walking a bunch of fine lines here. [both laugh]

David: Yeah. I think if I was going to do that what I would probably do- I know there’s a few transgender fans who have contacted me or I see them on twitter, and I probably would talk to them privately and say ‘hey, this is what I’m thinking of doing, do you think that’s cool? What would be the best way to approach that?’ That was my approach back when I handed the romances, er, after, I mean what I did in Baldur’s Gate II I did the Anomen romance and some of our female gamers were complaining about that, so. Um, there was a website called Ladies of Neverwinter where a bunch of female RPG fans had sort of gathered and I went to them and said ‘Hey, what do you want out of a romance that’s targeted at you specifically?’ and they had, they weren’t shy about telling me exactly what it is. And some of it was very interesting, like oh, that’s interesting, I wouldn’t have thought of that. So, sometimes it’s just a matter of talking to the people that it affects, right? Because, not being transgender myself the viewpoint I can bring to that is limited. I mean I can try, I write all sorts of things that I don’t experience personally, right? But when it comes to sensitive matters, of which we touch a lot on in our games, um, you want to be a little bit more thoughtful of exactly what you might be unintentionally portraying because otherwise, you know, like for Serendipity - I know Mary Kirby was Serendipity’s writer and she loves Serendipity death and we even put her in places where it was like ‘does Serendipity really belong here? Ah, who cares, we love her!’ And to have the kind of people we thought would find that cool come and tell us no that was actually quite hurtful, um, it was a little upsetting. So you want to be careful about that, ‘cause, what’s the point otherwise, right? Why are we doing it if not to be inclusive, to get people behind it and thinking it’s cool, and thinking it’s normal. I want to get to the point where I can include gay romances, or any kind of alternate content and people don’t even comment on it because that’s just expected. It should be expected.

Wook: Yeah, someday we’re going to have a black female lesbian as the protagonist as a game and I think that would be amazing.

David: Yeah. [Wook chuckles] I’d like to see that too. You know, one day a company will try that. And outside of a roleplaying game where, like I said, you’re implying the player has a decision to make about who they are. But in terms of a regular kind of game where it’s a set character in cinematic, that there’s either the main character is lesbian or gay, or a main character that is with them, like that they encounter and plays a big part in the game just is gay or lesbian, and that’s just part of their character. It’s part of what makes them interesting – hopefully not the only thing – like I said and everyone just plays it and thinks it’s cool. And that’s just a facet of what is otherwise an interesting character, I mean I think that would be ideal.

Wook: Yeah. So- and speaking of writing these fine lines, do you - you’ve already kind of mentioned how approach a heterosexual relationship or even including somebody from a, like a transgender person or another minority, and so do you kind of sit there and think ‘man this word choice is bad, this is really, really bad’? So for example, in one of the sets of boards I was on for Dragon Age: Origins, um, somebody was not happy with Zevran saying he preferred women but he would, sort of, go gay for you as the male Warden. [David makes noise of understanding] Are those the sorts of things you kind of look back to sometimes, and go ‘well, you know, maybe I should change that up next time’?

David: Well, it varies. We spend a lot of time fussing over our word choices in terms of the relationship in particular, especially when it’s the bisexual relationships where it could be with a man or a woman. Trying to figure out how to approach one gender versus another, what sort of differences make sense, what kind of differentiations would actually be pointless, like, what are we trying to say about male-male relationships here as opposed to male-female relationships? So we end up talking about that quite a bit, and at the end of the day we often find out that the differences aren’t that great, it’s just our own prejudices that end up sort of wedging their way in there. But in terms of the Zevran situation in particular, nah, that doesn’t bother me. The one thing I kind of get sometimes is, like if I’m writing a character that is coded gay for instance, Zevran – a lot of people figured he was coded gay because he was slight in stature, sort of came across as a bit of a twink, sure, you know – and because he was coded that way they didn’t like him exhibiting anything that they considered stereotypical, and it was a little weird ‘cause I heard some of that too, read some of it on our forums for instance, and I thought it was strange because it seemed on some levels like people were asking for minority characters that were more human than human. That they couldn’t have any faults whatsoever, or what they saw as faults. That this person had to be completely anti-stereotypical, even though Zevran, for instance, I was basing his personality on a friend that I knew who’s gay, who sure he is a little bit feminine, but I’m sorry, there are gay men – lots of them in fact – who do act like that and are still gay and still allowed to be gay and certainly should not be marginalised because they’re not straight-acting enough, I mean I don’t know what the message was there, so-I mean, I think from a writing standpoint, personally what I try to do is set out exactly what kind of character they are, what works for them and go from there. As best that I can to be mindful of how it’ll be viewed, but not to put so much on a character that, say, is a minority or might speak to minorities that they stop being a character, know what I mean? [Wook makes a noise of understanding] They stop being a character and instead become, like I said, a soapbox. At that point I’m no longer writing a character. So I have to both keep that in mind, the consideration element, but also partly ignore it as well.

