For this girl, it’s more than a game
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 23:11
The things that Jennifer Mayo loves have often set her apart from the regular students.
A fondness for anime, the little-known sword-based martial art of Iaido, and Japanese role-playing games may not exactly endear one to one’s peers. “I didn’t really fit into the ‘feminine ideal’, so I did get teased a bit,” Mayo said.
Today, this confident and enthusiastic CU Denver senior is looking toward grad school and dealing with all the problems and concerns that it will bring—while not forgetting about her pop-culture passions.
A major in creative writing, Mayo’s dream job is to be a videogame writer, hoping to help fulfill the medium’s potential at a time when story, dialogue, and characters don’t get the respect they deserve. “Wooden dialogue and cliché stories are the killers of video games today, especially in the JRPG genre,” Mayo said.
Mayo cut her teeth on some of the classics of the JRPG genre, games like Final Fantasy VII—long considered the paragon of games with spiky-haired, androgynous kids saving the world—and Super NES classic Chrono Trigger, whose twisty time-travelling tale was a revelation for its time.
Recently, as Mayo admits, the genre has fallen on hard times as industry titans like Final Fantasy makers Square Enix churn out disposable games with forgettable protagonists. “Games can be works of art,” said Mayo. “But they haven’t yet lived up to what they can do.”
“They mainly cater to men, and even men are getting tired of it,” she said, and that’s one thing Mayo hopes to change in the industry. She wants to nurture a more feminine perspective and explore queer issues through the lens of electronic entertainment.
With a bit of prodding, Mayo may reveal her long-gestating idea for her own videogame: an epic role-playing game stretching from the Silk Road of the 16th century, through Victorian times, to the modern day. “Something I would really love to see is more character-driven stories,” Mayo said. “Games that focus on the characters would be great.”
Originally born in Oklahoma, Mayo and her military family moved all around, hopping from Germany to Colorado Springs and eventually settling in Highlands Ranch. Not far from her home is the school where she practices the ancient discipline of Iaido, the martial art that focuses on how participants draw their blades and apply their energy. “There’s no sparring in Iaido,” said Mayo. “The opponent in Iaido is always yourself.
“Iaido has given me a different way to look at life because sometimes it’s not about the quick draw, but instead about recognizing your potential to do so and using that strength to defuse a tricky situation.”
Be it a virtual sword or a real one, the weapon is just a means to an end. For Jennifer Mayo, it’s who holds it that counts.