What can game design teach us about our own reality?
In this episode, Chris speaks to Katie Schmidt, Quality Assurance Engineer at Indeed. Katie speaks about her career in the gaming industry, how it led to a job in QA and the important role language plays in game design. Katie also speaks about Pride month and the importance of iPride in her journey. If you have ever wondered what we can learn about our own reality through game design or what exactly is the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis then this episode is one worth listening.
- Hello everyone. I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed. I identify as a white, straight, cisgendered man. My pronouns are he and him. And welcome to the next episode of "Here To Help." At Indeed, our mission is to help people get jobs. This is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps us going all day. And what powers that mission is our people. "Here To Help" is a look at how experience, strength, and hope inspires people to want to help others. All over the world, June is Pride Month. I'd like to start by saying happy Pride to everyone. Inclusion and belonging is one of Indeed's core values, and our iPride Inclusion Resource Group was the first IRG at Indeed, and paved the way for our many other IRGs that now flourish as part of our global community of Indeedians. iPride, and our DI&B teams will host many events throughout Pride Month, with a theme of True To You. Now, since 2014, Indeedians have participated in Pride parades all over the world. This year marks the return of our in-person celebrations after two years away due to COVID. And all of our events this month are conversations and celebrations aimed to uplift and amplify LGBTQIA+ voices, and to help educate allies on how to better support their community. Today, I am very happy to be joined by Katie Schmidt, Quality Assurance Engineer at Indeed. Katie, thank you so much for joining me.
- Hi, thanks Chris. Just for my viewers' sake, I want to say that I identify as a trans, gay, polyamorous, gosh, I have a whole lot of different things. I don't even think about myself in these labels and boxes, but gosh, yeah, I'm trans, gay, polyamorous, asexual. I think that's a pretty good starting place.
- Fantastic. Let me start where we always start these conversations, by just asking, how are you doing right now?
- I'm doing all right. It's kind of like, there's a whole bunch of different scopes. So in the day, I'm doing great. But as the long view of things, I'm kind of worn out. You know, we've been in lockdown for quite some time. I'm still observing a lot of those same strictures, because I still believe that the pandemic is a pretty serious issue that we should be taking seriously. It puts a lot of stress on ya. And I'm doing pretty good, all in all. So that's where I'm at.
- All right. Well, before we dive in, we have a lot of great stuff to cover. Let's just start with if you can tell people how you help people get jobs.
- Certainly. I am on the, well, we've been through so many different names. At the moment, I believe we are called the Interview Scheduling Team for small and medium businesses. And I'm the Quality Assurance Engineer to make sure that all of the features that we're implementing are free of bugs, that the experience is reflecting what the users should be experiencing when they get onto Indeed, and responding to any of the customer service tickets that come through to our team, doing investigations, and making sure that we solve any issues that do slip through the cracks.
- So one thing that's really interesting about your story is, before you came to Indeed, you spent most of your career in gaming. And you studied gaming design in college. At what point, you know, I think lotsa kids grow up playing games. When did you realize that gaming was going to be more to you than just as a player?
- I want to say that if I wanted to point to a specific moment where things really started heating up, in third grade, we were given a project to design a card game. And I designed, over the week, this game about finding mathematical operations to reduce your hand to zero by putting all the cards on the table that you had to find an equation that would equal zero. I called the game Goose Egg, because there was a big zero in the middle of the table made with the cards. Then you'd have to try to hit Goose Egg, zero. And I was just like, the process of designing this and sort of thinking about how players are going to approach the game, and balancing the difficulties, all these different things were so engaging. And I was like, I need to have this as part of my life.
- Were other third graders able to play this game? It sounds a little precocious maybe.
- That was in one of my little, like, special, they called it Prism. It was an advanced placement whole situation. The people in that group were able to play it, so.
- All right. That's very cool. Well, so, this might sound like an obvious question, but can you talk a little bit about what it is about gaming that just grips you, that fascinates you, that makes you want to spend so much of your time thinking about it and immersed in it?
