A videogame developer, cosplayer and 3D printing devotee with a microchip embedded in her hand, Amie D Dansby is joining the lineup for the Hybrid World Adelaide [HWA] conference in July.
“The chip in my hand doesn’t need to be charged because it’s just a tiny little magnet,” says Amie D Dansby. “It holds 888 bytes of data, which is basically a really long tweet.”
The microchip embedded in Dansby’s hand is much like those we put in our pets, and compatible with the near-field communication (NFC) technology of smart phones and devices. Dansby can use it to unlock her front door, or to hold her hand by your phone and load up her own web page.
“It’s about the size of a grain of rice, and if it’s safe enough for my dog, it’s safe enough for me,” she says.
As a game programmer, 3D printing advocate, cosplay devotee and obvious early adopter of technology, Dansby will soon appear in Adelaide for Hybrid World Adelaide [HWA] to speak and deliver electronics and 3D printing workshops.
“Each of the workshops will have basic electronic soldering skills,” says Dansby. “I call it the ‘You know nothing, John Snow’ class, and it goes all the way up to, you know, flying a dragon. We’ll do things from foam, 3D printing, electronics, LEDs – all the fun things.”
The end result will be a collaboratively built costume fit for Dansby to wear and display at UniSA’s Museum of Discovery (MOD), which has partnered with HWA to bring Dansby to Adelaide.
“The whole title is ‘Space, Junk, Punk’,” she says. “They [MOD and HWA] sent me a few ideas of things that they like and there are a few pieces I’ll make myself beforehand because realistically, having them sew me a bra in a workshop’s not fun. The base of the dress and fabrics is what I’ll do, along with the schematics for the electronics and code.”
It’s a project that dovetails well with Dansby’s expertise and passions of technology, programming and cosplay. The recent phenomenon of cosplay, where fans dress up in the costumes of favourite comic book, video game or pop culture characters, has gained momentum in recent years.
“Something I love about the cosplay and fandom world is that generally people are awkward and why would you approach someone and talk to them if you know nothing about them?” says Dansby. “But at a Comic Con or another event where someone is dressed up, you can approach them because they’re dressed as a character that you like, you want to ask them how they made it, you want a picture with them. You have all these reasons to approach them and get out of your comfort zone.”
With cosplay still growing in popularity alongside the resurgence of comic book films and the gargantuan video game industry, Dansby notes that fans are going all out with their costumes, but that many hobbyist makers are finding limits when it comes to more fully integrating technology into their costumes.
“A little bit of a barrier in this fandom where someone is so obsessed with a character in the most positive way, and they’re making these costumes, spending hours of their life obsessing over every detail, but still an underlying worry is the electronics side,” she says. “That’s what I think people are a little bit scared of. That’s one thing when I come to Hybrid World I’m really pushing is, ‘this is a basic class and you have to know nothing.’ I won’t say it’s easy, but I want to get you over that little bit of fear.”
Dansby builds a ‘Nukalava’ from the components of cheap electronics picked up in a dollar shop
While these imaginative realms do engender a sense of freedom and unbridled ingenuity, some commentators are quick to point out gender inequity within the gaming industry, or sexist narratives and characters that reinforce negative stereotypes throughout the pop culture world.
In 2014 the industry was rocked by the ‘Gamergate’ controversy, where female game developers were systematically harassed for raising concerns about gender equity in game content the industry overall. Asked what it’s like to work the male-dominated industry of video games, Dansby says she’s never had any problems herself, but recognises the imbalance of the workforce.
“I started out at Marvel Studios in California before Disney walked in, and the three guys that hired me – I still talk to them to this day – they gave me a chance and have been mentors to me,” says Dansby. “I was the first female intern they ever had on the games side, but I never felt uncomfortable or pressured from anyone from there to where I am now… As a programmer, it’s still very rare that you work with other female programmers. Especially in games, people will ask me, ‘oh, are you an artist?’ and I can’t draw a straight line without the use of a computer.”
Dansby also helped establish a college scholarship through America’s National Videogame Museum to get more women into game development and help diversify the industry’s workforce.
“People are people and people play your games,” says Dansby. “So you’ve got to have all types of people making the games.”
Hybrid World Adelaide