Can you introduce yourself and say what you do?
I am Quinn Titus. I am an author and a writer for video games. I’m
also a proofreader and diversity consultant for video games on LGBT and
trans and non-binary characters.
How did you first become a diversity consultant?
It’s a bit of a roller coaster for how it happened. When I was still
in college, I saw that Beautiful Glitch, the studio that creates
Monster Prom, was looking for people to apply to writer positions in
their studio, so I started applying for that.
While I was working with them on my application (which ended up taking a
lot longer to complete because I had a bit of a learning curve), they
mentioned that they needed somebody to go over this plot line that they
were doing for a trans character named Zoe, who is basically the monster
world version of a genderless Eldritch Horror, but then Zoe realized
that her true purpose was to be a high school girl. So she’s kind of a
fantasy version of a trans character, and they wanted somebody who could
vet that sort of plot line because none of the people on the writing team were
Zoe from Monster Prom
I mentioned to the studio that I was non-binary and they said, “Well,
this might be a good way for us to give you some work to do while we’re
waiting for your skill to improve in writing and it’s not like you’re
just kind of hanging in limbo with us.” So that was my first experience
doing diversity consultancy, at least professionally, and that’s how I
stayed on the team.
Have you worked on any other games as a diversity consultant?
As a diversity consultant, yes and no. Yes, on another game called
Max Gentlemen Sexy Business, though that wasn’t reviewing for LGBT and
trans issues. A friend from Monster Prom sent my contact information
to the developer of Max Gentleman and said, “Hey, this is a very
socially conscious person I know who might be able to tell us if there’s
anything yikes about the game.” So, I proofread their game, and I did
some vetting and diversity consultancy.
When you’re doing this kind of work, when do the companies reach out?
For example, when a studio like Beautiful Glitch says they want to vet a
character in a specific storyline, do they usually reach out to
consultants in the early writing stages? Or are diversity consultants
hired on as more of a late-stage check, once the idea is fully formed.
Ideally, I would be involved in the early writing stages. That isn’t
always the case and that’s usually a bit of a hindrance, because if
you’ve already got this fully developed character and storyline and then
you go to a diversity consultant and ask, is this cool, if it’s not
cool, then you may be forced of push back your production if you’re
going to trying to fix it. Or even worse, the company might just say,
“Okay, we’re not going to fix it,” and they put it out anyway.
Luckily with Beautiful Glitch, they had the idea in mind for the
character, but they hadn’t actually started writing some of the bigger
plot lines in which her gender identity is fully discussed. There were
some things that were partially written that I looked over and I was
able to say, “Hey, this isn’t cool. This particular line isn’t going to
work,” but it was easy to fix. With the stuff that I did with Max
Gentleman, it was more just minor stuff, so luckily that wasn’t a
But I have other friends in the industry who have told horror stories
about “I did consultancy for this one character and they fell into every
stereotype and it’s godawful. I approached the person who was writing
the game or the movie or whatever and said, ‘this isn’t cool.’ Then they
decided they weren’t going to fix it because there wasn’t enough time.”
So there is pushback when attempting to work with writers, just based
on how far they are in the process and how much time there is?
Exactly. Part of being a diversity consultant is you have to hope the
people who are hiring you are conscious enough to know that they should
probably bring you on pretty early, so that you can teach them not to
make mistakes before they even happen.
If I were talking to somebody who’s writing a trans character, I’d ask,
“Well, tell me about what the character is like, and I can tell you
right off the bat if you’re going to fall into any harmful tropes or
stereotypes or say anything that you shouldn’t say, and then we can nip
all that in the bud before you put it into a script and then we won’t
have to do a bunch of rewriting.”
What in your mind makes a good sensitivity reader or a diversity
consultant, and what qualifications do you think are necessary? For
instance, is your work based on your own experiences, or is it based on
training or research you’ve done?
I think you should consult for the character traits you yourself fall
into. Regardless of how socially conscious I am or how much news I read,
I would never do diversity consulting for a character of color because I
am not a person of color. Likewise, I would hope and expect that people
who are heterosexual are not trying to do diversity consulting on a
homosexual character, and so on and so forth.
I think some training is necessary as far as how to proofread
something, and maybe doing research into some of the political
attributes of the person or the character that you’re consulting on. For
example, if I was trying to do consultancy for a person who’s writing a
gay character in the 1950s, I would need to do research on what life was
like in the 1950s for people of that group.
But a lot of it, I think, comes down to your experiences because you’re
going to have to speak your own truth. Maybe I am hired for a job, and I
think that I’m going to be a good fit for reviewing a character. But
then I read the script, and I may have to say that I can’t honestly
speak to some things the person is trying to write about. Maybe I can
refer them to somebody else I know. Or maybe I can bring on another
person to talk about that aspect of the character that I can’t really
get into and we can work something out.
