This is part three of Una Conexión Hispana, or A Spanish Connection, a letter series we’re running this year in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month for Paste Games. The goal is to accomplish a rare feat in games: have two Hispanic writers in conversation about the state of their representation in the industry and their hopes for the future. You can read parts hereone and two here.
Hey again Eli,
I don’t think you’re being a doomer at all! This conversation wouldn’t be happening, nor would it be a rarity, if your concerns weren’t merited. There’s a glaring absence of us in this industry and it’s come at a price that you and I are likely to be paying for a long time to come should we elect to stick around. It especially sucks because I remember excitedly talking with my best friend on the steps of our elementary school about how much we loved games and wanted to work in them no matter what. We wanted to be testers, which feels laughable now knowing the abuse and neglect directed towards them, which must only be magnified for folks like us. And that’s if they even make it in the door! It’s rare for your childhood dreams to be all they were cracked up to be, but knowing the enormity of the issues that plague this field really makes you feel like an idiot for ever having this particular dream.
You’re also right about how the solution of simply changing it from the inside out seems like a faulty equation. Mostly because we aren’t some variable you can just plug in to get a better answer. Why should it fall on either of us to have to mangle ourselves for progress? Or submit our friends and family to the abuse the industry deals in? That the onus always has to fall on us to set some record straight is one of countless aggressions that I simply think are bullshit. My labor should not be inextricably tied to my identity and how utilizing it can provide someone with good business. I often think about how around this time of the year, Hispanic folks get propped up to regurgitate the same talking points of belonging or representation and I feel stifled and caged by the limited possibilities we’re afforded.
It kind of makes you want to give up. I think we’ve done a sufficient job here of laying out the broad strokes of our apprehensions and roadblocks, and it just sounds so exhausting to get through. If I’m being completely honest, we deserve better than this industry and should have a space that recognizes that. Anyone or thing you must convince of your validity based on what you look or sound like just doesn’t sound like something I want to belong to. On the other hand, I can’t just leave this be. Nor do I want to look for someplace else. Call it stubbornness or pride, but just because I can settle elsewhere doesn’t mean I don’t deserve a space exactly where I am.
The answer then seems to lie in something altogether more radical. The foundation of the industry isn’t beyond saving, but eroding it from the inside out is far too taxing. It also sounds like neither of us is comfortable with the toll participating in it takes on anyone, let alone our own. But the gnarly reality is that starting something new is similarly costly, and it’s no guarantee. It’s work that’s done in order to best take a shot. I don’t know how comfortable I feel asking anyone to put themselves in such a precarious position just to attempt to realize something that those around them might still rebuff. Existing in this industry as someone it others is a constant risk assessment. Nonetheless, countless have tried and countless more will, because I think we’d rather risk it all, reclaim our narratives and embolden them than accept oblivion.
As for you and I, we do this, no matter how unpopular and unsexy it is. We stave off obscurity and have these conversations everywhere we can go. We absolutely waste the freelance budgets of anyone willing to take on letter series like this. We take up editorial after editorial and rant! But we don’t beg for any of it. We make damn clear this is as much ours as it is anyones. It feels puerile to reduce our share of the work to “Let’s get loud,” but it’s also the essential function of this line of work. Sure, we write about games we like or dislike, but I think you and I both know our passion for this runs a bit deeper. By nature, we observe and call out injustices, all the while propping up people or ideologies we think deserve attention. We have difficult conversations when others may not want to. It’s unfair that pressure mounts on us to be especially discerning and sharp where others can coast, but I also unfortunately want to do exactly that. I love bringing a perspective someone might not have considered. I don’t think I’d be in this line of work if I didn’t.
Ultimately, what I want to be sure of at the end of the day is that future generations aren’t left fighting our fights, you know? You and I are here spilling about what it’s like to not be seen, and I just pray that the work we do here, and certainly what others like us are doing, alters some trajectory somewhere. The conversations Hispanic people should be having in this industry need to be different 20 years from now. You mentioned that we’ve been stuck in roughly the same place since Clark first outlined his stages of media representation in 1969. Well I’m keen on finally pushing on that, even if only ever so slightly. Why should it be on anyone else to assert my importance or communicate my likeness, tendencies and affects?
You and I have spent this series talking about how invisible we’ve felt and how uncomfortable we’ve felt in our own skins. We’ve talked about the shortcomings of the past, how it threatens to annihilate us symbolically, and the hopes we have for the future. We’ve also measured the risks of achieving the better future we so desperately want. But here and now, we also do occupy some space in this realm, and so I finally would like to know what you think about belonging here. Does it feel like a space that can allow you to grow as a person confident in your identity? Is this somewhere worth belonging to? They’re questions I wonder about all the time, especially as I feel myself becoming more like the kind of person I want to be and try to channel it into my work and passions. And they feel all the more pertinent as our conversation here comes to a close and we try to make this a more welcoming and inclusive space.
Moises Taveras is the assistant games editor for Paste Magazine. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.