"The most important thing I did was listen."
March 12, 2015 5:25 AM   Subscribe

What's the scariest thing in the world? Ask your teenage daughter. Ninja Pizza Girl is a game from independent game studio Disparity Games.
I’m pitching my idea for "baddies" to the Disparity Games design think tank. It consists of me, my wife and however many of our daughters happen to be in the room at the time.… Raven looks up. "Robots aren’t scary Dad.… Zombies aren’t scary either."

I’m getting a little tetchy with this unreceptive design group. I ask Raven, "So what are teenage girls scared of?"

Raven thinks for a moment. She looks sad. "Other teenagers," she says.

A blog response:
All of these things are why, despite chipping into Ninja Pizza Girl‘s funding, I will be keeping a close eye on how the game will play. Because for all of the things I think it could do right, Jason Stark’s good intentions but ultimate lack of experience with the narrative of growing up as a girl still will be lingering there. I don’t think ill of him for this, but it makes me wonder how this could have been done by someone who had to jump and fly away from her own bullies way back when.
posted by Lexica (6 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I think this game sounds really cool, and I like the idea of a teenage girl's experience being centered without it being a romance story, which Hollywood seems to think is all teenage girls care about.

I also appreciated the blog response noting the absence of male characters in the story, despite the role of boys, men, and the patriarchy in teenage girls' lives. This is especially poignant given that the story Alia told about being a pizza deliverer at the beginning, the story that inspired the game, included some of the creepy sexual harassment that is also part of being a teenage girl.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:45 AM on March 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

My work internet filter blocks all three of those links, but I'm really curious how they plan to turn other teenagers into video game baddies. Because I am a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which pretty much nailed the "other teenagers are the scariest thing" narrative via some inspired monster metaphors. Are these guys gonna use the same metaphors, or some new ones, or do something a little more literal (which seems really hard to do)?
posted by OnceUponATime at 7:47 AM on March 12, 2015

What's especially sad to me is that those narratives aren't "hidden," unless it's the listeners hiding the narrative.

First, nobody asks us. We have to speak up and say "hey, that's not my story that you're telling." And in order to do that, we have to understand that our experience as women/teenage girls is not unique. But instead, we're conditioned to believe that other people's narratives about us are true. From the moment we're born, we're "pretty" and "sweet" and "helpful." And often the narratives that on the surface look like they're portraying strong women are also portraying nearly naked women. So any tiny improvement is a huge improvement. We get to envision ourselves wearing comfortable clothes in media? Cause for celebration, full stop.

When teenage girls try to tell the stories of their received harassment to the men in their lives, the response is usually...appalling. From victim blaming to punishment to ideas for what we can do to prevent men from harassing us.

And most women eventually learned that we needed to stop complaining/telling our stories, because things weren't going to change.

So no. These narratives aren't like lights hidden under bushels. They're extinguished nearly from the beginning.
posted by bilabial at 8:12 AM on March 12, 2015 [22 favorites]

Hang out in places like MetaFilter where women feel safe to talk and listen.
posted by straight at 8:13 AM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

From the Polygon link:
The game tracks Gemma's emotional state. When she's running fast and jumping high, she feels good and the world is filled with light and color. When she gets laughed at, her mood darkens and the world darkens with her. If Gemma becomes overwhelmed, she doesn't die, but falls to her knees and gives up, drowning in bad thoughts.
Good god, this sounds completely devastating. But it also sounds realistic, because a lot of times, the ability to maintain forward motion will swoop in to save you, and drowning in bad thoughts can feel like a fate worse than death.

When I was 7, I had all of the light and hope in the world bundled up inside my little girl heart. I went where I wanted to, when I wanted to, and I didn't answer to anyone for any reason. "Fearless" doesn't even touch it, I felt like a tiny superhero. I was utterly confident (and extremely lucky, in retrospect) that most everyone I encountered could be treated as a friend I hadn't met yet. I wasn't raised in a gender-compliant household so I didn't run up against any gendered limitations. No one ever told me to be quiet or pretty. No one ever told me there were going to be rules about what girls like me could and couldn't do.

So by the time I hit 15, my whole scope of comprehension had been turned upside down. My body had betrayed me; the sudden appearance of bumps and curves where there was once only litheness and agility darkened my light heart. I left my non-gender-compliant household and was catapulted into a world where Girls Do X and Boys Do Y, End Of. I've never been remotely "feminine" so I was highly suspect to most other girls and boys my age, many of whom treated me like my complete disregard for gender role compliance was contagious, like they might catch it and then catch hell for it just as much as I did. And so I came to understand that when people looked at those newly-curved parts of me, it helped them to ascertain that they could treat me like I was less of a human being. That is what being a teenage girl felt like, to me: Something whole being broken up into pieces and carted off to places I would never be able to reach.

I desperately miss that free feeling, all speed and light and movement, all heart, and I wish I knew how to get it back. I wish I could just run fast enough to get there, like Gemma. Big ups to all my teenage girls out there, light and dark. Fuck the patriarchy -- you're the best thing the world has going.
posted by divined by radio at 8:49 AM on March 12, 2015 [42 favorites]

This is really interesting and I hope they make it work, and that other people start doing games that explore these kinds of things. Women and girls, even!

That said, I am not sure I'd be able to play a game like this because it also sounds like it would take me back to some very painful places. The escapism of completely unlike-the-actual-world games with their quests, beating up the bad guys, etc can be just what I need. I still do this when life dishes out problems I can't resolve and crap up with which I have to put. Just for a little while, I get to be in a place where I can actually make the bad stuff go away.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:00 PM on March 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

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