So in general, it sounds like when a company wants to have a good
coverage of diversity readers, they’ll have to farm out different parts
of the story potentially to different readers.
Yes, potentially. There was a specific situation when Beautiful Glitch
was writing a plotline about a character who was Latino. It wasn’t such
a major part of the story, but she dealt with a racist slight and had to
deal with it. While they never asked me to do diversity consultancy on
that, we talked about bringing someone else on for that because everyone
in the team can’t really speak to that.
I did do some consultancy on that character’s sexuality, but I could
never say, “Also I’ll tell you if we’re being racist,” because I don’t
know. That would be a circumstance in which they might want to find
somebody who is a person of color who could look at that aspect of the
character’s story and tell them what may or may not be going wrong.
Is that usually how companies operate, then? They’ll hire a primary
diversity reader who will then refer sections to other readers? Or will
the studio usually bring on multiple people?
I think what ends up happening is they start with just one person and
then, as both the reader and the studio realize what else might need to
be reviewed about the character, the studio might bring on more people.
I don’t want to go ahead and say that is exactly what every company does
or what people always do because I don’t want to be wrong or make a
claim that I can’t support. But at least, from what I know about the
experiences that I’ve had as a diversity consultant, and the people I
have talked to, is usually they start with one person and kind of hope
that that person is going to be able to do all of the consultancy. Then
the consultant might say, “Okay, we might actually need to bring in
someone new or someone else to talk about this aspect of the
Do you ever feel pressure not to bring on someone else because of
budget or other issues?
I’ve never had to bring on someone else. But if I’m a person of
integrity, and being a diversity consultant is all about trying to treat
the characters and the people that you’re representing with respect, I
would still probably want to say we should bring on someone else for
At least with me, I can’t speak for everybody, but the reason I want to
do this work is to make sure that the characters that we create are true
to the people that we’re representing. If I’m going to sit there and
knowingly give advice on a character that I can’t 100% say I feel
connected to this, then I’m not really doing my job.
To that end, how do you judge what is a successful representation of a
minority versus what isn’t successful?
Well, with the minority groups that I fall into, I basically just
judge based on my own experience with that particular kind of person, be
it personal experience or what I know of other people and see when it
comes to LGBT characters.
I am an LGBT activist, I used to be part of speakers panels and stuff
like that, so I feel confident that I know about the experiences of
other queer people that are not necessarily me, and I know a lot of the
history about queer issues. So, I can confidently determine whether
something seems like it’s falling into a stereotype of a character.
If you have a gay character that’s extremely flamboyant and calls
everybody “honey” and “sweetie” a lot, that’s kind of a stereotype. Or
if somebody says a slur towards the character or says something that’s
not necessarily a slur, but can be interpreted in a very rude way, that
might be something to look out for.
I think that also a big thing to look for when you’re a diversity
consultant is, if a minority character is being slighted, whether or not
it’s coming from the mouth of somebody that we should be rooting for.
Using Monster Prom as an example, there are scenes where the trans
character gets called names, but the hurtful comments are always said by
this one character that we are supposed to dislike, that’s supposed to
represent everything that’s horrible about the internet actually.
I think my boyfriend referred to that character as “the forum troll”
Oh, yeah, absolutely. So, any time that character says something rude
to Zoe, you’re supposed to know that the statement is not reflective of
the opinions of the characters that you’re supposed to like and, most
importantly, the opinions of the developers. But if one of the
characters that you, as the player, like says something inappropriate,
then that’s when I would say, “We got to change this.”
What are some of the more common stumbling blocks you’ve seen by
companies when they’re trying to include diverse characters?
I think sometimes people try too hard to seem woke. I sometimes fall
victim to this too, when I write characters of color, because I’m white.
The writer tries too hard to go in the other direction. As a diversity
consultant, it’s kind of an endearing problem to see because it’s like,
“Oh, I know that you really want to do this and you really want to seem
nice and I get that, but we have to make this stuff more organic.”
Using gender as an example, you’ll see writers try to have their trans
character speak frequently about how they’re transgender. Like, “yeah, I
don’t need the gender spectrum. I’m stronger than that.” And it’s like,
cool. I see the message you’re trying to put out, but I think we can
make this seem more organic and less forced and it will be all the more
endearing for that reason.
I think another common problem would be bringing on diversity
consultants too late, or assuming that they know more than they actually
do. Because you can be the wokest person in the world, and that’s great,
but there are still going to be things that you won’t necessarily
understand if you haven’t grown up as a member of the specific race or
the sexuality of the character that you’re trying to portray. Even if
you don’t want to go to all the trouble of hiring a diversity
consultant, you really need to actually do your research and talk to
people who know more than you about a specific kind of character in
order to portray it or to portray them well and realistically.
