Taking Pride in ANZ Pride – Dean “Rocket” Hall

CEO of RocketWerkz and dominating figure of the ANZ Game Industry

We have a special round of Taking Pride in ANZ Pride today for you, folks! Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall, the big man himself, CEO of RocketWerkz, creator of games like DayZ and Stationeers and avid mountain climber. He was very open about sexuality, the games industry, and how and where he fits in to it all. Which is to say, pretty darn well, as a hard working kind of guy.

Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall
CEO of RocketWerkz
Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Twitch

Goto.Game: LGBTQI+ Status?
Dean Hall: I recall a friend of mine once saying to me, when I was a little confused about myself “oh honey, being gay isn’t about who you sleep with, it’s about who you fall in love with” and it really stuck with me.
My sexual attraction is complicated and much broader than a basic classification of gay (I have a serious crush on Ruby Rose!). However I’ve mostly only developed romantic relationships with guys. I identify as a gay man out of simplicity, but I recognise the nuance of my own sexuality and don’t feel constrained by it.
GTG: What’s it like being queer in ANZ games industry in 2020?
Dean: I like to think my sexual identity is one of the least interesting things about me. My experiences in the games industry and the military have taught me that most people really don’t mind. Issues that have cropped up have largely been because someone hadn’t “encountered” a LGBTQI+ person directly before (I always point out they probably have, they just might not have known).
At the point it’s important to note how privileged my position is. I’m a white, tall, athletic, wealthy gay man. People who do have issues with my sexual identity generally have to keep it to themselves.
Despite this privilege I have been in difficult situations because of it. While I was out in the military, and in game dev I didn’t keep it secret, I did largely keep it private. I didn’t want to known as a “gay” game designer. I wanted my work to speak for itself.
I had a former employee put me on a message board and post some very personal things about me. That really hurt.
Specifically I think our industry is really all about how good you are, so it’s an excellent fit for LGBTQI+ people.
GTG: How does what you make contribute to queer ANZs landscape?
Dean:I focus mainly on trying to be a better person and being better at my job. In doing this at the very least I can try and show an example of being gay and succeeding. Maybe one day this might help inspire a young gay person to get into game development.
Ultimately what made me decide to be more public was realising that while I felt my sexuality was not the most important thing for me; it was very important to those going through difficulty accepting their own.
Those who have accepted their own sexual identity have a responsibility to help those how have not accepted theirs. Specifically, it breaks my heart when I see young people taking their lives.
Seeing CEOs like Tim Cook be very public about their sexuality helps provide solid success stories for young LGBTQI+ people. It stops the successes being invisible to those going through their own personal battles accepting and living with their identity.
GTG: How do you bring your queerness into your content?
Dean:I’m not one for narrative content. My games, for instance DayZ, are very player sandbox. So the character is really the player and my game is really just about the player roleplaying whoever they want to be.
Most of our challenges are technical so very little of my time gets spent on choosing a theme or elements. Even deciding the sizes and dimensions of characters has tremendous implications on workflow. As much as possible I, like others in our industry, want the players to chose their character. Even making seperate animation rigs for different genders can be a huge amount of work, but is something we are investing in for our new survival game.
GTG: What would you change about the ANZ scene?
Dean:Too much magical thinking. A symptom of which is everyone being nice, focusing on the nice and easy topics. It’s easy to say “we have a lack of diversity in our industry”; however the majority already agree with that statement. What we need are real solutions. Practical ones that work while still making products people want and being able to run a successful company.
Overall I think conferences and speakers need to start considering whether they are in this as a business or for the art. They are, for much of it, mutually exclusive.
Also: more LGBTI+ streamers and content creators! Twitch, etc are how young people consume content. It is vital that young people are seeing peer role models in this area. I’m hoping to sponsor this area myself and I hope others do too. My longterm goal is ensure my estate provides pathways for young people’s queer content in the gaming content creator space.
GTG: What would you say to a young queer person who wants to do what you do?
Dean: Through my time in the army, and my whole life I guess, I cut through any stigma by being better than everyone else. If the straight guys were doing 50 pressups I did 60. Should it be this way? No. But I just made sure I was better than everyone.
If you want to be successful that you have to focus on what you can do to achieve that. Things are likely to be unfair and you do what you can to change that, but ultimately if you want to win then you do what it takes to win.
Ultimately this comes at a significant cost, a personal one. So I would say “beware what you wish for”. Success has made all my personal relationships complicated. Money makes dating very hard. Be aware what you’re getting into, if you want to be successful at this level.
GTG: Favorite queer gaming moment?
Dean: A weird one, but I often get messages through gay dating apps like grindr and tinder, saying they have played my games and that I’ve inspired them. I always assure them the reality of me is likely to be a letdown (never meet your heroes). But honestly that really makes me happy. Nearly all my gaming buddies have been straight. I’ve really struggled to find gay gaming buddies.
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