By the time Rise Home Stories’ Evan Narcisse was approached to develop the game that would eventually become Dot’s Home, he was already familiar with many of the effects of housing justice on the black community in America.
Narcisse says he had firsthand experience of gentrification and knew about it Redlining and Turn house over and the way in which these measures prioritize the prosperity of certain individuals over the stability of a community. And he remembers when his own mother was naturalized and was finally able to vote, and how this participation in democracy was linked to home ownership.
But he admits that he didn’t know a lot. He didn’t know what a Document instead of foreclosure was, or a Common Land Trust.
“I didn’t even know that you can think differently about some of these issues when it comes to living than you already have,” he says.
As part of the Rise Home Stories ProjectIn addition to a podcast, a children’s book, an animated series and several other works, Dot’s Home is part of a larger media collective that aims to inform the public about housing policy and the social justice work associated with it. Narcisse, signed to write the story for Dot’s Home, about a woman who travels back in time to visit moments in family history, witnessing the cross-generational choices that led to her current living situation, and her own home in a big house was -related decision.
There he found himself in a creative team that consists almost exclusively of colored people and in which the main visionaries and team leaders are women. Many of them also have experiences related to the themes of Dot’s Home, which helped shape their vision of connecting it into real stories. For example, there are elderly family members who were tenants before traveling to an urban center in the north. Another, Neil Jones, lived with his family in Detroit where his basement was repeatedly flooded – a plot point that was used right in Dot’s Home.
Narcisse, Jones, and the team’s goal with Dot’s Home were educational. They wanted to tell a cross-generational story in which the effects of decisions can be seen. But they also wanted something personal – even if people playing Dot’s Home haven’t personally experienced their characters’ specific issues, it’s easy enough to relate to the motivations that drive them: the desire to protect one’s family and caring for them, and ultimately offspring, but also the longing for personal prosperity. About Dot’s Home they ask: What forces work when someone has to move away from a place where they have lived for a long time? How do property, family, money, community needs and personal ambitions play a role?
“We were really trying to get out of a place with no judgment,” says Narcisse. “Some people want to own a home, but there can be play forces that make it harder for people with certain backgrounds to do this than others. And as a result of struggling against these forces, you may be more inclined to think more individually than collectively. One of the things we explore in the game is Dot, her aunts and other family members who managed to get ahead economically, it was because of what their ancestors did, the sacrifices they made. “
Through this emotional connection, Narcisse then wants to educate about the struggles of black home ownership and address the multitude of problems associated with it.
“People have to make tough decisions to secure their own futures, and any kind of socio-cultural movement that seeks to make widespread change must reckon with what we ask our activists to individually sacrifice from their lives,” continues he goes away. “When you help organize a protest or a march, or when you call your elected officials, or when you do any type of work that seeks to make social change, you are giving up some of your life. It may be time, it could be money, it could be relationships, but there is an element of sacrifice and some people will not want to make that sacrifice. “
Jones agrees, pointing out that he’s seen this in his own life and career. Jones from Aerial_Knight goes online. It’s a name he proudly gave to one of his games: Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield, which unfortunately led to hate mail and abuse. And that, he says, is only within the video game world – it doesn’t even affect the offline world of protests, organizations, and social movements.
“I’ve grown up in Detroit all my life,” says Jones. “I saw it. I saw these people lose their houses. A friend of mine just lost her house because they were auctioning people’s houses while they were still living in them. And then the people who demand them buy, rent equal to the price for which they bought the house.
“And that’s the thing with [Dot’s Home]. It highlights some stories that other people in the game industry literally can’t tell because they don’t experience that, they don’t understand. You’d have to involve people like us in order to get our perspective. And especially this team, everyone was more or less on the same page and could really relate to all of the things that were going on in this story. In my opinion, that really makes this game something special. “
Narcisse is open to the fact that with a smaller team and limited resources, Dot’s Home is a far cry from the big budget AAA world of, say, Assassin’s Creed. But, not being an Assassin’s Creed means they can do things that a franchise like this would never do without fear of shareholders or corporations: They can tell a story that is explicitly political.
“Yes, it’s about how politics and politics affect people’s lives,” he says. “And it’s about how these great forces, which are invisible and unheard of, affect people’s lives.”
Jones would like to be more direct, however.
“I think the game industry is rubbish, hiring black people in particular and bringing those stories into the rooms when you’re making games, even fantasy games,” he says. “Look at all the medieval games that blacks leave out. Personally, I think the game industry needs to get a lot better. And the more things like that are being done are just more examples of the things the gaming industry has hidden or missed just because they don’t even let us into the conversation. People like [the Dot’s Home team] and all of these incredible people want to rise up and try to just make something. I think this is the future of the game industry. “
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.