As a lot of you might know, GeekGirlCon has this really excellent practice of hiring an artist every year to design our year-specific merch. This year, that artist is Tatyana Vogt, whose art is so beautiful I’ve literally teared up over it. We are all in for such a treat with this year’s stuff, so read on for some of that good good design reveal and a little Q&A with the artist herself! Then, get your passes, check out our full programming schedule, and get yourself organized with the Guidebook app. Three days and counting!
Tell us a little about your story. Where are you from? Have you always been an artist?
Sure! So I was born and raised in California. I’ve drawn off and on my whole life, not realizing that it was something that could be a job until my later years of high school. I went to an art college where I worked part-time to help pay the bills and spent the little bit of free time I had working on becoming a better artist.
For the rest of this week we’ll be posting our last few Q&As with Featured Contributors, and today I bring you Dajae Moe Williams, a Quality Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Dajae will be speaking alongside Featured Contributor Trudy Kortes in a panel about women pursuing STEM careers on Sunday at 10 a.m., so be sure to check it out in the Guidebook app! And don’t forget your passes!
But for now, let’s get to know Dajae!
Tell us a little about your story. Where are you from? Where are you based out of now?
St. Louis, Missouri. I now live in Los Angeles, California.
What are some of your favorite hobbies?
I enjoy song writing, music production, basketball, and entrepreneurship.
Who did you look up to growing up? How about now?
When I was younger, I looked up Will Smith, Queen Latifa, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Now I look up to Nipsey Hussle and Steve Jobs.
One Featured Contributor I’m especially excited to see in action this year is SassyBlack. SassyBlack is a Seattle-based artist who creates dreamy music that’s richly inspired by the traditions of sci-fi and Afrofuturism. She’ll be performing at GeekGirlCon ‘19 (at 7 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday! Check out the whole programming schedule here!) and we couldn’t be luckier or more excited to have her. Read on to learn about her longtime love of Star Trek and newest album, Ancient Mahogany Gold.
I was born in San Francisco, raised in Hawaii and Seattle. Seattle is definitely my home!
What are your favorite communities to be a part of?
I really like being a part of the music community and music tech communities. Producing music in Ableton and composing on my synths bring me a ton of joy. I’d like to get more involved in the Marvel & Star Trek communities, but I get a little nervous about my knowledge base around all of that and sometimes that can prevent me from getting deeply involved in any of those communities. On the flip side, my family is a good source of community for all that type of conversation.
Their music is heartwarming and a great deal of fun, a pleasant breakaway from the worries of life. It can also be remarkably cathartic, simply reminding us that it’s okay to have a bad day. Anxiety is very real—but we’re also not alone. They sing about queer identity and belonging, cats and everyday superheroes. It’s music that we can all relate to, truly, and even I was caught off guard by how much I empathize with their lyrics.
In anticipation of their shows at GeekGirlCon this November, The Doubleclicks did a Q&A with me about their influences growing up, some of their favorite performances, and what they’re currently geeking out about!
As Programming hammers out the final details of the con-weekend schedule, we’ve been taking some time to get to know this year’s Featured Contributors. I was lucky enough to chat with Johnnie Jae, who you may know as the founder of A Tribe Called Geek. I learned about everything from where she’s from to the depth of her love for Star Wars. Keep reading to get even more stoked for the con than you already are.
Following her introduction as another of our GeekGirlCon ‘19 Featured Contributors, we asked Paula Burrows to share a little bit about her world in another installment of our Q&A series.
Paula’s acting credentials include TV series such as The Dangers of Online Dating and Unspeakable, but I was introduced to her work as the voice of Rayla, a Moonshadow elf from the animated series The Dragon Prince on Netflix. In this fantasy series, Rayla joins two human princes in trying to save their world from war. Paula’s performance gives Rayla a full range of emotion—serious one minute and dripping with sarcasm the next. Paula’s vocal prowess really makes Rayla’s story believable.
Read on to find out what her absolute dream role is, what stories she loves, and most importantly, which Hogwarts House she belongs to!
It is our pleasure to introduce our first Featured Contributor for GeekGirlCon 2019: Tanya DePass!
I had the opportunity to meet Tanya earlier this March during Women’s Month on the Nerdy Venom’s podcast, where we chatted about diversity in the gaming industry. A truly inspiring woman to listen to, Tanya is the founder of I Need Diverse Games, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization. Passionate about encouraging diversification across all of gaming—from development to representation on screen to the community itself—Tanya strives to make gaming more inclusive for everyone.
Her work with I Need Diverse Games is just the beginning: her writing has been featured in many publications, including Uncanny Magazine, Polygon, Wiscon Chronicles, Vice Gaming, Paste Games, and Mic. She has contributed to publications for Green Ronin, Paizo, and Monte Cook Games; was the editor for Game Devs and Others: Tales from the Margins (2018); and contributed to The Advanced Game Narrative Toolbox (2019). An avid streamer, Tanya is a partnered variety streamer on Twitch with a focus on single player RPG’s. She’s also a cast member on the Rivals of Waterdeep actual play show; every Sunday at 10am Pacific/12pm Central on twitch.tv/dnd. In addition to all this, she’s also the programming and diversity coordinator for OrcaCon and GaymerX.
Leading up to the convention this November, Tanya helped us put together a Q&A about her career and the importance of diversity in games.
