Careers

Decrypting A Fantastical Personal Brand With Creator And Creative Director Tanya DePass


Tanya DePass is the creator and Creative Director of Into the Mother Lands RPG. DePass is the founder and Director of I Need Diverse Games and cast member and Producer of Rivals of Waterdeep. She is a partnered Twitch variety broadcaster, and RPG developer, writer and consultant as well as a Senior Annenberg Civics Media Fellow at USC. She was also named as one of Gamers of the Year 2020 by Kotaku and invited to the Xbox MVP program in February 2021.

DePass’ work to make the industry more inclusive has been highlighted in Game Changer, Directed by Tina Charles, WNBA star and Olympian. The short documentary premiered at Tribeca 2021, as part of the Queen Collective; an initiative started by Queen Latifah, supported by Proctor & Gamble in an effort to get more Black women into filmmaking. Game Changer was also featured as part of BETHer’s 2021 Juneteenth Programming on 19 June 2021. Most recently she was named The Gayming Awards Icon for 2022. Tanya DePass joins Forbes to discuss her winding career path through gaming and entertainment.

Goldie Chan: Hello Tanya, thank you for joining us. What has your career path been?

Tanya DePass: Weird, windy and fueled by spite and anger. My career as it stands started in 2014 with the hashtag, #INeedDiverseGames and a bunch of angry tweeting before going to my day job about the lack of diversity in games. As the saying goes, it was the right time and right place for that lightning in a bottle moment to be captured. From there, my career has spanned being on a podcast, having a podcast for a few years (Fresh Out of Tokens); being a speaker about DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) as well as becoming a DEI consultant and advocate.

Along the way I started streaming on Twitch, doing far more work as a public speaker and DEI advocate. My path has even led to being in a museum exhibit (Design/Play/Disrupt! At the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2018) and being the subject of a short documentary by Tina Charles (Game Changer), which premiered at Tribeca last June as part of the Queen Collective, run by Queen Latifa.

Chan: What has been your favorite project or stream that you’ve worked on or created?

DePass: That’s a tough call, and I’m sure people expect me to say Into the Mother Lands. But for something that’s lasted a long time; Rivals of Waterdeep, the weekly D&D stream I’ve been on since June 2018. Mother Lands is a close second, and if I can be so cheeky as to add a third, it would be consulting on Far Cry 6 for most of the games development cycle.

Chan: How would you describe your personal brand?

DePass: Well if I can cuss, it’s very much; Do No Harm, but Take No Shit. I want to have a brand, or preferably a presence where I help to uplift others but don’t get walked over like a doormat. There’s too many people who promise folks the moon, have a carefully cultivated persona where no one sees the real them; the one that doesn’t care about anyone else until that person is useful to them in some way. I never, ever want to be that person or perceived that way in the industry or how people remember me. Otherwise, I try for a place where you can be welcomed, a place to be comfortable but with the understanding there is a list of “We Don’t Do That Here” that needs to be followed or you can be shown the door.

Chan: What projects are you currently working on?

DePass: The biggest thing is getting the Into the Mother Lands publishing contract tied off and signed so we can announce that [REDACTED] will be bringing the book to stores, and finally open a pre-order shop for folks who missed the Kickstarter. Otherwise, I’m prepping to be the DM for season 14 of Rivals of Waterdeep and stressing about it.

Chan: What is a dream brand that you’d love to partner with?

DePass: I’d love, love love to create a video game based on Mother Lands, to link up with the Black Panther brand, and to work with Sony in some way. I’m already an XBox MVP and Ambassador, but I rock with both brands and would love to collab, especially around the GoW: Ragnarok launch. My absolute dream project though, is one I’ve put out in the world and want to make a reality, is to make a streaming studio for Midwest and East Coast TTRPG folks. Ideally a space to stream, do podcasting and work space to create our games.

Chan: What changes would you like to see in your industry?

DePass: For DEI to not be an afterthought, for folks to realize that the old ways of excluding others is going to kill the TTRPG industry faster than anything. That stories outside the expected and assumed norm of Medieval England have value; and that people trying to expand these stories aren’t just “woke” or doing it for clout; but that expansive and immersive storytelling will be what breathes new life into the industry. Look at Desi Quest by Jasmine “ThatBronzeGirl” Bhullar and Sandeep Parikh that just closed out its Kickstarter. Look at In Sina Una, Coyote and Crow, Into the Mother Lands, and Wagadu Chronicles among others

Chan: What makes a story come alive?

DePass: Description of the world, not just the people or the places, note I said description and not fifteen pages of people walking through grass and eating boring food. Learning and feeling as if you can taste the food people are making and enjoying. Narrative joys that give you little snippets of what the world you’re exploring could be like if you were actually walking around (or running for your life, depending on the story!) It’s why I enjoy the work of N.K. Jemisin so much, as her worlds are alive in a way I haven’t experienced in a long, long time.

Chan: Any last branding or career advice for this year?

DePass: Be consistent with your name on all platforms, and learn to use social media as a tool and not your personality. Remember that you don’t have to be fake and shallow to have a brand, be an influencer or online personality; you can be your authentic self and still make it. Lastly, be kind as people will remember you for how you treat them, what you do and how you treat others while with them.



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