SEARIT: Great question! I mainly like to play funny/food related games such as Overcooked, Diner Dash, Broforce, etc. I also like playing board games, Mario Party 5, and story based games. I’m not a big fan of playing games alone. I love playing in group settings with friends and family.
TIAJHA: Growing up in Japan, I was surrounded by Nintendo. However, my parents were against video games so we would only have the opportunity to play when we went over to our cousin’s house. When we finally convinced our parents to buy us a DS, my two sisters and I had to share one, while my brother got his own. But I did love going to SEGA arcades with my friends and now I play the Switch with my husband. I’m also low key addicted to sudoku and puzzle solving escape-room type games.
KELLEY: I’ve always liked fighting games - grew up playing street fighter with my older brother, when he would let me play. Nowadays, I’m running through Borderlands 2 on an aging PS3 I got used a couple of years ago. When I visit my family, I get to practice playing hwatu with my mom.
SEARIT: I first wrote GAMERS for my sketch comedy class in San Francisco. It was originally about these white guys playing video games in the children’s section of a library. Growing up, I would always go to the public library near my home to play educational video games -- it was my first introduction to gaming! While writing the sketch, I suddenly realized that I unconsciously wrote it without any women or POCs because I’ve been so used to seeing gaming content with just white male gamers. On my second revision, I purposely swapped the gender and race of my characters to feel and look more like myself. I also started to research about the types of games women play. This research led me down a rabbit hole of articles about how women are treated unfairly in the gaming community and would hide/not reveal their gender to avoid harassment. As I was learning new information about being women who game, I realized that this story needed to be a short film.
TIAJHA: As filmmakers, we really came into this topic from a curiosity perspective. After interviewing several women in the communities and who work in the industry, we wanted to shed light on some of their perspectives. It was very clear that there was so much depth in the topic of women in gaming that one short film doesn’t do it justice. But for us, it really boiled down to one question - what is a gamer? Our film certainly doesn’t claim to have answered the question, but I hope it opens a dialogue for one while successfully capturing the raw and relatable emotions of how it feels to never be good enough.
KELLEY: Now is the time to see women on screen, on set, in the Director’s seat, behind the camera, all of it. The film excited me from the beginning because not only did it show a badass female gamer in a male-dominant community, but it was clear that the characters we were going to see on screen had to be like us, women of color.
SEARIT: The main theme of the film is imposter syndrome and how it can really affect women’s goals and aspirations. I personally have dealt with imposter syndrome as a filmmaker. Even while shooting Gamers, I kept questioning myself if I was good enough to direct or write this short. I love filmmaking but I have a habit of doubting my own skills (even though I went to UCLA’s Film School!). I saw these same exact thoughts and emotions when I was talking to women about their own experiences in gaming. The majority of the women that we interviewed for the film didn’t want to call themselves a “gamer”.
TIAJHA: I think another universal theme is the idea of “fitting in”. I remember there was one girl we interviewed who was a huge Pokemon fanatic. She had all the games for the DS and spent couple of hours a day playing Pokemon, but she didn’t consider herself a gamer. Which came as a shock to us, because we thought she clearly defined as one. She even went to a gaming conference to learn about game development and art design but came back overwhelmed and isolated being one of the only women there. I believe that leads into the thinking that she’s not a part of this gaming community.
KELLEY: Jamie is very hard on herself. Regardless of being known as a reputable player or even getting a message to join a pro-league team, she still suffers from self-doubt.
SEARIT: This idea was first a sketch to perform on stage but then I thought it was better suited as a short film. I also combined this sketch with another short story I was writing, which was about a queer couple having an argument about their relationship. It was Tiajha’s idea to link both those stories together for Gamers.
TIAJHA: Yeah, there was something about the oddity of old people in the kids section of the library playing computer games that felt unique. Then we decided to make the old men into female protagonists based on a simple thought that we’ve never seen women portrayed playing games on screen (and to our disarray that we didn’t even blink twice before writing about white men). However, even after she adapted the sketch into a short film with female gamers, there was a struggle with developing the conflict. That’s when I remembered another pitch of her’s and posed a question to her: “Wouldn’t it be interesting if the couple were gamers?" and "What would it look like if two gamers in a relationship were arguing?”. I think that steered it into the direction we see in the final film today. And as we interviewed and talked to women who played games, it helped us shape the story and characters.
SEARIT: Tiajha, Kelley, and I have our own experience as Gamers but we knew we wanted to get feedback for our pro-gamer character, JAMIE. Because of this, we interviewed over 20 women who play games to hear their first hand experience about how women are treated in the gaming community. We also brought on 3 gaming consultants in our production who were constantly giving us feedback on our characters and game designs.
KELLEY: The script has come so far! By the time I joined, Searit had the first draft and the characters introduced to me had been established as the JAMIE and TAYLOR we see on screen today. In the early drafts, the characters were more one-dimensional. It took time, notes, reviews, and tons of drafts during development, but Searit really put depth and deep rooted feelings into the JAMIE and TAYLOR we ended up with, that Destiny and Andrea and brought to life on set.
SEARIT: We want to broaden the term “gamer” and re-introduce it with characters we typically don’t see on screen. A lot of the current representation for gamers are not favorable and/or very stereotypically male. We rarely see any media of POCs, WOCs, or LGBTQ+ gamers and we wanted to have a space for this underrepresented group of people. We hope that people watch the film and leave with a broader idea of what a gamer can be and look like.
TIAJHA: I also think it’s a unique story that touches on a broader topic of imposter syndrome and how one can support loved ones through a feeling of underserved success
KELLEY: I want people walk away with something they relate to, whether it be: that you’re a woman of color, LGBTQ, FPS gaming, cat games, etc. - I would call that a success
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Supporting local gaming organizations that want the gaming community to be more inclusive is a great way to be involved. For example, We PLAY eLeague is the only eLeague by people of color for people of color. This is a great organization that is trying to include and inspire more young POCs to game! Another organization to look at is Able Gamers, which enables gamers with disabilities to play video games.