Sunday, September 15, 2019

"Meet the young women making games for millions of fans"

Cass Marshall for Polygon:
Sixteen-year-old Rachel wakes up every morning and checks her Instagram and Twitter. She’s not interested in memes or selfies, but her business analytics and records. Rachel, who is having her last name withheld at the request of her mother, is a small-time content creator on the gaming platform Episode. She’s seen her peers rack up thousands of followers on social media, and that’s a level of success she desperately wants.

There are millions of young women between 13 and 25 on Episode. The app, which is dedicated to reading and creating stories, has quietly created a new generation of game developers. While some rise through word of mouth and enjoy the thrill of feedback, acclaim, and readers, others get featured on the front page of the app and earn money through their creations. But there’s an air of politics to the world of Episode that sometimes boils over into backlash and bullying.

Even as a small-time creator, Rachel has ambitions surrounding the stories she writes on the app. She works a part-time job in fast food, and she puts a portion of her paycheck toward commissioning art for her games. When she gets home from work, she organizes campaigns with other writers to plug each others’ work, or read drafts in progress. Rachel has passed the threshold from hobbyist to developer, and she’s not alone. Episode is slowly becoming a platform where young women pursue their own game development dreams, and build their own empires.


These tales use in-game social pressure to encourage players to pay for microtransactions. Sure, you can turn down that paid tailored dress ... but your crush won’t praise you, and your friends will feel awkward. In one story, I am given a paid option to meet my crush at the train station before he leaves ... or take the free option of dodging through traffic, hitting red lights, and seeing his train leave without me.
*Previously: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery forces you to pay - or wait - to save a kid from being strangled