Friday, November 13, 2015

Women with Initiative - Wendy Gorman

Hi all!
Welcome to my new feature, Women with Initiative! I am hoping to make this a monthly feature, but we'll see as time passes whether the interest is there. Today I've interviewed Wendy Gorman, creator of Still Life, which won in last year's Golden Cobra design contest. 

Wendy shares a little about her here:

My games are mostly WIP right now, but I co-wrote one of last year's Golden Cobra winners, Still Life, and I'm currently working on two games, one called The Things She Carried, which I wrote for the Warbirds anthology contest, which won, and is a game about Japanese American women in the US during WWII, and Shemesh, which is a solarpunk utopia game that I'm working on with Different Play, and that is probably my game that I'm most excited about. I've also written a DramaSystem setting called "Game On" about the women's baseball league in the US during WWII, and I have a million tiny baby game ideas that I'm working on with my favorite codesigner, Heather Silsbee.

Here are some questions I asked Wendy!

You have written some really amazing things. One of the previous cons I attended, many people played Still Life and said it was amazing. How did you find inspiration for such a unique game, and what kind of experiences do you think uninitiated players would have?

It's funny you should ask about Still Life, because it has really been a huge surprise to me. Still Life is a mystery! My friends and I were play testing Jon Cole's larp design work shop, Larp Jam, and our prompt was "pebblestone lifestyle." I desperately did not want to write a Flintstones larp, and we were on the shore of a lake, with rocks surrounding us, so I guess it was easy to run with the rocks/nature theme. As for the uninitiated playing it, I'm sure experiences will differ! It's a very low-key larp, with lots of sitting and quiet time, so if someone went in expecting to run around hitting people with foam swords, it would probably be a disappointment. That said, I'm told it's a great game to play when you're tired, because you really don't have to move around very much at all!

In your work for The Things She Carried, how have you been gathering information and historical reference for it? What made you choose that particular subject?

For The Things She Carried, I was inspired by an amazing memoir, Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, about Jeanne's experience with being relocated to internment camps in her youth. In particular, there's a scene in the book where her grandmother is trying to sell some family heirloom plates that the family has had for years, and the buyer is refusing to give her what she considers a fair price, because the market is flooded with similar items from other Japanese American families who are also leaving. The grandmother gets so mad that she smashes the plates, one by one, rather than sell them. It's a powerful book, and a powerful scene that stuck with me, especially since so many of these families lived in Washington, which is where I grew up. It's a side of World War II that doesn't get talked about enough, but it's all I could think about when I saw there was a contest for WWII games about women. I've been reading articles, I reread the first inspirational memoir, and have been looking at photos on historical archives to try and get a better feel for Japanese women in the 40s.

I am so excited about your solarpunk game! I have been delving into it - tell me more about solarpunk, and about Shemesh!

Shemesh is probably the game I'm most excited about! Solarpunk is an emerging genre that focuses on ecofriendly, sustainable living with an art noveau flair. I love the aesthetic, I love the message, and I love the chance to explore positivity and hope. My game focuses on a city, Shemesh, that envisions a new way of living. I was interested in games about utopia, and couldn't find any that I felt really fit, so I decided to design my own! The game is about exploring a solarpunk utopia in a diverse city, with a focus on aesthetics, which I love, and working through differences without resorting to conflict and anger. The question I'm inviting players to answer with this game is "What does it look like to approach misunderstandings in a utopia?" To top it all off, I have a backdrop of a bunch of funky fantasy peoples, including giant rats with a hive mind, human-sized sentient butterflies, fae, humans, and sentient robots, who all live alongside each other. I'm really, really in love with the setting and the game, and I can't wait to release it. It's sort of an amalgamation of a bunch of my favorite things, such as Microscope, the works of China Mieville, and beautiful, brightly colored stained glass. I've had a ton of fun writing it, play testing it, and I sincerely hope that others will enjoy it as much as I have!

What do you do outside of gaming, hobbies &etc.?

Outside of gaming, I'm a cat enthusiast, aspiring writer, and earring fanatic. I'm currently living in Spain for a year, teaching English, which I love. I am a big fan of feminist discussion, and trying to figure out how to make myself a more socially conscious human being. I also love to cook, and to bake, although I lack an oven here in Spain, so it's put a huge damper on my culinary escapades.

Thank you so much to Wendy for sharing with us! You can find Wendy online on Google+!

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