Wook: Okay. So changing gears really quickly-

David: [said very quickly] Sure. [both laugh]

Wook: You have a dream job for many of our listeners, you know, writing video games is one thing that I hear from a lot of people that they would like to start doing. So what kind of advice would you offer to them?

David: [said with a large exhale] Oh gosh. Writing for video games is actually interesting because there’s not a lot of game companies that actually employ writers. Writing, in fact is, in terms of full time writers, it’s a relatively small group of companies that even do that. Most game companies either have people working for them who wear multiple hats, so you’ll get a programmer who also writes, or they outsource their writing. So, at some point, usually late in the process – which I think is terrible – they’ll bring in an outside writer and say, ‘hey, we’ve got this game, can you make a story for it? Here’s the story we have in mind, can you write something up and write the dialogue and so forth?’ And the writer will come in and do that. And some of them are- some of these writers are very good at that and they do it frequently, but in terms of doing what we do at BioWare, like having full time writers, no that doesn’t actually happen a lot. So for somebody who has their heart set on being a full time writer, well, my advice would be to get used to disappointment. [both laugh] But, at the same time I wouldn’t want to say ‘no that’s impossible,’ because who knows, right? I would say the thing to do would be to mod. There are lots of modding tools out there, or groups of modders that you can get involved with, to learn how writing for a game is different, say from writing prose. Because someone can be an excellent, excellent novel writer, prose writer, and come to a gaming environment and really it’s a completely different animal. I mean, I kind of have some personal perspective there because I’ve written some novels and comics as well, so I’ve sort of been presented with all three kind of takes on that approach to narrative, and it’s very different. And being able to write a nice sentence or structure prose where you have access to internal narrative and protagonists that you know exactly who they are and where they’re going next and you can set up the scenes to accommodate them – you can’t do that in a game, you need agency. And agency is something you don’t need in a novel, right? So in order to be a writer you also have to be a designer and that is really the big difference. If you can mod and you can play well with others and work on a team, and figure out how to structure your dialogue, and how to structure your narrative that it works in a game, that will prepare you for becoming a writer.

Wook: And speaking of other questions that we’ve gotten from the listeners, as someone who has worked in their own created worlds and those that have been created by others, do you have a preference for which one you work in? Is it tougher to work in a world that you didn’t set up?

David: Well, it’s more limiting. I mean when someone else owns the IP [Intellectual Property] they naturally want to protect it, I mean why wouldn’t they, right? It’s theirs. So you have less play-room, you can’t go and knock down the sandcastle and re-build it, or change fundamental things, and sometimes those are the more interesting stories, but it’s not necessary. I mean Baldur’s Gate, for instance we worked in an IP, and I think we made some excellent stories in that environment. It’s just tough because there’s lots of negotiation and there’s also the financial element because the company has to pay a certain percentage to the IP owner and it’s not insignificant so, considering the IP owner has to do very little to earn that money it’s a great business to be in. But creatively yeah, it’s just a little bit limiting in terms of the options you have. Of course you have your own IP and suddenly the shoe’s on the other foot. You have to protect it when people outside the company want to play in your sandbox, right? And sure you can knock down the sandcastle, but then you’ve got your own IP has the sandcastle knocked down you know you can look at it afterwards and go ‘huh, maybe I shouldn’t have done that.’ But I certainly appreciate having our own IPs to serve the play around in. Sure.

Wook: Yeah, ‘cause it kind of ties into the concept of fanart and fanfiction, and fans playing around in your world. What do you think of the idea and the concept of fanfiction and fanart?

