I have to stipulate here that I am older then my partner in Worthing & Moncrieff, Eric. And way back when I was growing up there were only three major broadcast networks, so our choices of what to watch were pretty limited. The world they showed us was very white, very straight, and very boring. Growing up gay in a working class mill city, this conspicuous lack of representation was probably not great for my self-image. If nothing else, it told me that I was alone (which turned out to be not true, of course) and that I didn’t matter (also, hopefully not true). I can still remember the thrill of even the suggestion of gay subtext on prime time, and my probably unhealthy obsession with “Bosom Buddies.” All this is a long-winded way to explain our personal commitment to diversity in the games we make. Representation truly does matter.
In this respect, HRO has some advantages over the Jane Austen project we produced a few years ago. Some of the inspirations for this project were pioneers in diverse casting and racially-aware storytelling as early as the 1960’s. The futuristic setting and the perception that sci-fi programs like the original “Star Trek” weren’t “serious television” gave visionaries like Gene Rodenberry some cover to push the boundaries. And they used that opportunity to bring ground-breaking social change into our living rooms hidden behind paper-maché rocks and rubber masks. But even they weren’t grappling with doing justice to the fullness of human society back then. It would be decades before the first LGBTQ character showed up in the Federation universe.
So it was with a sense of joy and purpose that we set out to populate our science fiction universe with as broad a cross-section of humanity (humanoidity?) as we could muster. Of course—in a game like HRO — there was the question of aliens. We had conversations about how the aliens in the game fit into the calculus of balanced representation and whether they could be misinterpreted as stand-ins for minority groups we didn’t explicitly include (spoiler alert, they’re not).
What we didn’t see coming was the effect this would have on our cast size… In the end, the final tally was forty-two characters, including recurring cast members and “guest stars.” Great for representation! Terrible for cost-efficient voice-over actor casting! Generally, a studio of our size would plan to hire six or seven actors to each voice multiple characters. Efficient. But tough to execute if you’re also looking to make opportunities available to a diverse range of cast members to voice your diverse cast of characters. In the end, we found a delightfully flexible pool of actors who — in addition to being amazingly talented — were willing to be hired for smaller chunks of time each so we could bring in more total voices.
We hope you’re as excited as we are to play in a universe where everyone has a seat at the table. The ship’s conference room table that is. Where the senior staff is gathered to brainstorm last minute schemes to save the ship from being sucked into — say — a Dark Grey Hole whose trademark Crushing Gravity Well would surely kill them all! Yay diversity!
Worthing and Moncrieff, LLC is an independent developer of video game stories founded in 2015.