As part of our Gaming For Pixels interview series, The Pixel Project spoke to the awesome Ian Gregory, co-founder and creative director of Witching Hour Studio who created the award-winning MASQUERADA. Having commited the egregious sin of doing poorly in school as a Singaporean, Ian starting working young and only returned to his studies at 23, receiving a scholarship at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. In 2010, his second year there, Ian co-founded Witching Hour Studios with some friends. Six years on, Witching Hour has garnered awards and international recognition for their line of Ravenmark games and the off-kilter Romans in My Carpet!. Their latest title, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows, was successfully funded on Kickstarter. Ian takes an interest in education and the proliferation of the local game industry, spending his time engaging with schools, government agencies and industry partners. Aside from Witching Hour and industry endeavours, you can find him playing board games, tabletop RPGs and lots of Lego.
Witching Hour is a Gaming For Pixels partner and will be sponsoring some goodies for gamers who take part in the 1st Gaming For Pixels Spring Slam from April 7th – 9th 2017.
Witching Hour’s flagship game MASQUERADA has an avid fandom that keeps growing as word-of-mouth about the game spreads. What inspired Witching Hour to create the game?
Masquerada stemmed from a rather hazy night of drinks, wooden swords and youthful bravado when I was backpacking along the canals of Venice . The idea of an adventure in such a storied city, along with the visual punch of mask shops all over the place served as the foundation of MASQUERADA. That, along with the innate need to challenge the notion of how magic worked in a D&D campaign we used to run!
Since then the team has come together to create something far larger than the sum of its parts. Between the striking costumes and the flawed, but lovable characters, it has become so much more than what I could ever dream of on my own.
There has been a history of women 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 industry has been slow to reflect and cater to this demographic? What would you suggest be done to address this? Is Witching Hour currently working on any female characters?
I think it’s because the games industry sits in this very odd space between art and business. And as long as there’s people buying games with a male lead and sexualised women, people are going to keep making the stuff. I think it’s part that and partly because it’s still an old boy’s club.
Solution? If you’re currently a developer, keep flooding the market with good stuff with proper representation. After a while, the market will readjust to a new normal. If you’re a guy? Be more mindful of the things you create. If you’re a girl? Join the game industry and knock some heads! Lots of male game developers are just clueless, harmless souls who needs someone to give them perspective. We need your insight and stories to shift things in a better direction!
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?
Talk about it: the conversation must be had; discomfort must be felt. A good cause to make everyone feel good for being involved is only one half of the solution. We need to actually talk about these uncomfortable things in the light. Hopefully, this will be catharsis to victims and call out abusers regarding their behaviour. Many victims are too afraid to voice their suffering, and surprisingly, many abusers are unaware of their actions. By putting the topic front and centre, both parties might find a way out of this horrible cycle.
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?
It starts from within. One has to be fundamentally not okay with sexism and harassment. If you start impressing the importance of stopping such actions to your friends, have them carry forward that notion, I’m sure we’ll see a groundswell of a tilt in the right direction.
While all these programmes are great, we cannot depend on them alone to convince people a change is needed. It’s always best to have a peer change your mind than an authority figure. Which is why The Pixel Project’s Gaming For Pixels campaign is a great step forward.
And finally – why does Witching Hour Studios support The Pixel Project and our Gaming For Pixels campaign?
Forgive the short answer, but all I can think of is this — it was the right thing to do. I can not imagine a world where any counter-argument would have any weight. It was the easiest “yes” I’ve ever given to getting involved in something. Violence is a terrible thing, all in all; more so when it’s caused by someone close to us. Hopefully, we can work together towards making it a remnant of our past.