- I think that it isn't so much an obvious question, and that's part of the answer as well, is there's just a breadth of experiences one can have in gaming. Whether you want it to be something relaxing that you use to wind down after a long day, or if you want something really pumping you up and putting you in the moment, and just really tense situations that you're able to navigate and finesse and things. And also just being able to explore artistic works of others. I think there was, Bartlett had a whole theory about four different reasons that people engage with games. My primary one is exploration. But there's also expression, is my second one. Then there's also achievements. And I'm also the kind to go for 100% at all the games. So, any of the challenges that get set before me just, it's a breadth of engagement just all across the board. And because this is such a rich medium, it's a new medium in some ways. It's one of the newest ways that we engage with each other, in terms of video games, anyway. If we term like, physical games, that's got a storied history, all the way back to Egypt and other civilizations in the prehistoric times. We've had games forever. So, it's this interesting connection of both old and new. And just, it's one of my favorite things in the world.
- I love that. So, one thing that I'd heard you say before that I'd love to hear you talk about, is that nothing is irrelevant when talking about game design What do you mean by that?
- So, this actually is attached to a game that I played that had a sort of tongue in cheek and fourth wall knocking thing, where you play as a help desk operator that is answering a child's question about how do I get involved in games. And you're picking your answers through this conversation, but your character kind of goes into more detail, talking about how, go out and have experiences. And I really took that to heart. So when it came to choosing my classes, I would look at the electives and I'd be like, absolutely every one of these can relate to game design. Chemistry? Well, I want to see how things interact. I want to see sort of the ways that things can come together and create an explosion, or create a new material, or create all sorts of different reactions. That's relevant. Acting? That's relevant because you're trying to convey something to an audience member. Except that audience member is also involved in it, so it's sort of improvisational. All the sciences, all of the different humanities, all these different things all relate in game design. Because you need to know a breadth of knowledge in order to really communicate with the player these really deep ideas.
- So, as you were growing up in this world of gaming and games, you were also going through your own personal journey. So, how did gaming and your immersion there help you start to understand your own identity?
- I know when I was growing up, it was difficult to express myself in the way I wanted to. And it kind of touches on being trans. And I had this sort of excuse to other people in the group that, okay, yes, I'll pick the female character again. But I'm using this as sort of a vehicle to say, what if I was able to engage with the world in this different way? What kinds of things would I be thinking about? It's sort of like role playing, right? And it doesn't even have to be with video games. There's also tabletop games. And that was a big place to express myself, because there I'm driving a character, and it's very much I'm interacting with the world, and the world is reacting to me. And this sort of confluence allows me to sort of explore how do I want to go into the real world as myself? And here are these different ways that I can play around with that in a safe and kind of detached environment. But at the same time, it's also a place to represent pieces of myself that is risky, let's say. And I think one of the ways I knew I needed to transition was I was playing an MMO, and I had created a male character because I was playing with my friends. But my friends stopped playing the game and I still was playing. You had to pay an in-game fee to remake your character. And I was like, I am willing to do this just so I could represent myself. And it was just like, wow, I'm willing to do that in a digital space. I am absolutely going to be doing this in a physical space as well, because of how important it is to be perceived as myself. And that was kind of a watershed moment, where I understood, I'm willing to sacrifice for this; I'm going to be doing this in the real world as well.
- So, you mentioned sort of casually a little earlier, you referred to gaming and game design as art. And I'd imagine there's a lot of people who might not be gamers, who might not have thought about it that way. It's obviously so much more, 'cause it's participatory, and collaborative, and it's problem solving, and it's not fixed, like maybe some other art forms. But art is one way that I think we think about how to understand the world around us. So, how does gaming help us think about the world that we live in today?
- Well, there's very explicit ways that it can be doing so. I'm recently playing a game called "Death Stranding," that is surprisingly made before the pandemic, but it's a lot about isolation. It's a lot about traveling through this world that is kind of post-apocalyptic. And you're playing a character who has a phobia of touching anybody. And it's making all of this social commentary. But when you get right down to sort of the mechanics of the systems, even something like chess is sort of talking about our military formations and power structures. You know, even you can pick apart the way that systems interact in these ways, and find that it reflects the way that systems interact in society. And when you are looking to impart something onto the world, you're doing it through a system most times. And sort of just systems of thought, ideologies. All of these sorts of things come into game design, and they come into our systems in society, and tell us how we can interact with it.
