As part of our Gaming For Pixels interview series, The Pixel Project spoke to the fabulous Gwen Guo who is a Singapore-based sound designer for video games and also the co-founder of IMBA Interactive with 7 years in the industry. Serving mainly the indie community, she hopes that excellent audio production, implementation and practices can contribute to indie games rising to become a powerful storytelling medium in this region. IMBA Interactive is a Singapore-based game audio studio founded in 2013. They create original sounds, noises, music tracks, and voice work and integrate them into games, videos and installations. They have contributed sonically to a wide variety of mobile, desktop, console and VR games, including award-winning titles such as “Masquerada:Songs and Shadows” (Witching Hour Studios), and “Mr. Catt” (7quark).
IMBA Interactive is a Gaming For Pixels partner and will be taking part in the 1st Gaming For Pixels Spring Slam from April 7th – 9th 2017.
IMBA Interactive specialises in producing interactive audio. Tell us about your work in the gaming industry and what inspired you and your team to go into this aspect of game production.
In our line of work, we provide everything audio for games. This covers music composition, sound design, voice over and audio integration. All 5 of us come from very similar backgrounds — we are all musicians outside of work and love playing games since young. Sound is non-tangible yet highly emotive – this mystery is part of what attracts us to the craft. We grew up knowing how much great sound adds to a game, whether it’s a casual title or AAA title, and are thrilled to be part of this process.
There has been a history of female characters being sexualised, objectified, or even absent in popular mainstream games, with far fewer playable female lead characters than playable male lead characters. With women and girls comprising 52% of gamers, why do you think the gaming industry has been slow to reflect and cater to this demographic? What would you suggest be done to address this?
The general assumption is that what we see as classically masculine traits are regarded as higher forms of leadership and power than those seen as traditionally feminine ones. Most people play games for the escape or to feel powerful or dominant when they feel otherwise in the real world. However, attaining power is often associated with prioritisation of self, competition, aggression, assertiveness and stoicism at the expense of dehumanising others (which explains the sexualisation of women) and even yourself. I do not mean to say that these are bad forms of leadership, but they shouldn’t be the only ones. Attributes like softness, empathy, harmony and authenticity should also be visible forms of leadership.
It’s great that we’re seeing a rise in female representation in games but passing the Bechdel test is not enough — having players, publishers, and developers acknowledge that there is more to games and stories than the celebration of these masculine traits would enrich everyone’s experiences both making and playing these games.
Successful gamer-run charity events like Extra Life, Child’s Play, and Gamers For Giving have shown that gamers have a huge heart for helping causes. What do you think gamers can do to support efforts to end violence against women and girls?
Everyone must first acknowledge what violence covers: verbal and online harassment also constitute violence; if ignored, it can lead to the normalisation of violent behaviour beyond verbal ones.
Growing up as an avid gamer surrounded by boys and men, it is important to me that girls and women feel safe enough to be themselves without fear of being bullied, sexualised, objectified and harassed. Leaders of gaming communities should include anti-harassment measures as a rule and not be afraid to wield the ban hammer when things get out of hand. Men can also call out others when they witness an act of harassment happening. It is especially important for women to stand up for other women and seek each other for support if it isn’t a safe space. I’ve learnt with age that you don’t want to be the woman that kicks the ladder behind you.
There are a number of actions that the gaming industry is taking to address the issue of sexism and misogyny and support women in gaming ranging from female-only eSports tournaments to working on tech-driven solutions to curb online harassment against women and minorities. What additional solutions and steps would you suggest to effectively tackle the sexism and the online harassment faced by women in gaming?
As mentioned above, actions on the ground in communities can be as strong as big-picture initiatives. It is merely lip service to support such initiatives yet not practice them in your everyday life. It is easy to click “donate” and post your support on social media but to really find the courage to be an ally including standing up for your female peers in the face of harassment and risking the loss of friendships – that would be the real test. Even I struggle with this every day.
And finally – why does IMBA Interactive support The Pixel Project and our Gaming For Pixels campaign?
As long as you’re a woman who plays games and have interacted with other gamers online or offline, the chances of you encountering some sort of microaggression or harassment is pretty high. Being in a male-dominated industry such as games development is no different. We’d love to contribute to building an environment where women can be free from gender-based harassment and feel safe pursuing our craft while having our forms of leadership be respected.