[Women Who Play] Interview with Kayletta; Associate Creative Director for The Repopulation

A series of Q&A sessions with women who work or play in online gaming. The interviews take a look at what they play, what aspects they most enjoy or dislike and their views on the ups and downs of online gaming.

“Women in gaming” is a topic I have wanted to write about for some time but never quite found the right approach. Whilst there are many tales available of the horror stories and downsides for women who dare to call themselves gamers, my own experiences – as a gamer and game blogger – have actually been quite positive.

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I’ve always felt that it is important to highlight what is going wrong and to expose those who judge by gender. But equally, women are playing games, they are making games and they are making positive contributions to gaming communities.

I decided to try and contact some of these women and thus The Women Who Play Interviews were born. Here I shine the spotlight on some fellow female gamers, their experiences, how they play, what they like and dislike about gaming and their own views on the “Women in gaming” topic.

For more information on The Women Who Play interview series, as well as links to the other interivews, visit the Interview Introduction page.

Know a woman in games I should interview? Let me know in the comments!

Interview 1: Kayletta

Kayletta is a gamer, mother, and Associate Creative Director for indie game The Repopulation.

 

Tell us a little about yourself

Kayletta: “My name is Jennifer, but I go by Kayletta on the internet. When I’m not gaming or working, I’m with my family, and if, by some miracle, the kids are gone and the husband is busy, I work on my novels.”

 

How did you first discover online gaming, and which titles have you played?

Kayletta: “I used to play Battlefield 1942 multiplayer in 2002 and early 2003 before my (now) ex brought home a copy of Shadowbane. Neither of us had played any MMOs at that time. We loaded it up and within a couple of weeks I was hooked. I did try World of Warcraft when it released in 2004 but that didn’t end well – I left after a whole 2 weeks.

“After that, I tried most major MMOs and many minor ones including Horizons, Guild Wars, Dark and Light, DDO, (the short lived) Wish, 9Dragons, Dreamlords, LOTRO, Myst Online, Vanguard:SoH, Darkfall, AoC, WAR, STO, and Rift. More recently I’ve played Neverwinter, Marvel Heroes, TSW, and Kung-Fu Panda… I mean, WoW: Mists of Pandaria.”

 

What appeals to you most about gaming and what aspects of play have you been most involved in?

Kayletta: “As a gamer, I’d say I’m a role player at heart, but thanks to trial-by-fire in Shadowbane my primary gameplay is PvP. For me, PvP needs to have meaning. I don’t get into battleground grinding. I like combat that comes with risk and reward. Knowing my city was on the line was what made Shadowbane so amazing for me. Serious consequences make you step up, they encourage you to work as a team and to overcome obstacles you would normal think of as insurmountable. That is something you rarely see in MMOs anymore.

“Major game appeal for me comes in well-designed systems that push players to depend on each other and interact with one another during the entire game. Systems, like you see in World of Warcraft, where you never need another person until you’re ready to grind tier gear, are failures in my opinion. MMOs were designed to be expansive worlds with interdependency but instead they’ve become mindless solo grindfests.”

The Repopulation

 

You are currently working on a new MMORPG called The Repopulation. Can you tell us a little about this game?

Kayletta: “The Repopulation is a sci-fi MMORPG set on the distant planet of Rhyldan. Earth is gone and humans cannot reproduce, turning us into a cloning society. You start out as a 2nd generation clone with either the Free People’s Republic, a nomocratic separatist movement, or One World One Nation, an authoritarian society. As you progress, you’re able to switch factions or ditch all ties to the main NPC factions and become “rogue”.

“We have player cities, vehicle combat, housing, a vast world to explore, non-combat skills, trade skills and a player driven, crafter centric economy. In short, if you cannot find something fun in this game you aren’t looking hard enough.”

 

How is The Repopulation different from other games currently on the market?

Kayletta: “First off, we’re a pure skill based system, something you don’t see too often. If you want to raise your Rifle skill, you use a rifle; if you want to raise your Animal Handling, you tame baby animals or interact with your existing ones. Raising defensive skills, like Aerosol Defense, is done as you get hit with that type of damage.

“For me, PvP needs to have meaning. I don’t get into battleground grinding. I like combat that comes with risk and reward.”

“Secondly, we’ve taken some old-school MMO design philosophies to heart, like risk vs. reward and interdependency. We’re using those to build a game where players NEED each other, where grouping and guilding is beneficial, and where you reap what you sow.

“To give an example, all player nations are part of an alliance system. This system determines your hostility level with all NPC factions and player nations in the game. OWON and FPR NPC faction players are always friendly to their own faction but hostile to the opposing one. They can also be either hostile or friendly to rogue nations. Rogue nations, on the other hand, completely control their own destinies. They can be friendly with every single player nation and faction on the server, but they could also be hostile to every single player nation and faction on the server. Going Rogue is a higher risk but it can provide a greater reward as well.

“Finally, we’re indie. Yes, I know, 5,000 indie developers are trying to make MMOs, so how does this make us unique? We’re committed to bringing The Repopulation to our fans without investors, without losing our identity, without giving up creative control and with the ability to decide when the game is ready to release. The things we post on our forums or release in featurettes aren’t pipe dreams and they aren’t hinging on money that may never come.”

 

And with regards to your actual work on this project, what is your role and how did you get started?

Kayletta: “My official title is Associate Creative Director. My duties range from editing press features to managing the mission writing team and occasionally getting to do some writing myself, plus interviewing new writers, organizing events, and working with guilds as a liaison. I’ve also assisted in designing systems like the siege system and we’re presently working on for the “hardcore” rule set. Basically, I get to do the fun, creative stuff and I leave the programming and technical issues to the guys.