- We talked about this last week, and it's sort of stuck with me, and I've spent a lot of the weekend thinking about this, that systems are created through rules and structure. And so one of the systems that we all live in is the system of the language that we speak. And so you talked about how different games have different verbs that essentially define the words they create. So, can you talk about the role that language plays in how we navigate our world?
- Right, when you're designing a game from the ground up, a lot of the times you are thinking about what is the player going to be doing? What is the set of verbs that I'm going to be creating for the player to interact with their environment? And sort of as I was alluding to in the last question, the interplay between systems and people are also about verbs. What is the person in the system doing? If they are hunting, how are we managing that? Well, we'll have to manage, like, with a hunting license, so that we understand how much they are impacting the ecosystem around them. You know, we have limits around these kinds of things because we are defining their verb in the system. And people are commuting. And so that is a verb of travel. And we are designing a system about how to get people from point A to point B, what roads are going to be there, what nouns are going to be involved in this? Are we going to have carriages, or buses, or trolleys, or personal vehicles, or bicycles? But all of those are going to be how we solve the verb question, how do we get from point A to point B. And just how are we going to impact the world around us is all about verbs. And a lot of the time when we're making these systems, we have actors and we have subjects and we have objects. And all of these different things are language structures, as well as they are people in a system, or the way that the system incorporates the people. This is getting a bit heady, but -
- No more heady than the last 20 minutes of the conversation so far, so.
- Certainly, yeah.
- Well, so I said I've been thinking about this over the weekend, and then it just made this connection to this book that I'm reading right now, which is a book by an author named Robin Wall Kimmerer. She is an ecologist and a biologist. She's a professor and a registered member of the Potawatomi Nation. And the book is about integrating native knowledge and understanding of plants and the world around us with scientific understanding. And one of the things that she talks about, so she went through this process of trying to learn the Potawatomi language, which at the time she was doing this, I think there were only nine speakers still alive in the world. And one of the things that she struggled with is, as she describes it, is about verbs. So, about 30% of the English language are verbs. 70% of the Potawatomi language are verbs. And essentially, all of the things, we divide the world into animate and inanimate objects. But in Potawatomi, everything that's not manmade is animate. So, rocks and trees are animate. So for example, instead of a noun for a river or an ocean or a bay, water has verbs to be a bay, to be a river, to be an ocean. And the idea that she talked about, that she had to sort of struggle through to make sense of was that if you have a language that describes and reinforces that these objects are animate, that they are non-human persons, as she describes them, that that language shapes your worldview and how you interact with the world around. And that English imposes a structure of dominion, of us over the world around us. And that completely changes how we interact. And so, I think that's fascinating with the verbs piece in gaming, and it's also where I think the language that we start to adopt when we try to understand any community that we're not a part of, and so why the idea of using pronouns suddenly becomes really powerful and important, because it changes and shifts our view of how we interact with things. And so anyway, that concept has really grasped me, and I've been thinking about it a lot. So I don't know if you want to comment on that at all.
- Oh, I've got a lot to say about that. So, that reminded me about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, where the idea is that if you don't really have the language for something, your cognition almost isn't able to key into it. And especially in sort of the gender sphere. There's constantly updating, and changing, and new language coming in to cover these experiences that we didn't have language for before. And this is sort of where the neopronouns that people come up to express who they are, why it's important to sort of recognize this, even if it is unfamiliar, and it feels like it's not backed by history or anything. It's because these things are able to capture new sorts of expressions and sort of expand our ideas about what it means to have a gender, and what it can express. So, the idea with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis can be illustrated with an interesting thing about, I think, Aboriginals in New Zealand not having cardinal directions as part of their mapping system. Instead, they have relative. A lot of, like, left and right. And because this is such a deep thing about. no, no, no, it's the other way around, sorry. They do not have left and right, they have cardinal directions. So they map absolutely everything by cardinal directions. This cup is north of me. Hand me the north cup, kind of thing. So, they're so grounded in directions that it gets very easy for them to navigate, 'cause they're not doing any kind of context switching like we would be when we're talking about navigational directions in English. Because most of the time we're talking about relative, like hand me the thing to your right. And just having more direct language that underpins our identities lets us communicate more closely about who we are and what we want other people to interact with us as.