Why gaming? What got you started in the field? It was all a happy accident, hitting on a note at the right time, and right place when #INeedDiverseGames hashtag hit twitter.
What was it like starting a movement and then creating and directing an org to highlight diversity in gaming? I never thought of it as starting a movement, that wasn’t my intent when I angrily tweeted around 6 am before work a few years ago. The formation of the non-profit was intentional, to keep the momentum going and give us a vehicle to do the work. It was a lot of work, a lot of stress (still) and worry that I’m doing enough.
It’s been about three years since you founded the non-profit for I Need Diverse Games. What changes, if any, have you seen in the gaming industry since you started, and what would you say are the biggest or most pressing changes that still need to be made? A very slow burn towards more POC in games, more women as lead characters or just existing in games. We need to have characters that are neurodivergent, that are disabled and not tropes or stereotypes. Games have to get away from mental illness as a reason for villainy.
What did your priorities/goals for the org start as? Have they evolved? To be a resource, to be a hub for folks looking to do better in inclusion for all games, and projects. For instance, if someone needs a diversity consultation; if we can’t provide it then I’d love to be able to refer them out to someone else. The other goal is to be a point of access for folks to get into the industry. Things have evolved over the years as I realize what is feasible, what’s not as a small org and what we can do with the resources we have.
What would you say to people who are frustrated by systemic problems they see in media or other industries but feel like they don’t have the money, power, or audience to make an impact? Speak up, do it in a productive way when you see a stereotype in a game, or film or other media. By productive I mean use methods for feedback, don’t scream at devs on twitter, or speak over marginalized folks who are already talking about these issues. Amplify, don’t trample. Screaming at developers won’t do anything but likely earn you a block or mute. If more players, especially folks who don’t have an audience speak up, it will show developers that people do care about these issues.
How do you measure success both with the org and within your own life? Hah, I’m not there yet with the organization. We’re not in a position to fund people, or hire folks to do a lot of the work that needs to be done, or even rent a physical space. For my own life, it would be having enough money in my account to not worry if I had a sudden expense hit, like a medical issue or not having to think too hard on what I can spend on groceries. It may sound shallow, but when you aren’t worried about keeping the lights on, food in the fridge, etc? You can focus on other things.
What are your favorite individuals/orgs to support? So many, goodness. Definitely AbleGamers; a percentage of any money I make as a Humble Bundle partner benefits them. Anykey, who are focused on good conduct in eSports and inclusion. DungeonCommander, a force for so much good in the tabletop space for POC, queer and non-binary folks. GaymerX & OrcaCon (Disclosure: I volunteer for both organizations conference doing programming and inclusion), Dirtbagboyfriend, a great non-binary artist in Seattle, Tales from the Mists is another actual play D&D show that has women, poc and non-binary folks on it. Everyone (else) who’s on Rivals of Waterdeep, the actual play D&D show I’m on Sundays on twitch.tv/dnd, MegaRan, Sammus Music, Mike Eagle, the NPC Collective, Shubzilla; and one of my favorite people ever and amazing author; NK Jemisin. That’s by no means an exhaustive list but we only have so much space here!
How do you explain the reach of gaming (and therefore the importance of diversity in the industry) to non-gamers? I liken it to films and books, especially when I can’t go to the movies now without seeing a commercial for a game, or seeing big names playing, sharing, streaming and voicing them. I remind them it’s a world wide industry; still growing and learning, but still touching on so many places and bringing us stories that aren’t even possible in other forms of media. They can be used to teach and more, and are far more than mere toys.
What are some of the biggest/most derailing misconceptions folks have about games? About your work specifically? About games in generalis that they are for kids and teens, that you grow up and out of gaming and this goes for all games, including tabletop; and that mobile games don’t count. Also that games have no value. About my work, people assume I only care about black folks, women and queer issues. They don’t ask, or they base it strictly off my identity being what I must care about and nothing else.
What challenges are you currently facing in terms of the org’s work/growth? How can the GeekGirlCon community support you best? Resources, money and being in a position to hire even part time staff. The best way to support is our Patreon (patreon.com/ineeddivgms) Otherwise, if people donate with convention passes, then also funds to help people attend. We can also take donations at PayPal.me/INeedDiverseGames.
What are your favorite games? Other favorite media? Single player, RPG’s are my favorite video games with Dragon Age II being my favorite game ever. The Division 2 has been taking up a lot of my gaming & streaming time, along with Magic the Gathering Arena. I don’t have a lot of other favorite media because I don’t have cable anymore and am way behind on new music, tv, etc. I have been really digging Daveed Diggs library of work, and I’m re-reading NK Jemisin’s Hundred Thousand Kingdom’s trilogy.
Why are physical gatherings such as GeekGirlCon important to this work? Why is this a space you want to show up in? For those that can afford to make it to an event like GGC, or PAX or OrcaCon; it’s important to find community in person. To make those connections that sometimes start online stronger and to find new friends at panels, or in game rooms. Sometimes you can start community in these spaces and the can grow online afterward. I want to show up because too often I hear people say that they don’t see people like them at events like these. Too often, can I count on two hands; maybe a couple times over the people of color at events focused on gaming. Being present and visible is part of inclusion.
Outside of gaming, what else are you currently passionate about? Sleep, lots of sleep and my cat Genki.
If you’re interested in learning more about Tanya and the other spectacular guests that are joining us for #GGC19, buy your passes online today! We’ll see you November 16th & 17th at the Conference Center at the WSCC.