A Princess vs Peril Interview with Thiéry Adam of Studio T. Adam
If you read Princess vs Peril, chances are you love awesome games featuring female leads and feminist issues. Today we’re excited to tell you about an upcoming game that promises both: Studio T. Adam’s Words Are Power.
Words Are Power places you in the shoes of a 1940s female reporter chasing the story of a lifetime. Unfortunately, big stories don’t come easy — especially when you’re dealing with often unfair gender dynamics.
Game Designer Thiéry Adam was kind enough to answer some questions for us about the game, its feminist subject matter, and why Studio T. Adam chose to advertise it as a feminist game on its Kickstarter campaign.
1. Can you tell us a little about the premise of Words Are Power? What can players expect from it, both in gameplay and story?
We’re big fans of tv dramas like House of Cards, Mad Men & even Game of Thrones. What we take away from those shows are important traits like determination, overcoming seemingly impossible odds, & characters that need to achieve goals despite how they are perceived.
The mood in Washington in 1946 is that the war is finally over. People don’t want to hear about it anymore, and certainly don’t want new problems related to it. Digging into corrupt politicians or immoral military officers is something that no one really wants, yet needs to be done. You get that unsavory deal of bearing the blame for not only carrying but seeking bad news.
In terms of gameplay, we take the well known board game rules of Scrabble and Words With Friends and twist them into mini-modes that relate to the story taking place. Essentially, for every challenge you need to overcome, you will have to perform a mini-mode that represents your capacity to use your wit and your words. For example, if you snuck into someone’s office to go through their files and the janitor catches you, you won’t punch his lights out and jump out the window like in an action game. Instead, you’ll “talk your way out” where you have just a few turns to place words until you reach a certain line on the board. Then the story continues with your character giving a plausible excuse.
2. What inspired Words Are Power?
Broadly, we wanted to make a word game with a story & investigative journalism ended up being the idea that best fit the combination.
Because we wanted the written word to be important, we took the game back to pre-color photo newspapers. Since our target audience is in majority female, we wanted a female journalist. Digging into the story of real female reports of that era unveiled the nature of the obstacles they had to overcome (on top of regular journalism challenges). That topic then got us to involve different experts on the topic, like our researcher, to ensure we would be tackling the issues fairly. We then saw the opportunity to share that awareness, and hopefully be a force for positive discussion on the topic as it still relates today.
3. You describe Words Are Power as a “feminist game.” In what way would you call it feminist?
Feminism is essentially about equal access to opportunities and equal rights. Here you have the ultimate contrast: women during World War 2 had a place on the workforce due to all the men fighting abroad. When the war ended, they were required to go home and lose the privileges and independence that came with having a job. Here were planted the seeds that will lead to second wave feminism, and the player will get to experience that progression.
The issues we are choosing to present in the game are still issues present today. The distance in time allows us to credibly enhance them, but our research is all based on recent academic findings. Experiencing the injustice of gender prejudice in a work of fiction and entertainment still sensitizes the player to the debate in real life.
4. What led you to create an openly feminist game?
The game was (and still is) going to explore the subject more naturally, as the player is foremost going to play a fun word game with an engrossing story. The gender issues emerge naturally as part of the story, and the interactivity has you make tough choices where the story crosses the issues.
Why we decided to explicitly present it as a feminist game in its announcement was in reaction to online social debates. The video game industry, both media and content, has been polarized over ethics and gender roles. We were terribly affected by the harm being done, and especially the pleas going out to everyone who just seemed to be standing on the sidelines and letting it happen. We of course vehemently oppose any form of threats, prejudice, but we also wanted to show the debate could move on to positive actions. The very least we could do in support to those who have been harmed is to show that we did think the issue was important and that we would take an active role in trying to improve the world.
As a historian and lover of word games, I’m really excited about Words Are Power. But Studio T. Adam needs our help to get it made. So go forth and pledge, readers!