- Yeah, and so one of the things that we talked about last week about this is that also just the importance of names, and especially for someone when they transition. Choosing a name is an act of power in something that might otherwise feel like an experience of powerlessness. And most of us are given our names and then sort of stuck with them. And so there's this really important aspect of being able to really claim an identity through choosing a name.
- Absolutely. And that's not just reserved for people who are experimenting with gender. I mean, if you feel that the name you were given doesn't fit you and you have a better one, like, by all means.
- So let's talk about, from a systems perspective, the workplace. So, we're here at work together, and we're having this conversation. And the work and the workplace has a number of systems. So, what are some of those systems, and how do they dictate how we interact day to day?
- Well, a lot of the systems are going to depend on what line of work you're in. If you're working at a fast food, then that system is customer serving time, food preparation, foods longevity, if you need to change things out, things like that. But as you are presenting yourself in the workplace as an employee, in order to be fully yourself at work, you don't want to have the overhead of trying to correct people all the time. You want to be able to be interacted with with as little friction as possible. And when somebody is interacting with you in a way that you feel well, okay, wow, I'd have to unpack some pretty deep things here, which is to say, when I was in the closet, all of my interactions with other people were through this filter of how am I presenting myself in a way that matches what they're expecting from me and doesn't clue them into what I don't want them to know. And just something like that is already cognitive load, because then absolutely all of my interactions with the world are filtered, and I have to run that filter. And that's taxing. And the more control that I have to present myself, the more energy I'm putting into that, the less energy I'm getting put into just authentically being myself, and interacting, and moving through the world without that friction. And it really empowers somebody, because it takes away all of that load when they're able to just be themselves, be recognized for who they are, and not have to bog down and sort of, like, policing every interaction that they do to be perceived correctly. And so, these systems that we get into in work are, you know, they're all going to be different depending on what job you're doing, obviously. So, it impacts you at different ways. If you're a trucker, you're probably not going to be contacting people regularly in a one-on-one situation, where you have to control your body movements, so to speak. So it's a little less taxing in that way than it would be in an office environment, where you're collaborating with your team members all the time. And just even, it can shut down creativity, too. If you're always trying to monitor everything, then you're not open to new ideas. And I guess even from a perspective of somebody who isn't managing their appearance for other people's sake, they will, hold on, this is getting away from me here. Just, it's a tax on them as well, because if you're not open to other people's expressions, you may not be open to their ideas as well. Yeah, let's try to get this back onto-
- Yeah, no no, it's a really powerful concept, I think especially for, there are certainly people who feel like they don't have privilege because they've struggled, or because they didn't come from much, or because they had a rough childhood, whatever the reason might be. And I think it's really important for people to hear stories where they think about, it's a point of privilege to not have to actually think in every interaction, like, how am I showing up and what is someone thinking of me? Now, of course, we're all self-conscious, and we're all thinking that, but there are very different degrees, and that tax is not a, I was going to try to make some analogy of our progressive tax system, but it's like, it's not fairly levied, that tax. It is unequally distributed. And understanding how 10 people in a room together might be levied a very different tax at that same time. And where you stand, I think, is an important piece of, yeah, that's why we have conversations like this, for other people who, that thought might never cross their mind. Well, so given that, one of the things that we want to do, someone who wants to be an ally, is to try to be more understanding of where people are coming from, and how those differences can contribute to more compassion and understanding, and being more useful to others. So like, what are some of the things that prevent people from being more empathetic?
