Earlier this month (March 2015), I read a fascinating article about that game developer and what he did in response to my review. The game was developed by Ben Esposito. At this year's conference, Esposito gave a presentation in the conference's "Failure Workshop." He noted that he'd read my post about his game and...
"I decided to prove her wrong. I would make the most authentic game. It would be heroic... I am quite embarrassed about this."He goes on to tell about how--once he started doing research--he saw that he was wrong. Prior to that,
the depth of his research on the topic had been, well, liking the look of those [Kachina] dolls.He told that story to a packed room. Early on, he stuck with the "Kachina" theme and
showed a series of screenshots showing some frankly awful ideasand then started talking to professors of Indigenous cultures. Someone told him to talk to the Hopi tribe. So he did. And...
After talking to people of the tribe for a while, listening to them about their art and their stories, he had his apocalyptic moment. "They're people."I realize that a lot of people will say "well, duh!" to that admission, but I appreciate his honesty and his sharing. He could have shelved the game and walked away to redesign a new game, but he made a different decision.
I love Esposito’s story. I want to defend him, champion him for his good intentions, his benevolent desire to communicate something. And I struggle along to the same conclusions, that sometimes a story is not your story to tell. “If it’s really important to tell someone’s narrative,” he adds, “let them tell it.” If someone is not in a position to tell their story, maybe look at ways to help it get told. But don’t assume it’s yours to tell.
“When you get called out,” Esposito finished, “shut up and listen. Examine your position. Learn from them. Learn to shut up.”I followed/follow the Gamer Gate conversations. This one is remarkably different. Read the comments to Walker's article. Reading and thinking about this inspired me to create a new label:
I wonder---might writer's conferences have a "Failure Workshop," too? Wouldn't that be cool?
Update, March 16, 3:42 PM
I received an email that suggested that my idea of a "Failure Workshop" suggests that all non-Native writers will fail in their attempts to create Native characters. I do not think that at all. It is definitely possible. Flynn did it in On the Move. Definitely, writers have erred in depictions of people who are 'other' to themselves. I suspect they talk about that with their closest friends, but I think so much could be gained by more public conversations, like those that happen at the gaming conference. People who sign up to present in the Failure Workshop are people, just like the people who write children's and young adult books. What is it about that conference--that space--that makes it possible for them to share as they do? Maybe someone in SCBWI could investigate and find a few well-established writers who would be willing to do this sort of thing.