“I got my start with The Repopulation in a pretty random way. I found the game on MMORPG.com when I was looking for something new to play and fell in love with their design concepts and their dedication. I put in an application to help and started out as a mission writer, then moved on to technical input and eventually into management.”

 

Will you continue to work on The Repopulation or do you have other game related projects in the pipeline?

We have a lot of fun together pressing forward on an awesome game. Plus, I get the luxury of working entirely from my living room and sometimes even in my pyjamas. I can’t think of a good reason to do anything else.”

Kayletta: “I really have no interest in leaving the company I’m working with now. We’re an international team, with a myriad of backgrounds and a deep dedication to seeing this project completed. We have a lot of fun together while still pressing forward on an awesome game. Plus, I get the luxury of working entirely from my living room and sometimes even in my pyjamas. I can’t think of a good reason to do anything else.

The Repopulation

 

If you could pick one great moment from your time playing online games what would it be it?

Kayletta: “My favourite memories primarily come from Shadowbane, but the absolute best is actually a tie.

“One was a four-way fight for a mine on Maelstrom. We were holding the mine, and with about 5 minutes left three guilds showed up. We were outnumbered so did the only sane thing and ran each of the guilds into the others. While they fought each other we concentrated on keeping the mine claimed. When the dust settled we had the mine and were 4 out of the only 5 survivors. It was insane.

“The other was a “bane” on our city by a long hated guild. I had a couple of friends in that guild that had let me bring a character over. That character ended up getting shoved into a low level officer role because the leadership thought it was an officer’s alt. So I sat on my officer ranked spy toon in their guild, and in their Ventrilo, and reported back what was going on. They never did figure out how we were always a step ahead.”

 

From the perspective of a female gamer, how would you say your experiences have been online?

Kayletta: “The best platform for being treated as just another human being is definitely PC. The worst is Xbox Live, hands down. But even on those platforms, different genres seem to come with different problems.

“As a player in MMOs, I’m mostly treated like any other player. I get the “Are you really a girl?” question fairly often when I’m not in voice chat, but that doesn’t really bother me. I have had occasions as a raid or PvP leader where men were surprised that I was female or refused to follow me because I’m female, but those are less often. The rarity with MMOs seems to be the “Tits or GTFO” and “Wanna screw?” questions, although I was seriously harassed once.

“The most problematic seems to be console based lobby FPS/TPS like the Call of Duty or Halo series. When I played Halo 2 often, I always used a mic. I tried to be a team player and ended up with a ton of flak about my gender. It got so bad from one clan, I was getting 2-3 messages per day for pics from different people, that I wrote in to support and ended up with a reply that basically read “Get used to it.” Needless to say I stopped playing Halo after that.

“I’ve gotten a few bad messages from people on Call of Duty as well, but it slowed down considerably once I stopped using a mic. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was the last FPS game that I regularly used a mic for and when I picked up Call of Duty: Black Ops I tossed the mic in a drawer. Now I only pull it out when I’m with a team I know. On a good note, I haven’t received a single gender based nasty message since Black Ops 2 released and my gamertag isn’t exactly gender-ambiguous. We need to stop thinking in terms of labels and just all be human. But this isn’t just a gaming problem, it’s a global one.

“We need to stop thinking in terms of labels and just all be human. But this isn’t just a gaming problem, it’s a global one.”

“Overall, I’d venture that it’s getting better, but we’re not where we should be yet. My voice should never be remarkable. Asking my gender should never be more than a way to know which pronoun to use. Being surprised that I’m a good raid leader, or a capable PvPer, or patting me on the back for being serious about gaming and “breaking stereotypes” will only ever earn you two words. Yeah, you know which two.

“Changing this disturbing trend is important, but I think our focus is in the wrong place. We’re trying to make female equal to male, and that’s the wrong attitude. When we start pushing to treat all human beings respectfully then we’ll get somewhere because we’ll be thinking inclusively. Until then, while we’re thinking exclusively (male, female, black, white, etc) we’re never going to fix the problem. We need to stop thinking in terms of labels and just all be human. But this isn’t just a gaming problem, it’s a global one. We have to address it full scale to really change it. That’s why I’m not holding my breath for a full solution any time soon.”

 

What advice would you give to someone looking to start working in the gaming industry?

Kayletta: “From what I can see there are 2 ways into the gaming industry: education and indie.

“You can get a degree in a game related field and find a job or, if you have the skills but not the degree, you can volunteer with an indie company. If you’re willing to give it your all and work for low/no pay you can get the experience you need in the industry, add to your resume, and (hopefully) work on a project you believe in, all at once.”

 

And finally what advice would you give to other women who may be thinking of getting into online gaming?

Kayletta: “It’s really not as bad as it sounds. Yes, occasionally you may get a comment (or twenty depending on the genre), but don’t let it get under your skin. When you block/ignore them without a comment, they typically get the message, and if they don’t most states have stalker laws that kick in.

“Another thing I highly suggest for women getting into gaming is to adopt the mantra that you’re a gamer. Period. Not a gamer gurl, or a girl gamer, but a gamer. You are not your gender, and when your gender doesn’t matter to you, you will find it matters less to everyone else too.”

The Repopulation

I’d like to offer my thanks to Kayletta for taking part and for sharing her views and experiences.

Kayletta can be found here: @JLChesnes and for more information on The Repopulation visit: www.therepopulation.com.

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Are you, or do you know, a long-term women gamer, blogger or game developer who would make an interesting participant for a future interview? If so please leave me a message in the comments section.


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