#iHunt and Bodies

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Have you gotten your copy of #iHunt yet?

It’s currently the top of the charts in the physical games category on Itch.

It’s #1 in small press and #3 overall on DrivethruRPG. It’s even a Silver tier seller!

I wanted to talk briefly about bodies, and representation.

#iHunt is meant as a very inclusive game. That’s on the agenda from page one to the very end, and I don’t apologize for this. I can’t represent everyone, but I at least wanted to send the message that everyone is welcome, regardless of that. I tried to offer a broad swath of people and experiences, not just because I think it’s best from a social justice standpoint, but also I just feel that it fits the setting of California, which is beautiful because of its diversity.

From Chapter 11, The Streets, this is a sampling of twelve potential #iHunters of numerous backgrounds and body types.

Stock Photography Limitations

Most of the art in #iHunt is based on stock photography from a few different sites. There are a handful of good, free sites out there, like Pexels and Unsplash. I’ve also purchased pieces from Adobe Stock Photos and Scop.io. I particularly like Scop.io because it has a deep focus on diversity in its photography.

However, I did find some limitations in my searches. While sites like Scop.io focus on diversity, that doesn’t mean I can necessarily find the right combination of diverse representation and subject matter. These sites are largely focused on providing blog and brochure style content, so it’s limited to very simple pose photography for the most part. For anything action-based, I usually had to spend a relatively huge amount on Adobe Stock, and I still had to settle with what was available. Sometimes that was less diverse than I’d like. Generally white, generally thin, generally “traditionally attractive.” I know why those sites have a plethora of that, but I’d love to see more variety.

Bodies, Especially

While I was able to find a relatively good diversity in skin tones (although not as many deeply dark tones as I would have liked,) I was absolutely unable to find much in the way of bigger bodies.

I did find a few stock photo sites who have the express intention of increasing representation, and that’s great! There are some solid plus size and dark skin stock photo sites out there, however, most of them have one big problem for a publisher of my scope: They are meant for noncommercial, internet-only publication. You are free to use their content, but not in print for profit. Some of them, I reached out to in hopes I could purchase licenses directly from them. Unfortunately I had no luck in doing so.

One good site that I found is Can We All Go. They have great plus size models having fun and being positive and professional. I used a few of their pieces, which have since been shared on Unsplash. For example, I used this one in the Example of Play section in the first chapter of the book. I love it!

Two plus-size queer women sitting together, looking loving/flirtatious. The one on the left is dark-skinned, the one on the right is light-skinned.

Unfortunately, there’s that inherent limitation. The models are doing very blog-friendly stuff. Not much movement. Not much in the way of stakes. I get it, I don’t fault it, but it’s difficult to use for my purposes.

Let me tell you what I would have given for a plus size non-white model swinging a sword or a baseball bat.

(Well, it wouldn’t have been a ton, since I was funding it all out-of-pocket. But I sure would have paid Adobe Stock Photos rates, and a little more to boot.)

Two of my favorite signature characters in #iHunt. The first, a plus size LatinX model for the “Knights” group (basically the best fighters,) and a young Lebanese woman in a hijab for the “Evileenas” group (basically scholars and lore keepers.)

One thing that I had the most difficulty with was disability representation. Really, the only good images I could find were highly professional, “working behind a desk” style pieces. Which were immensely difficult to work with in the style and presentation I was going for. I tried adapting a few, but it was beyond challenging to work with the page formats. For example, I had to mostly use images that fully featured all included objects. So a picture with a desk needed to feature the entire desk to work with the style. Desks are especially problematic for that, since they’re so big, and often run perpendicular to the model’s body. In the future, I’m going to try to consult with some potential models with disabilities in order to work out those challenges.

Going Forward From Here

I’m already thinking about What’s Next in the #iHunt RPG universe. If this book does well enough, I definitely think we can justify some supplementary material. I also think we might do some spinoff games—I already have some great ideas lined up for a Vampires of San Jenaro game. But in the early planning, I know I want to do a few things better. Part of this will be easier because I’ll be able to commission a limited number of photos I can work with as a foundation.

Some of those priorities:

  • More openly queer action. There’s plenty of queerness in the book already, but it’s typically separated from the action.
  • More size and shape diversity.
  • More disability representation. It was hard to find good pieces that a) I was allowed using realistically, and b) fit in the book. I had one piece that I ended up cutting because it came off as cynical in its inclusion and I didn’t want to send the wrong message.
  • More range in skin tones.
  • More diverse religious representation from groups where that can be visually communicated. I have a couple, including one of the “signature characters.” But I’d like more.
  • More androgynous/not clearly gender conforming identities. There are a couple of non binary and transgender models in the book, but frankly that’s difficult to represent for a lot of reasons that I’ve been thinking about. “Passing” models might as well be cisgender for the majority of audiences. And with others, I run into the same issues with actually finding good examples that aren’t just a random smiling face.

If there’s anything else you’d like to see in the next #iHunt or San Jenaro game, let me know! If you love my work, I want you to see yourself in it.