David: I see no problem with it. I mean, the fact that a lot of the fans get so personally involved, I mean that’s what we’re asking from them right? Come get involved in this game and RPGs – there are fandoms in all sorts of non-interactive stories so just the fact that ours is interactive doesn’t mean that it’s special, but it certainly does invite that kind of personal investment a lot more, I think, than other sorts of entertainment. But I mean if somebody wants to go and write fanfic or draw fanart, I think that that is cool. It just demonstrates how much they love what we do, why wouldn’t we like that? There are unhealthy elements to it, I guess, when someone takes it too far, but where isn’t that true, right? Anything taken too far is going to be uncomfortable or unhealthy, but I think that for the most part every member of fandom that I’ve interacted with seems to understand exactly where they stand and is just generally enthusiastic and they ask for very little in return for their support, and so for me that’s win-win. As long as I don’t have to read it myself, and it’s not ‘cause I don’t like fanfiction, I’ve read some that’s good, but even the good stuff – for me – they’re touching my characters in ways that make me feel a little weird, so I’m fine with it existing over there. There it is, hello fanfiction, er… [Both laugh] It’s absolutely fine over there.

Wook: Yeah. What fan response has surprised you in a good way, or a bad way, since we’re speaking of fandom and fans?

David: Um. It’s always surprising sometimes how, just how invested, ‘cause I mean you expect people to like your characters, you want them to like your characters, sure, but then sometimes they start to have these relationships with your characters that, you know, this character is suddenly no longer under my control it’s out there and for them it’s taken on a life that I never intended and sometimes you start to wonder if they think this character’s real. And that’s good, it’s good, a little strange, but good. So, yeah, sometimes the extent that fans can take that adoration can be a little surprising, but after having done this for a number of years I think that the surprise gets a little bit less as time goes on. If anything, any part of it that still surprises me that probably shouldn’t is some of the negative elements of fans, although I don’t even know if I would call them fans. There’s a difference between fans and fandom, I’m sure you know that right?

Wook: Yeah.

David: Fandom is generally the people who do fanfiction, fanart, cosplay, these are people who, as far as I see, they celebrate your work, they celebrate it, they don’t ask for anything in return, they just enjoy living in that world, and [chuckles] as far as I can tell any time we interact - I remember once when I tweeted that I was reading some fanfiction [uses excited voice] they got very excited! And then there was lots of hand flailing and ‘we must hide everything’, and it was just hilarious. And then there’s the fans that sometimes call themselves fans that display a level of entitlement which is sometimes a little surprising, that feel like they have an ownership which goes beyond the ownership that you ask for, which is the emotional investment, they feel like they have an ownership that is on par with our ownership, which can be a little strange and sometimes can get rather negative. I remember some of the treatment of Jennifer Hepler online was - it surprised me even though I shouldn’t have been surprised and it really infuriated me and sometimes I have to remind myself that the vast majority of our fans, and especially the ones in fandom, are good people, enthusiastic people. Those are the people that we do this for because if I think if I didn’t keep that in mind, I think sometimes it would get easy to be a little disheartened and wonder ‘why would I ever want to make anything for these people?’ So, I - if we speak of the fandom in particular I appreciate them a lot, and I - even among the fans, the ones that are intelligent and thoughtful, and just want us to do better, sure they want us to make games that they like - why wouldn’t they - or they’re upset if we make something that they didn’t like. Cool that’s fine. So try to focus on the positive rather than the negative, I think is what’s important.

Wook: Mmmhmm. Yeah, I think there’s a line between fans who are fans and like the product and fans who are only fans to sit there and bitch, and that’s my personal opinion and not the opinion of anybody else. [David chuckles] But what I’ll say is that the treatment of Ms Hepler appalled me and pissed me off so much that-