That actually goes to something I’ve said in my own reviews of media,
which is there’s a difference between having a character who is gay and
the gay character.
Yeah, exactly. Because that would be whenever somebody makes it over
the top or I don’t know, it seems way too performative.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is an example of a show that has characters who are
gay versus stereotypical gay character. There’s a difference between
performative wokeness and saying, “Look at our game. We have so many
diverse characters for you to enjoy.”
Actually a great example would be Overwatch. Not to dis Blizzard on
main, but they have the whole thing of Tracer being a lesbian. But that
never really comes up in the game. It’s only in the comics. Or the scene
in Marvel’s new movie where they had the one guy mentioned that he went
on a date with a man for 15 seconds and then that was never addressed
again. That’s absolutely performative wokeness, in my opinion.
For me the example that springs to mind is a comment someone made on
Twitter a while back: Rowling confirms Dumbledore is gay in all of her
stories, just not in her books, movies or any other associated media.
Exactly that sort of thing. You can pretend to care about minority
characters all you want, but unless you actually make an effort to
include them in your narrative in a strong, necessary way, then you’re
not fooling anybody, or at least not anybody important.
Building on that, when you have a game that’s released, or is in
public beta and you get feedback that a depiction is a problem, how do
most companies handle that? Have you ever seen diversity consultants
pulled in after a public release? Or is that almost always done
I’ve heard stories of people who were pulled into a job or offered a
job after a beta was released and people had told the developers, “Hey,
this isn’t cool.” I would not be opposed to taking the job like that.
But it would be scarier because then not only are you trying to fix the
script that’s already finished, but the public knows the script was once
flawed. If you’re pulled into a script that’s problematic and the public
has already seen that it’s problematic, then that’s on you to fix it and
if you don’t fix it, then that’s your fault.
But I think companies that are more mature will usually come back and
workshop the problematic script again to make it better. We had
something similar happened with Monster Prom’s newest game where we’re
having a non-binary character, and some people who have recorded
gameplay have misgendered that character a lot. So I’ve been talking
with some of the people that I work with about how can we make it more
obvious that this character is not binary without beating the audience
over the head with it and not making it so “performative.”
I think that whenever you put something out into the world, if it
doesn’t land perfectly, unfortunately you’re going to have some people
who will say, “Oh, this will never be redeemed,” because we live in a
cancel-culture society. But the best thing to do is just to sit down and
say, “Okay, we need to make this better. How can we make it better and
how can we make it better in the sense that it’s not like we just said,
‘Oh shit, we’re losing sales. We need to fix this.'” How can we show we
genuinely care that this was a problem? We need to acknowledge that this
wasn’t good enough the first time and make it better the second time
I think in that sense, diversity consultants can also become a kind of
PR bandaid, which is a weird way to say that, but it’s true. If you work
on a project that wasn’t perfect the first time, then sometimes that’s
what ends up happening.
I’ve heard stories where the project was just so irredeemable, or maybe
the diversity consultant tried to help and the company refused, that the
consultant has said, “I can’t work with you. I don’t want my name on
this. I don’t want to be the diversity consultant who helped make a
I guess in that regard, you also got to know when to walk away. You got
to know when to say, “My reputation is not worth this paycheck.”
In those instances where there are problems, do you ever get asked to
consult how to handle the fallout? Is that a thing that a diversity
consultant would be asked for?
I have offered advice on how to handle fallout. Normally, I just give
my best advice on here’s what you can say to sound genuine. You want to
project the message, “I know I messed up and I’m sorry and this is not a
representation of who I am or, more importantly, who the company is as a
whole. This doesn’t reflect our true beliefs or our true opinions.”
I would just kind of coach someone on how to address the controversy,
how to maybe tweak what has been previously established or how to retcon
the previous script to make it more okay, and just kind of hope for the
The diversity consultant is rarely, if ever, the actual person who is
going to tell the public about what’s happening with the game, so you
kind of have to act as like script writer in that sense. But, hopefully
if you’re working for a good company, it’s less, “I’m going to tell you
word for word what to tweet” and more “These are the things that I think
need to be addressed and this is how you can say things tactfully and
get the people back on your side.” You have to hope that the people that
you’re telling this to are going to take your advice seriously and do
right by what they’re trying to create.
That’s a good question on its own right—do the companies that are
hiring diversity consultants generally do it because they want to have
actual improvements? Or do they want the privilege of saying “look at
us, we hired a diversity consultant.”
