Celebrating LGBTQ+ Game Designers – AnnaMaria Jackson-Phelps

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This is the fourth installment in our LQBTQ+ designer highlight. We’ve featured interviews from incredible game designers Nikki Valens and Matt Fantastic, as well as layout and graphic designer Simeon Cogswell. This week, we delve into a different facet of the tabletop industry with an interview from…

AnnaMaria Jackson-Phelps

Twitter: @GirlsPlay_Games

“Like other art forms, games can be purely entertaining, or one can find many layers of meaning and understanding under the surface.”

AnnaMaria Jackson-Phelps

Games: HEAP, Synchronized

Mox: Please tell us a little bit about who you are.

AnnaMaria: My name is AnnaMaria Jackson-Phelps. I’m the editor-in-chief for Girls Game Shelf, and the Social Media Manager for Pencil First Games. I write articles and make videos about games and women in the gaming industry and I’ve recently started diving into game design.

Mox: How did you originally get involved in the gaming industry? Was it your original goal?

AnnaMaria: I started writing for the game industry initially to help out a group that brought attention to women in popular culture. As I began to get more deeply involved, my goal became to help shine a spotlight on marginalized voices in design, publishing, and content creation.

Mox: What do tabletop games mean to you?

AnnaMaria: Tabletop games are a fantastic means of storytelling and connection for our communities. They can help bridge the gap between generations, introduce people to cultures outside their circles, and teach almost every subject under the sun. Like other art forms, games can be purely entertaining, or one can find many layers of meaning and understanding under the surface.

Mox: What inspires your game design?

AnnaMaria: I’m new to design, but I’ve found inspiration from a number of fantastic women in the industry. Elizabeth Hargrave is a fantastic cheerleader for bringing more women into design. Nicole Jenkich helps organize one of the best playtest groups in the country. I’ve been privileged to design with Amelie le-Roche. Following Fertessa Scott’s journey through the process has been inspiring.

Mox: What has been your favorite title to work on, and why?

AnnaMaria: I’m somewhat partial to HEAP, an 18 card game I made with a focus on sustainability, but I think my favorite title thus far has been Synchronized, because of the collaboration with Amelie le-Roche. The opportunity to bounce ideas off someone else, get inspired, have someone there to pick up when you’re not feeling it or just need that spark – it’s been a fantastic project.

Mox: What theme would you love to see in RPGs/ board games that you haven’t seen or would like to be more prominent?

AnnaMaria: I feel like we need to seek out more designers outside the US and Europe and hear their stories. I’d like to see more games steeped in cultural heritages that we’re not as familiar with – and told by those people. I suppose this isn’t necessarily ‘theme’, but I think the industry (whether intentionally or unintentionally) often ‘pastes’ different cultures onto games to make them seem different. I want the stories of everyone, told by the people for whom they have history and meaning.

Mox: What do you find most challenging as a queer person in the industry?

AnnaMaria: I think lack of representation and generally being ‘seen’ is a problem for many LGBT+ people in the community. Games with relationships and romantic partners are just recently breaking from purely hetero standpoints. Many still feature characters that conform to outdated gender ‘standards’. And when we do see queer folk, they’re often very stereotyped. It’s changing in positive ways, but slowly.

Mox: What would you like to tell young LGBTQ people who want to break into the game industry?

AnnaMaria: Come tell your story! Give us your queer romantic RPGS and pansexuals in space and game critiques from LGBT+ POVs. Draw gay box art and create queer-centric publishing houses. Find others in this amazing industry to collaborate with and make brilliant art. We need your voices!

Mox: What is your favorite food to eat while playing games?

AnnaMaria: OK – so much love to the indomitable Beeneta Kaur for introducing me to Takis and Kailey Bray for pointing out you can eat anything powder covered with chopsticks. Now my cards stay clean and my mouth stays burning.

Mox: Haha. Alright, using chopsticks for powdered snacks changes the game (pun intended). Looks like we have a news tip for our chefs, thanks AnnaMaria!

If you enjoyed this interview, make sure you check back on our other designer highlights from this month. Let us know who we should interview next on Twitter.

– Meet you at Mox