- Oh, certainly. Gosh, it's a lot of unconscious learning that I think, like, later, if you can consciously unpack some of that learning, can really help you kind of set yourself aside and start listening to people from different backgrounds, and really taking to heart what they say. Getting a wide range of experiences, reading books by people that are different from you, with different perspectives than you. And traveling, talking to people, and actively listening to them, and not just kind of projecting your own experience into theirs. Because I guess something that I've kind of learned, even just over the last few years, is how wildly different somebody's experience can be. And how it shapes their world in a very different way. And there's a lot you can learn from that if you are willing to expand your horizons. I had spent some time in St. Louis, and that was the first time I'd been in that area of the country. And I saw the impacts of racism in a lot of ways that I hadn't with most of my time being spent bordering Canada. Just because we have a completely different history with race. And it's just, it's eye opening. Because you understand a lot more when you get to see these experiences unfolding firsthand in front of you, and realize there's a history here, a continuity of experiences. I don't know how I can stress it enough, but it's a lot about taking more out of the world in front of you and not centering yourself as much. And what gets in the way is, I guess, when you don't take that moment to realize just how different everybody else in the world can be. And you just kind of assume, oh, everybody, because they deserve the same sorts of treatment as me, they want the same things as me, which is not true. People have very different cultures, and desires, and dreams, and modes of expression. And even ways that they express these desires and dreams and cultures can be unfamiliar. It's almost like everybody does speak a slightly different dialect of a language. And what they mean by each of the words may be different from what you know those words to mean to yourself. But you can't communicate if you just keep insisting that they're using the word wrong. Because they have always grown up using these words the way that they were taught that they were meant, and how they have internalized and reflected on what these words mean. If you understand what they mean by the words that they're using, the culture that they're expressing in their terms, you can have much richer communication and not get bogged down in arguing over the semantic details over, you know, this is the correct way to use this word. And I'm an authority that is looking down on you on how you use this word, because you weren't using it the way that I was told. So yeah, it's a lot about being open to other cultures.
- Yeah, and I think that that's something that people sometimes get caught up in. The we're all the same, we're all humans. I don't see color. Like that's something identified as one of the biggest barriers to actually progress, is people claiming that they don't see differences. Whereas the differences are actually essential and incredibly relevant to be able to have compassion, to understand that people have different experiences, that they have these different cognitive taxes, and these different loads. And that it's actually only through embracing that that we have a chance to sort of understand each other, but more importantly, to understand more about the world. I mean, at its best, everyone else's perspective is a different lens on the world. And if I only see the world through my own lens, then I have an extraordinarily narrow scope. And I can learn so much more by reading a book by someone explaining the differences in the Potawatomi language. I'm a 54 year old guy, and I'm thinking differently about the world around me because of that additional perspective. So, as maybe an awkward transition, but one of the goals of our inclusion resource groups at Indeed is to help bring that perspective, to have conversations where a whole buncha people who might have grown up near the Canadian border and not seen something, to be able to listen to the perspective of someone who is Black from the south, is an introduction to something new. So you've been a part of inclusion resource groups at Indeed, and iPride in particular. Can you talk about the role that it has played for you, in being here?
