I’m honored to be the recipient of the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award. The Ambassador Award honors an individual or individuals who have helped the game industry advance to a better place, either through facilitating a better game community from within, or by reaching outside the industry to be an advocate for video games and help further our art. The award was presented to me by Neil Druckmann, creative director on the 2014 GDC Game of the Year, The Last of Us.
In 2005 I was a floundering 21-year-old college student with no direction and growing debt. I drew that snake comic in a statistics class I was failing, and on my way home I decided to scan it and maybe put together a website. I thought if I kept doing that, I could teach myself to draw, as a fun hobby.
Since then, this comic has become my full time job (since 2008), and last year I raised over half a million dollars in the second most successful comics Kickstarter ever. I draw what I like, I have fans all around the globe, and most fortunately, I know what I want to do with my life. In those nine years I’ve had countless people from all corners tell me I couldn’t do this or that, or that I was wasting my time trying something that had no future or point. At the end of the day, though, I can only say “I’ll show you,” and I try to do just that.
Never underestimate the power of time, hard work, and stubbornness.
what's extreme is people like you not realizing that sometimes diversity can go too far. When characters are made black or disabled or gay for no reason it hurts the story and it hurts the cause of the people who are supposedly being represented.
I like how you sent me an ask claiming that no one says a thing except people rhetorically making fun of the position that no one actually holds, and then you send me an ask clarifying that you hold exactly the same position.
I’m kind tempted to just not address anything else you said and just marvel in the perfection of that.
What’s the reason for making a character white? What’s the reason for making a character straight? What’s the reason for making a character abled or neurotypical or cis?
When you assume that making a character Other relative to yourself weakens the narrative, you’re revealing a terrible thing about yourself: that you can’t imagine that those people have backstories and inner lives the way that you do.
Every single person in a fictional narrative is ultimately there because a writer decided they needed to be there, but when the person looks like you and matches your expectations, you accept that this person who was made up for the plot had a life full of events that led them to the point where they’re appearing on the screen or page.
But when your expectations aren’t met, you start saying it’s forced. You can’t accept that events led them here because you don’t grant them the kind of life that you know you have. Your empathy does not extend to them.
Look at how many white people think they can relate to a little girl in an industrial orphanage who falls in with a capitalist robber baron during the Great Depression more than they can relate to a little girl in the foster system in modern New York who falls in with a career politician, all because of a difference of race. The original Annie’s situation and world were only slightly less alien to us than the Victorian period, but making her white somehow makes her relatable in a way that a little girl who clearly exists in our world isn’t.
The fact is, empathy is linked to imagination and we can (and do!) relate to people who are literally alien beings in literally alien worlds. The choice not to relate to Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie—or a Black or gay or female or trans video game character—is a choice to shut off both imagination and empathy.
The failing is not with the narrative, it’s with you.
Hey, Seattle! I’ll be at Emerald City Comicon March 28-30! I’ll be at the Topatoco booth, #1102. I’ve got all sorts of books and goodies, and I’ll be doing some dinosaur sketches for anybody who wants one.
I’ve had to overcome some serious behind-the-scenes hurdles, but that’s all behind us now. There’s some exciting news regarding the comic that I can’t wait to share in the near future, so stay tuned! 2014 is the year Dresden Codak takes over the world.