Yacht Club Games talks gender in Shovel Knight

Joe Donnelly April 10, 2013 - 10:43 am

Yacht Club Games’ team members were quizzed yesterday about female representation in their forthcoming indie title Shovel Knight during a Reddit AMA.


Yacht Club Games (YCG) – headed by ex-Way Forward director Sean Velasco and comprised of former Way Forward employees – enjoyed a Q&A session via a Reddit AMA yesterday based around Shovel Knight; an 8-bit inspired – “next-gen 8-bit game”, as Velasco labels it – Kickstarter-funded 2D side-scroller about a knight who battles his foes with not a sword, but with a shovel. Of course. Well…it’s in the name, really.

The crew were asked scores of questions regarding their Way Forward departure, the storyline which Shovel Knight plans to adopt, the source of the game’s inspiration and how the hell they managed to land composer Manami Matsumae – taking to her first ever Western project.

One theme which appeared to recur more than any other however (besides which Mega Man game most inspired YCG’s upcoming works), revolved around gender and how the achieved ‘Gender Swap Mode’ stretch goal will be implemented in Shovel Knight.

Recently, the idea of swapping gender in games has been given much thought; one father adapting Donkey Kong to allow his daughter to play as the Princess, removing her as the damsel in distress, instead saving Jumpman. Velasco highlighted the basics of gender swap mode: “We are thinking that Shovel Knight, the Enchantress, and the Order of No Quarter would be swapped. So, all the main characters basically, but not enemies etc.”

Team member Ian Flood furthered this by saying: “For gender swap, we’re hoping to bring all of the knights back to the visual design table and put them under a new lens. Everything else is pretty much going to play the same. Female Shovel Knight doesn’t jump higher than Male Shovel Knight, etc.”

It was Erin Pellon who offered the most honest response though when challenged about the sexualised female characters of YCG’s previous games: “There are pangs of guilt about overly-sexy girls in the games we have worked on in the past at YCG,” he said.

“We didn’t want to be necessarily exploitative in her design; we want the Enchantress to stand tall as a badass, just as any of the knights are! Her design is understated; it’s just as much about what you do see versus what you don’t, it’s hard enough being the Enchantress when you’re shopping for groceries! I do imagine her dress is rather flashy/neon pink and gravity-defying when her powers get going.”

As far as stereotyping goes, Nick Wozniak was keen to stress that Shovel Knight may tilt its hat to its classic 8-bit heroes, but will not be an outright parody: “We are trying hard to make sure that Shovel Knight isn’t a parody game so you likely won’t see anyone say ‘I am error’ or ‘it’s dangerous to go alone, take this’. Parody games are fine if they really embrace it (retro city rampage is a good exmple), but instead of riffing off the nostalgia of other games, Shovel Knight is trying to create its own nostalgia.

We want the game to feel like you could have played this as a kid eating cereal before school started. Shovel Knight is going to be a complete concept with its own identity and unique, yet familiar feel.”

Shovel Knight has 3 days to go on Kickstarter, and has racked up a total of $184,457; knight years ahead of its $75,000 goal.


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