- So, gosh, I actually co-founded the gender identity group inside of iPride, along with Maya, who is no longer with Indeed. And it has been a place for me to meet people. I mean, in a lot of ways outside of work, I was already kind of running in circles with the same sorts of people, with the same kinds of language and the same understanding of the world around them. But it did give me a way to identify with these people at work, and in my workplace, kind of have a place where I can be like, okay, I don't have to explain all of these common terms, because we're all experiencing sort of similar things. So we can get all of the one-on-one stuff out of the way. And we can talk about the things that we're facing in a much more advanced way. And even like, there have been a few allies in these channels that have sort of understood a lot of these things as well. And we're able to have these more advanced discussions about the way that work is impacting our lives, or even just the way that the world is impacting our lives. Because a lot of the stuff that we talk about in these IRGs has to do with things outside of work, and how we're kind of bringing those into our lives, which then sort of necessarily impacts our work, because kind of when I went back before about the cognitive tax and things like that, if there's legislation coming out that is targeting people in our group, we have a space where we can talk about these kinds of things, and sort of co-commiserate, or celebrate in the case of some progressive action that helps people rather than just pushing back on them all the time. And yeah, a lot of the IRG space is a place to feel more yourself, feel more relaxed and more understood. And a place where we can talk about the difficulties we're facing, organize, and hopefully push for change for the better, to try to ameliorate some of these friction points. Some of the initiatives that we came up with for the gender identity group had to do with pronouns being represented in Slack, and in Zoom, and throughout all of our identity credentials in different systems. And there's been difficulties with a lot of these systems as well, because they're not set up to handle non-binary applications or people who have multiple gender presentations that they want to include. And so we have a space to help reduce those friction points, and people to come to us with these problems that we can focus on them, and tackle them, and make things easier for everybody, so we can get back to helping people get jobs.
- Yeah, and what's fascinating, even just talking about creating the gender identity group, which didn't used to exist, is we create these spaces for communities. The communities themselves are not monolithic. They're so far from it. I mean, LGBTQIA+, which does need the plus, there's so many layers within just that community. The Black community is not monolithic. The LatinX community, women, none of these are. And so, pretty much everything that we do here is around trying to bring together these different perspectives. And I think we believe that the better we are at understanding and adapting to better accommodate different people with different experiences, that that actually does help everyone. Because nothing here is monolithic. I want to take a minute to talk about, last year, you wrote a blog for Inside Indeed, titled "My Path to Pride: Finding Truth Through Transition." And you talked about, and I love this, two kinds of pride. Pride with a lowercase P and with a capital P. Can you explain what that means?
- So, my idea with this is that capital P Pride is more of a proper noun, in the sense of it is an almost institutional pride. It's a community pride. It's the sort of struggles that we all go through together, kind of intersectionally as well, coming from all of these different gender expressions, and sexual preferences, and things like that. It's sort of the way that we relate to our community, and the struggles that we all work together to overcome. And then the lowercase pride is sort of the personal pride in your specific individualized journey, and the steps you've taken to realize yourself in the world. And you can look back on that and be like, wow, I am proud of that. I am proud that I came out. I'm proud that I'm able to represent myself in the world the way that I want to. And with all the sort of specific adversities, that I was able to overcome those. That's a big source of pride in myself. And all these lowercase prides come together into the uppercase Pride that is the fabric of our community.
- I love that, that's just beautiful. So, we're having this conversation in June because it's Pride Month, and there's a, in general, more visible outpouring of love and support for the LGBTQ+ community at this time. There's also a lot of negativity and toxicity on the national stage. And at the same time, there's people who come out and talk about this in June, and then don't talk about it the rest of the year. So there's a lot going on here. How do you think about what's going on in the world right now? Just a small, simple question like that.
- Yes, not without going too far out on a limb here. Well, the current climate has really focused on trans issues in a lot of different corners of the globe, because I think we've hit that visibility point. I transitioned in the mid-2000s, pre-2010. And the climate there was we were still pretty unknown. And I had no role models to really go off of. Instead I just had caricatures in the media that were, you know, we were the butts of jokes. It was difficult to identify with that. Where today, I think most people know a little bit more about what it means to be trans. And a lot of people probably know a trans person. And I think fewer and fewer of the people who know trans people don't know they know. I think our visibility has gone up. And in doing that, there are people who feel threatened by sort of that additional visibility. And their result is to sort of, out of fear of change, or out of fear of something that they don't know, try to put things back into a box, or at least reiterate a lot of the things that they had heard that made them afraid of expressing things in a certain way. Not to say that all these people are closeted trans people. It's more that it's an entire axis on which they've never had to question things. They've never really had to interrogate this about themselves, because society's already set up to accommodate them, and it is like a fish in water. Where the fish doesn't know that they're in water until they're yanked out of the water. And since they have no reason to exit the water, they don't even acknowledge it. And they're just swimming freely. But yeah, if they take some time, I really hope that taking the time to listen to other people will sort of unpack a lot of those fears that are keeping them from really engaging with the conversation, instead just kind of engaging with, again, the caricature of it, or the dressed up fear of the other, the unknown. I think, as we start knowing each other, and knowing each other's stories, and actually actively listening to each other, we realize, oh, this isn't going to be a cataclysmic end of all things, because somebody has decided to express themselves a certain way. And yeah, it is a little silly when we think about it in abstract like that, but a lot of the things that drive this is people not engaging with other people where they are. I think, this was a really broad question, so I kind of navigated through it as well as I could. But if there's any pieces of that that you want me to dive deeper into, or any aspects that I didn't cover, let me know.