David: Yeah. I mean personally I wouldn’t have minded if they had just turned that on me, I mean I get that from time to time. I developed a bit of a thick skin just out of necessity. And I will even engage sometimes, I’ve gone onto our forums full of rage and I think probably my first reaction to Straight Male Gamer, for instance was to go on there and to post the ‘someone is wrong on the internet’ angry rant, and I thought back and I- ‘okay, that’s not going to help me, it’s not going to help them, it’s not going to help anyone’, so I thought, ‘okay, I’ll sit back and try to be thoughtful,’ but that’s hard to remember to be always patient and to keep in mind that even the ones that are angry and get under your skin that they are still - just because they’re acting like entitled fans doesn’t mean they are, and take a deep breath and do that. But when it came to Jennifer for instance, to go after somebody who really has no authority over what she’s writing, I’d rather they come to me and attack me, at least I have some say. I don’t have a lot, being senior writer doesn’t mean I get to decide everything I work on either, but at least I have some call to determine various creative decisions. I get to decide what those are, so I’d rather they came after. But they sort of took it to a new level with her, there was an element of misogyny there, which it was rather hilarious the extent they tried to ‘oh no, no, no-no, we’re totally not.’ I remember when that started they actually did come after me for a bit, and the best they could come up with was ‘you’re bald’, and I was like, ‘wow, you are so much more creative when you were insulting Jennifer!’ [both laugh] I mean, seriously, bald? That’s the best you can come up with? Yes, yes, I am bald. But, they really couldn’t tell the difference between what they were saying to me and what they were saying to her, like ‘seriously, you can’t tell the difference just in the tone itself?’ So that was upsetting, and I think I’d rather keep in mind all the really awesome people that play our games and come to our forums and that we interact with online or at cons, because for me that’s why I do this and I think that’s why Jennifer does this. She’s- It’s funny that people would say that she is some sort of bad influence, ‘cause she’s probably one of the biggest nerds on our team and I mean that in the nicest way, she’s such a geek, you know? I think she’s a credit to our team and I find it a little upsetting that anyone would imply that she’s not, based on whatever assumptions they’ve made about the kind of work that she does. It’s rather incredible that somebody would make those sorts of logical leaps.

Wook: Yeah, and unfortunately, not relating it to BioWare or anything, you know you see that all the time with any sort of video game aspect when there’s a woman involved in it. Like poor Aisha Tyler after the E3 thing. I mean she was getting hammered for a while too, and I think that’s why it’s important to have the openness and the inclusiveness-

David: Aisha Tyler, is she the – she wrote that post sort of telling off-

Wook: Yeah!

David: Awesome post I read that I just laughed. Wow! We need her to do some VO for a game of ours. [laughs]

Wook: Yeah, she was like, you know she’s been a gamer since she was a little kid.

David: Yeah, that’s the one I read, I thought that was pretty awesome.

Wook: Yeah. And if you put her in a game I would love you forever, I’m just putting that out there now. [laughs] The next question I had for you was, I know I promised not to ask about future projects, but I do have one question for you about a future project-

David: Okay.

Wook: And that is are you planning on writing any more books?

David: Um, I don’t know. The problem with writing novels, for me, is just that the time investment is so severe, when I do it in conjunction with my regular work, my day job. I know that for the last book there was a long stretch where I would work all day on the game, come home, really give myself about fifteen-twenty minutes to scarf something down – which I wasn’t cooking ‘cause I didn’t have time, so I would just pick something up along the way – and immediately start writing immediately and work until midnight or 1am, and I did that for about three or four months as a stretch and that was kind of hard on my life. So I don’t know, I don’t know. The deadlines for work for hire are pretty short, it’s not like I can just plunk away at the novel on the weekends or something, you know what I mean? [Wook makes a noise of understanding] So whether I write something else I don’t know it really depends on the time commitment involved. It would really sort of distress me to not do it, because I actually really enjoy writing the novels, it’s rather liberating to have that kind of freedom to – you know I enjoy working in a collaborative environment, that’s cool, but then there’s also something really great about, you know, I’m doing on my own. I thought my writing skills improved from book to book. It was rather hard writing the first one and realising that ‘oh, I’m actually not that great of a novel writer, all my experience in BioWare doesn’t really prepare me for writing a novel,’ but I thought I did okay and I thought I got better. So it would distress me to not continue that in some fashion, but I don’t know when it will happen, or if, so I can’t really say yea or nay.

Wook: And that’s it, so on behalf of Slashcast thank you so much for speaking to us today, David.

David: Well thanks for having me.

Wook: And if you’ve got – if any of our listeners have any questions, comments, concerns, or anything they’d like to see discussed in future episodes please leave us a link. Thanks!


Transcribed by: angelbabe_cj

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