One for the Road: An Interview With Alex Zandra Van Chestein on ‘One Last Cup’

One Last Cup

During PAX East, I got the chance to sit down with Alex Zandra Van Chestein—an independent game developer and member of the queer game development collective Ikonoclast. Her upcoming game, One Last Cup, features a group of four cyberpunk operatives sharing coffee before their incoming mission. All four main characters are women, and the game features queer issues in many of its dialogue branches.

In the middle of a somewhat-crowded hallway overlooking the Expo Hall, Alex and I came together and talked about her game in detail.

Ana: Tell me a bit about yourself, Alex.

Alex: My name is Alex Zandra Van Chestein. I am officially an independent game developer since Monday [April 18, 2016]. I’ve worked for six years at Frima, I’ve done a ton of little games before then and also during that time. The most formal thing I worked on was Chariot; I was the game designer and writer, and I designed some of the levels. Other than that, I’ve been working on a ton of stuff, like mobile games, social games—stuff like that. But One Last Cup is my first actual indie game with a small team that I’m doing, and it’s very exciting.

Ana: So, tell me a bit about One Last Cup.

Alex: It’s a cyberpunk coffee shop conversation game. It’s kind of a setup to most of the cyberpunk-themed games you see where you have a team about to do a job, like a heist-type job where you have the technologist, the mechanic, the muscle, the fast-talker. Instead of actually doing the job, though, your role in the game is you decide what they talk about over coffee before leaving. So some folks have referred to it as the diner scene in Reservoir Dogs, if that was the whole point of the game.

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Sugar, Sweets, & Jam Is Over, But There’s Still Time to Submit!

Sugar Sweets Jam
Art by Leisha-Marie Riddel

This past Sunday, our game jam Sugar, Sweets, & Jam officially concluded! By the end of the jam, we received 11 entries from members of the FemHype community. From visual novels to platformers, interactive fiction to puzzle games, our readers came together to create some absolutely amazing projects. Congratulations to all our participants! If you’d like to play through some of our community’s hard work, check out the entry section over here.

Missed the deadline and would like to submit during May? No worries! Once your game is officially uploaded onto itch.io, send an email with your game’s URL to either myself or Jillian. From there, we can help you get set up on the game jam entry page. Latecomers are more than welcome to apply—just make sure to adhere to the official rules on the itch.io page!

Later this month, we’ll also be uploading a comprehensive follow-up post featuring every entry submitted to “Sugar, Sweets, & Jam.” Expect screenshots, developer info, and a short summary for each game. Of course, no need to worry if you’re still busy working away on your project. There’s still plenty of time to submit!

Again, if you have any questions, feel free to send an email to myself at ana@sadgirl.club or Jillian at femhype@gmail.com.

Thanks again to all our participants. We can’t wait to wrap up with you in a few weeks!

It’s Official: Sugar, Sweets, & Jam Is Now Live!

Sugar Sweets Jam

Earlier this month, Jillian and I introduced Sugar, Sweets, & Jam to the FemHype community—our first official game jam based around sugary sweets and queer relationships! Last week, we opened up the official itch.io page and community section for developers. Today, we’d like to officially announce that Sugar, Sweets, & Jam has begun!

That’s right: as of today, January 21, 2016 at 12 AM EST, all developers are welcome to begin working on their in-game assets! Everyone has until May 1, 2016 at 12 AM EST to submit their work to the itch.io submission page.

Now, as Sugar, Sweets, & Jam developers begin designing their games, they might need a few additional resources to rely on. Have no fear! The following are a collection of programs, sites, and assets that can be used to help streamline the development process.

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Sugar, Sweets, & Jam Is Now Online! Join Our Open Thread

Sugar Sweets Jam

Last week, Jillian and I introduced Sugar, Sweets, & Jam: the first official game jam hosted by FemHype! We created an announcement post, which went over some of the rules, teasing our upcoming itch.io site for the jam.

Well, today we’d like to officially unveil the the Sugar, Sweets, & Jam submission page! On there (and above!), you’ll find an absolutely gorgeous illustration by Leisha-Marie Riddel, which was commissioned for the jam. We’d like to thank her again for this wonderful artwork. We’re honored to feature her illustration! If you’d like to see more from Leisha, feel free to check out her Twitter @LeishaRiddel and her graphic novel @ProjectSolaceTO.

Along with the official itch.io page online, there’s also a couple new updates to share about Sugar, Sweets, & Jam. First, we’d like to unveil the official community section for the jam off-site, which will be moderated by both Jillian and I to make sure the forums are a positive and inclusive space. Feel free to post about your upcoming project, look for co-developers, ask questions about game development, and more! We’ll be hanging out on there, too, so look out for our posts now and then.

Of course, if you’d prefer not to post on itch.io, that’s perfectly fine, too. We’re also hosting the comments section on this post as an Open Thread for anyone interested! Feel free to chat with one another below, sharing ideas and resources for the jam. Alternatively, the hashtag #SweetsJam on Twitter and Tumblr is perfect for meeting other participants if you’re more comfortable with those sites.

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Introducing Sugar, Sweets, & Jam! FemHype’s First Official Game Jam

[Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet, from Yuri Game Jam 2015.]
[Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet from Yuri Game Jam 2015.]
Last year, visual novel developers Carrogath and XenobladeKat hosted Yuri Game Jam from September 1, 2015 to October 31, 2015. Their premise was simple enough: in two months, develop a game about two or more women in a relationship with one another. The jam was a major success, with over 40 entries submitted to the Yuri Game Jam itch.io pagefeaturing everything from dating sims to platformers to top-down beat ‘em ups about women and their girlfriends.

Yuri Game Jam struck a cord in the gaming community, and it was clear early on that there was a real hunger for games about queer relationships. It also showed that stories about queer women could come from any genre: be it slice-of-life or romance, science-fiction or fantasy—any and every setting is perfect for exploring queer relationships in gaming.

But Carrogath and XenobladeKat’s game jam wasn’t just popular with gamers, either. It was also popular with queer women.

You see, representation is important in the video game industry. As LGBTQIA+ players, we want to be able to log into Steam, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, or the Nintendo eShop and know that there are games available that feature us as main characters. Being able to look in the mirror and see yourself is a very powerful thing, and video games lend themselves well to building representation. So it makes perfect sense that Yuri Game Jam was so successful among women who identify as LGBTQIA+. The jam gave us a voice in the gaming industry.

Continue reading “Introducing Sugar, Sweets, & Jam! FemHype’s First Official Game Jam”

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