Hey, Listen! : Preview

HEY, LISTEN!

So let’s try this again.

We want to talk about video games—why they matter, and who they matter to. 

We asked the question last year to see if anyone, like myself, had a love for video games that often felt challenged. Maybe by societal roles, maybe by underrepresentation, maybe by stigmatization or pressure from friends or adults.

It took me many years to feel confident enough to say I love what I love. I grew up playing Street Fighter on my brother’s old consoles during the summer when nobody else was home to stop me. I played Sims and World of Warcraft on the computer with my dad. When I got older, I finally got a Gamecube for Christmas. I spend endless, endless hours playing Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing—it was the first thing I did in the morning, and the first thing I did when I got home from school. Sometimes, I could even sneak downstairs at night and play instead of sleeping. When I finally got the Wii, I started playing Legend of Zelda, which has grown into my all-time favorite series. Now, I’m anxiously awaiting a few new games for the Switch. 

Video games have always been played a massive roll in my life. They were how I connected to my dad and brother. Video games taught me creative problem solving, rewarded and encouraged curiosity, and made my imagination limitless and fanciful. 

For most of my life, however, my passions were private. I was embarrassed to be a girl who played video games when I was told they were only for boys. I was embarrassed to play video games that were cute and fun, instead of the violent ones my classmates played. I was embarrassed to say I played video games after school instead of playing sports or reading a book. 

Video games also have a problem with representation. While they themselves are laden with stigma, mainstream design studios perpetuate only one vision of who can save the world. There are more women featured in video games, but I’m hard-pressed to think of a queer character or a black woman in a primary role. Indie studios are slowly producing their own content to compensate for the historical lack of representation, but we have a long way to go.

In these photos, we aimed not to directly replicate a character’s costume, but rather to pay homage to the ways in which we all imagine ourselves as heroes and fighters. We wanted to depict the moment we all step into our favorite aspirational characters, and begin to see ourselves as brave and strong and kind and capable. 

I want a world where everyone can see themselves in worlds of fantasy and possibility.

In the print version of this story, we will be featuring reader submitted stories about meaningful video game moments they recall. 

Final photos will feature illustrations by Sonia Margolin—get excited.

-Erin

Photographer: Taylor Hall

HMUA: Maiya Evans, Anna Strother

Models: Christian Kenoly, Anna Strother, Ashley Kressin

The Audacity