I think that it’s usually the people who are trying to improve. The
people who just want that stamp of, “Oh, yeah, we’re diverse” are not
even going to bother finding a diversity consultant. They’re going to
think, “I know what being gay is like. I’m going to put a gay guy in the
game and he’s going to do this, that and the other thing and nobody’s
going to tell me that I’m wrong.” Then they put out a game with “the gay
It’s both a blessing and a curse; the companies that are going to hire
diversity consultants are already more socially conscious than companies
that wouldn’t even bother. So, on the one hand, that’s good for me
because I have some confidence that the company that hires me is not
just going to be a horrible job where I’m never listened to.
Unfortunately, the people who really need diversity consulting are
rarely going to be the people who ask for it, or at least not in time.
If those people want a diversity consultant, it’s after they’ve already
put up something that’s extremely problematic and they’re like, “I want
you to fix this. You have six days.”
How do companies find diversity consultants?
Unfortunately, it’s often through the grapevine. I attended a
diversity consultant panel at PAX Dev, and I really don’t want to give
specific information because I’m going to get it wrong, but there are
some diversity consultants who are trying to create an online database
of diversity consultants categorized by what they could consult on, so
people who can consult on race, people who can consult on disabilities,
can be easily found by companies. If that ever does get up and running,
which, fingers and toes crossed that it does, that will hopefully be a
much better resource. Usually diversity consultants really just kind of
have to be their own agents and their own bosses and kind of hawk for
work themselves on, say, Twitter or social media or on their own
A lot of diversity consultants have their own inner web of people that
they know. They might say to a company, “Maybe I’m not a person who
could talk about this issue, but I have this person in my back pocket
who I trust very much and I totally recommend that you talk to her.”
Hopefully, and I think that most diversity consultants will agree, we
care more about putting up games that are socially conscious than
necessarily making the most money, so we want diversity consultants to
be easily accessible. Because if we were about making the most money, we
probably wouldn’t have gone into the job about social justice.
Fair point. I say as a reporter who covers diversity, yeah, I know
Yeah, you get me. You feel it.
There’s a reason this is my second job.
Do you believe overall the industry, especially the video game industry,
is getting better about including diverse voices?
As with this entire conversation, this comes with the caveat that I
can only speak about my own opinion, but I think that the indie scene is
much more first voice inclusive and socially conscious than the AAA
scene. Because games that are made by big companies that have lots of
big names behind them end up falling prey to what’s the most
advertisable—what’s going to make their shareholders the happiest?
What’s going to make the generic player the happiest? Unfortunately in
the minds of those people, the generic player is not a disabled, gay
person of color who suffers from PTSD.
However, indie projects, which are much more often passion projects of
small groups of people who have a specific story they want to tell, tend
to be more socially conscious for that reason. They don’t feel the same
pressure from a bunch of people who have stock in their company, because
their company is six people in a basement.
That’s why I personally, even just in my own life, enjoy indie games so
much more than AAA games and those are the only games that I have ever
consulted on. Just being one person, one small queer, I would say that
indie games are more inclusive games. If you want a game that you think
is going to be inclusive of your sexuality or of your experience as a
person, I think indie games are going to be where you will find it more
quickly or more satisfyingly.
That’s definitely what I’ve observed; there are lots of creators
creating diverse queer-friendly content, but it’s generally a lot easier
to get something good if you’re not in the mainstream content.
Yeah, exactly – it’s why I’ve only worked on indie games and why I
generally only even play indie games.
Do you have anything else you want to add, either about the industry,
or getting into this kind of work?
If someone wants to try to get into diversity consulting, or that’s an
interest that they have, you should definitely not give up on it. But
also know that it’s all about your passion for the work, for creating
stories about that sort of a character or that sort of experience.
If you wanted to be a diversity consultant, understand it’s not the
easiest job. It’s definitely not the highest-paying job. But it’s some
of the most rewarding work that I do. Because there have been people who
have messaged me ever since we released Zoe, the trans character, or
Milo, the non-binary character. and have said to me, “Thank you so much.
I am so excited to see somebody like me represented in a piece of media
that I already loved.”
It’s just one of those jobs that when you get that moment of somebody
telling you, “You made a difference in my life,” that’s just better than
any headache that it might give you.
And if you’re a diversity consultant, or if you are a person who hopes
that games get more diversity consultants, support each other and
support the games that have them. Tell the creators that you love what
they’re doing, that you love that they’re being socially conscious and
just don’t give up on work that rewards you spiritually, I guess.
Quinn Titus is an author and a professional diversity consultant for
video games. They wrote ‘I’ll Make You a Deal,’ a queer love story
and has consulted on the popular game ‘Monster Prom.’