- Well, I guess one thing that I'm interested in, in terms of how to go forward, and what we can do to help people see things in a way that will just lead to a more just, and equitable, and peaceful world. Just to go back to where we started with this, what are some of the lessons you think from gaming that might help us think of a path forward?
- Right, and this is where I actually had a really deep thought last night. I, as a challenge, decided to play through Super Mario Bros. 3 without pressing the B button. The B button in Super Mario Bros. 3 has a lot of functions. It shoots fireballs, it's spin attacks with your tail, it lets you run, which gives you momentum to cross pits. And so I put this limitation on myself, and suddenly the game was very different. Things that I was just jumping over with no problem before, I had to carefully plan around. I need to have the raccoon suit for this. Normally I'd just be able to hop right over, but I needed that ability to float to go down. So all these different things that weren't obstacles before suddenly were spraying up, and I'm like, oh, I'm having to deal with this world in a very different way. And I feel like a lot of the ways that we move through these systems in our world is like not being able to run. You know, where other people can just jump over, and they don't even see the obstacle. We're kind of like, oh, I can't do that. I need to come at it with, you know, I need to go prepare more. I need to spend more resources to do this kind of thing. So, the big takeaway for the people who can run, who can just jump over these things, is to start looking at all of the obstacles that they're able to just fly by, and think, huh, how would this be different if I didn't have this piece? Maybe we could start looking at designing levels that have these shortcuts that work around these obstacles, or something. You know, I'm using this as a metaphor more for society, where it's like, you might not need that sort of accessibility thing. And this relates to more than just identity, of course. This is also talking about mental health, or physical ability, or any of these things. Just sort of, when somebody comes up to you with a, I'm having difficulty with this kind of thing, don't dismiss it as they're just not running hard enough or something. You need to understand where they are, what their abilities are. And, you know, maybe they're wearing a different power up suit, so they have different verbs, right? So, things that they might be able to handle that you are struggling with, you know, if you're cooperating and working together, and you're open to their experiences, that can show you new ways to get around these obstacles. And yeah, a lot of how we can really help these systems is paying attention to things that we might find easy, that other people might not be finding easy, and how we're putting those obstacles in people's way. And how it discriminates against people and sort of keeps them from moving forward, you know? So, looking to dismantle those things.
- Yeah, no, that's an incredible metaphor, and that will definitely stick with me. Well, as we're getting ready to wind down, let me just say, you know, a big part of your experience and of other people I know with a whole range of experiences that are similar, is wanting to just sort of fit in. Wanting to sort of feel like a part. How much work it is to just feel a part of sort of humanity. And yet, you are deciding, in writing blog posts and in being here and talking about yourself and your experience in a very public forum, to be much more out there with that. So, what is it that inspires you to go further, and to really sort of take this out into a way where you're exposed, but also obviously, well, tell me a little bit about how it is that you get to the point where you're comfortable, and why you're inspired to do that.
