This gamer is on a mission to change the industry…for the better.
Dani Lalonders has been a fan of gaming since she first laid eyes on her first gaming system. Now, she’s using her own platform, Veritable Joy Studios, to create games where people who look like her can see themselves accurately reflected.
“I’ve always been a gamer, ever since I was very young,” Lalonders told BAUCE. “When I first got my first gaming system, which was a Game Boy, I was just like, ‘Wow, I love games.’ I just love playing games in general, but playing girly games, that was kind of my main thing. I always thought games were for boys growing up and then I realized it was games for girls and I was like, ‘Wow, I actually can play games that I enjoy.’ And that really just birthed my love for gaming.”
In fact, Lalonders created ValiDate to ensure that the LGBQTIA+ community can both feel seen and represented within the industry.
The game is centered around 13 struggling singles as they navigate the harsh realities of love, life, and everything in between.
“Validate came to be in 2019 when I was making a game with one of my friends and we were just like, ‘Why don’t we just make a little visual novel?'” Lalonders recalled. “And Validate was supposed to be a small concept with his art and my writing. I would program it because programming was pretty easy for a visual novel. We kind of started building it and we realized that this could be bigger thanks to my background in community management.”
She continued: “I’m already a good project manager and I was sharing this idea with some people and I found a team, there were just mostly friends and we started building a prototype and a bunch of ideas that we launched in February 2020. Our game title and then our studio came a couple of months later and basically, we just decided that as a team, we wanted to create diverse stories and create diverse narratives by people who actually look like the characters in our game, which is why we created our team. Veritable Joy Studios is a Chicago-based studio that highlights people of color and give a unique perspective of our stories.”
What’s more, Lalonders recently partnered with Xbox to showcase her game. She reflected on landing on the gaming company’s radar and what the moment still means to her.
“I got my Xbox connection with another mutual friend who is also in the program,” said Lalonders, speaking of the Xbox Developer Acceleration Program, by which ValiDate was funded in part. “We actually had like a 30-minute call and we ended up talking for like an hour because of how much he wanted to hear about our project, what we were doing, and how much we struggled to get our game out.”
Lalonders continued: “He immediately was on our side and wanted to help us. I felt like they appreciated our game, they saw the vision of our game, and they saw how important our game was because what I’m gathering from all the games that Xbox has been publishing recently, is that they’re trying to publish games that have never been made before. They are trying to publish games that are super duper unique and will help change the betterment of games moving forward. Oftentimes, I feel like a lot of these companies don’t really want to make better games. They just want to make games in general. Games that they’ve done before. Games that they know will sell.”
For Lalonders and her team joining the acceleration program was the saving grace for the vision they were looking to execute through their game concept. Looking ahead to the future, Loaders wants to continue to represent underserved communities through her own, unique approach to storytelling.
“I honestly want to represent a changing point in this industry,” she expressed. “I feel like we are fully transitioning into being more people of color friends and realizing that people want different kinds of games. I want people to look at Veritable Joy Studios and ValiDate and see it as an inspiration for their own work. I’ve often been told that by people who’ve been in this industry for longer than I’ve been alive- that they never expected to see a game that looks like our game.”
Click here to stay learn more about Vertaible Joy Studios and to stay up to date on their latest offerings.