When you have one person who is experiencing discrimination at their workplace, it's a problem that needs to be addressed. But when you have many people across an industry who've faced discrimination and sexism, it becomes clear that these are systematic issues that must be brought to public awareness in order to be solved. A large problem awareness efforts often face lies in finding a way to present information in a way that not only conveys the experiences people have had, but also inspires unaffected people to become interested in an unfamiliar industry. Eliana Zebro, founder of the game development team Storysinger Presents, aims to bridge this gap with a visual novel compiling the accounts of sexism experienced by people in the audio industry.
Eliana became inspired to share these stories when she posted a Twitter thread about the under-representation of women in the audio industry. Many women and people of marginalized genders responded sharing their own stories of discrimination, and Eliana knew they had to take action. Despite knowing these issues were widespread due to her years in the industry, seeing so many people who had faced discrimination come forward inspired them to action. Having already published several visual novels, Storysinger Presents had the experience and knowledge needed to create a game that would engage people from outside the audio industry.
The game is being created in Twine, an open-source tool for telling non-linear stories. The uncomplicated text-based interface will make the game accessible to those who may not play many games, and makes it easy for players to engage with each person's story. This format also has the benefit of allowing those who have come forward to tell their stories in their own words, a necessary aspect for something that is so personal. Finally, this format maintains the anonymity of those who have shared their stories, a crucial component in ensuring people feel comfortable and safe in revealing these accounts of workplace discrimination.
Eliana has shared a few stories ahead of the game's release to give people an idea of the types of submissions she has received. One woman recounted the time she was asked to be interviewed as part of a promotional video for a game she had worked on, only to be told by one of her male coworkers that she was "only chosen because you're a woman and that makes us look good". In another, a student is told by a guest speaker that they shouldn't bother applying for internships as they did not hire women at his well-known studio.
The game is set to feature the stories of 20 different women and people of marginalized genders. The stories range from quick anecdotes to longer, more involved experiences spanning careers. Ultimately, all twenty of these people share the common thread of having faced sexism and gender-based discrimination in their workplace. This unfortunately begs the question: if twenty people came forward to discuss their experiences from one Twitter thread, exactly how common is this problem?
That question is exactly what Eliana hopes to wake people up to. Though anyone who plays games, watches movies, or listens to music has experienced the work of people in the audio industry, it is not necessarily an industry that is often discussed. In making this game, Eliana hopes to wake the wider public up to the realities of what she describes as their "absolutely horrific experiences in this industry". By creating a space for these experiences to be shared and understood, hopefully people will begin to feel as though they are not alone, and push for better from both within and outside of the industry.
Sexism in the Audio Industry (working title) will be available on itch.io. You can stay up-to-date by following Storysinger Presents on Itch, and on Twitter. [Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Eliana had not been aware of these issues prior to their Twitter thread. This has now been corrected. -RE]