- It's wild. If I was thinking back 20 years from now, I would have wanted to just keep my head down and not really, you know, just blend in. Be a normal woman, and not make any fuss, and just be like, oh gosh, thank you for perceiving me in the way that I want to be perceived. But I struggled a lot as a kid to be able to express myself. And there were a lot of times where I was the only person I could confide in. Because I didn't know anybody else going through the same struggles that I was going through. And a lot of what drives me to engage in these things and to be a public figure in these worlds is I want to be the person that I needed when I was a kid. I want to be somebody that someone can look up to and say like, ah, they get it. I'm not alone. There's somebody out there fighting for the same things that I want. And beyond that, I've also just met a lot of people who don't have the same needs that I do that I want to uplift the voices of. I mean, we haven't touched on intersectionality much at all here, but I mean, I'm white, so I don't hit the same barriers that people of color do. Or I'm also not, like, my family had immigrated long ago, so I'm very naturalized. But somebody else who may be a refugee or whatever has an experience that I'm not sharing, but I still care about, because we're all fighting to be who we want to be, and to be understood as that person. And there's a whole miasma of cultural identity that happens when you're immigrating that makes that a difficult thing to navigate. And just, you know, I see all of the different ways that these barriers come at us and hit us differently, but are still rooted in the same sorts of problems. And we can all come together and make it easier. Like, I want to be able to make it easier for someone who doesn't have the same power up I do. You know? Because in the end, they're going to help me out in an area where I need something that I need help with too. And even if it isn't that, it just makes the world richer. It broadens human experience. And that's amazing. That's sort of back to game design, right? Like, I wanted to experience all these different worlds. Well, if you're listening to other people, you want to make sure that those voices are still in the choir, so to speak. Making it richer, making it bolder, expressing things that you might not have thought of before. And, I don't know, I think that that's a beauty in this world that we have to protect. And that's part of why I'm wanting to be visible, and I'm proud to be visible, because we make wonderful art together.
- Well, thank you for that. I don't know how to top it, but I always have the same last question, so I'm just going to ask this, so don't feel obligated to top that. The way I like to end, sort of looking forward and looking back at the same time, as we've been through this collective incredible challenge of the pandemic over the last couple of years. And I'm a big believer that in facing and acknowledging our challenges, that something sort of new and beautiful can come from that. So what, of anything that you've experienced in the last couple of years, when you look at it, leaves you with some optimism for the future?
- I think there's been a lot of rising consciousness about the problems people are facing in the world. And the internet helps a lot with that, because we get to hear stories directly from these people. You know, before we'd have to, like, hope that a news organization painted them in the right light to understand their situation, and then broke it down and conveyed it to you. Instead, we can just see directly people talking about their experiences, and putting them out there. And we've had a lot of unrest over the last, we've had unrest for a long time, honestly. It's just been less visible. And so, the hope I have is that, as things become more visible, as people get more educated, as people get more experience with the world, that we're going to be able to come together in a lot of ways. And it's harder to not have empathy, I think, than it used to be. Just because, I mean, it can be tiring, but you can't really get away from it. You can't understand that you're just putting harms out into the world and they're gone. They're not gone. You see the effects. There's voices that are being uplifted. There's perspectives that we know about now, that 20 years ago would have been fringe. And I think that there is some hope in the future that we can understand how to work for each other, and how to uplift the people who are being marginalized. And, you know, it's dark. We have a lot of work cut out for us. There are people who are very vested in keeping the things way they are. And I really hope that we can cut through to them. But I also think that we can empower the people who will listen, and hopefully create change that gets rid of these oppressive systems that are just grinding us all down. We got a long way to go. There are so many topics that aren't even part of this conversation. But I think, again, the rising consciousness means we know how to make better choices moving into the future. We know how to embolden people. We know how to uplift people. And we can choose to take a wider stance than we used to be able to. The information is at our fingertips.
- Well, Katie, I think you've left everyone with a whole lot to think about, and to contemplate, and hopefully build another lens on the world to help us see things a little differently. And thank you so much for being here for this conversation. Thank you for everything you do for Indeed, and for the world.
- Yeah, well, thank you so much for having me, Chris. I am really privileged to be able to have this platform. I hope that I spoke for more than just myself, but at the same time, continue platforming people. Continue sharing stories from all over, and all of the different ways that people have come up through this system to elevate others. We'll just keep helping each other up. So, yeah, we're here to help.
- Fantastic. Well, thank you, and thanks everyone for joining us.
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