GamesBeat: It seems like the potential to get worse is there. They do a build every day, right? Crunch mode can happen every day.
Edwards: That’s one of the issues we’re focused on, because of online and constant content development. I’ve heard people talk about it. There’s no such thing as “content complete” anymore. It’s just “content churning,” day after day. The way I see it, that’s a call for businesses. If they find they’re in a condition of crunch, their business model isn’t working, in my view. They need to rethink how they develop projects.
When you’re dealing with constant content development to satisfy online communities and MMOs and everything else that’s out there, you can’t maintain in crunch mode. You have to plan your business such that you’re rolling out content at a reasonable rate.
GamesBeat: I remember talking to Zynga about that once. The studio said that it would have all hands on for a launch, but then it had a team in India it could hand everything off to at the end of the shift. It wouldn’t have to stay on 24 hours during launch. I don’t know if that’s a common thing.
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Edwards: I don’t think it’s very common, but it’s a smart thing. If companies can plan that way, they’re not in crunch mode. It’s just distributed development. That’s a smarter way to go if they can make it work.
GamesBeat: The discussion around women’s issues sounds like it’s gotten louder over the last year.
Edwards: Yes, it has. My feeling with that is that the issue’s time has come. Not that it hadn’t before, but the level of overt vocal statements about it is great. It’s something that needs to be discussed, rather than just dismissed. I’m glad, also, that we’re seeing a diversity of opinion, especially among women. EA’s Gabrielle Toledano, her comments were not necessarily all received positively, and that’s okay. There’s room for opinions and debate. I think some of what she said was a bit controversial, just because it seemed out of touch, but I know some people who feel she was accurate. The bottom line to all that is that it gives us a chance to discuss it.
I see two issues there. One, you’ve got the presence of women in development. Then, you’ve got the presence of women in games. There are related issues in the potential for sexism and misogyny and everything that go along with them, but obviously, how you deal with those two issues is different. What I think is great is something like the newest release of Tomb Raider, which is getting great reviews for its portrayal of the character. If we get more examples like that over time, that can shift opinions, at least about the portrayal of women in games. As far as women in the industry, that’s another issue. Sadly, I think it’s just a matter of time.
GamesBeat: The BioShock Infinite thing, with a character’s low-cut blouse and everything, wouldn’t have come up as an issue at all in some years past?
Edwards: No, it wouldn’t.
GamesBeat: Then, people are looking at the reasons why it’s there and saying, “Well, it’s not there in much of the game, but in the marketing of the game, it’s there.” Why are things like that? Who’s making these decisions? Does it help the title or not? It’s an interesting conversation now.
Edwards: It is. A lot of marketing tends to take a “safe” route. We see that quite a bit. Sex sells, the old adage. A lot of marketing tends to perpetuate that because they’re trying to play it safe. It’s not that it’s expected, but they know that it works. There’s a certain level of bravery required to do something different. Maybe that’s what’s missing. Not just in the marketing, too, but in the game content itself. When we see female fantasy characters in full armor with their midriff showing, it doesn’t make sense, does it? I’m a huge Halo geek, and I think it was great that they introduced the option of making a female character, but she’s still completely encased in the Mjolnir armor, as she should be.
GamesBeat: One promotion touted the women who inspired BioShock’s female character, Elizabeth. They’re almost marketing in the opposite direction there. “This was inclusively designed.”
Edwards: There’s a fair point there too. The other thing you have to take into account is the socio-historical context of the game itself. If it’s taking place at the turn of the 20th century, that kind of clothing might not be unusual. The corset and the bustle and all that. I can understand that you want to have historical accuracy. Sometimes, the perception of what they were or were not trying to do with the game is read into the fact that maybe they were just trying to be historically accurate. I don’t know the story behind it with BioShock’s example, but in my own work, doing the culturalization work, that kind of issue comes up all the time. Sometimes a content developer might be required, for reasons of modern-day cultural sensitivity, to change the historical accuracy of their work. It happens.