Meam Genovaña and Crown Patalinghog make up the team behind Mamayani, an RPG dedicated to the unspoken revolutionary heroines of Filipino history.

The game takes place during the tumultuous period of the Japanese and later American occupation of the Philippines. Players take on the role of a young girl faced with a heavy task that inevitably intertwines her with several historical figures, such as Concepción Felix, a human rights activist and founder of Asociación Feminista Filipina (Filipina Feminist Association), one of the first feminist-dedicated organizations in the Philippines.

Both Meam Genovaña and Crown Patalinghog were able to provide their time to discuss the project and the lasting, educational impact they hope to achieve with it.

Thank you for sharing your time with us at Sidequest! What prompted the inspiration and desire to make this project?

Mamayani started as a thesis paper for a college requirement, and we decided to explore the Philippine heroines and the lack of their representation in our past experiences like in our Social Studies subjects. We have always been interested in history, so this topic was something we were both passionate about and were willing to carry through the college requirement. Our inspiration drew mostly from seeing different heroes of history fight for not only the country but for those who are oppressed. In an ideal society, we look at these heroes equally, no matter their sex, gender, sexuality, race, anything, but in a society with imposing—and often unnecessary—power structures, we end up seeing that men are above women and others, that they end up being front and center in discussion. Mamayani was born from the desire to change that—not for women to take men’s place in history but for people to realize that women are more than the few sentences or pages allotted to them, that they have done as much as men have done as well, and that these women can become an inspiration for the youth just as much as any hero, maybe even more to see themselves in a hero like them.

A drawing of the Flag of the Philippines waves over a tan/yellow background, with a text box layered on top of it. A bust of a young woman with black hair and a white top rises into frame next to the text box. The text box reads, "Maria: Filipinos...celebrate independence at Emilio Aguinaldo's Kawit house, ending the long...reign of Spanish invasion."

Indie game development has been growing and blossoming as an industry as resources to make games are becoming more accessible. Why did you want to convey these ideas through this medium? And why an RPG?

Well, there was a similar thesis study about the lack of representation of women in history conducted by Jane Turner in 1998 for Simon Fraser University, entitled “Making Space for Women’s History in the Secondary Social Studies Curriculum”, and she suggested to employ a constructivist approach to learning. So, we looked further into the Constructivist Theory of Learning and the basic premise of that theory is that learners take an active role in their learning by applying their experiences with what they already know. We went for an RPG because according to an article posted in 2012 entitled, “Constructivism and Games”, constructivist games encourage the players to assess and experiment with the information they are given with. These are based off the research we conducted for our thesis. It helps a lot to conduct research before diving into a project, especially when it concerns an advocacy.

Whether it is seen in Mamayani itself or in other things you have created, what are some of your influences?

I, Meam, will be answering this one, since most of the conceptual designs for Mamayani were done by me. The influences for Mamayani were based on our choice of medium, which was a roleplaying game. I had prior experiences with RPG Maker, so I already had a conceptual image of what Mamayani was going to look like. Most of that image drew from Japanese roleplaying games or JRPGs, especially with the built-in features RPG Maker had (turn-based combat, the built-in interface, etc.) so I used those to Mamayani‘s advantage. Many have come on the Mamayani page mentioning how it looks like Pokémon, and Pokémon is actually one of my main influences to the game! Sure, RPG Maker had already programmed it to look like Pokémon, but using those features to feel more like the early days of Pokémon struck a chord with the kid in me that used to spend hours on end on Pokémon Ruby version back in ’05 feeling like an adventurer. And I kind of wanted players to feel the same adventure-y spirit when joining these heroines.

An example of the combat in Mamayani. In the background, the sprite of a young woman faces a desk in what appears to be a classroom. In the foreground, a larger sprite of a young boy stands above an HP bar. The text in a caption box at the top of the image reads, "Boost morale! Raises ATK." At the bottom of the screen, the text box lists actions: "Dual Attack," "Discourage," "Doubt," "Encourage," "Justify Self." "Encourage" is highlighted in red.

What has response been like to Mamayani so far? And is there any particular demographic of people that you want this game to reach out to the most?

We didn’t really expect Mamayani to get attention as soon we opened it for public testing and so far, it’s being well received. We’re very grateful for the support we’re receiving, and we will work our hardest to continue to improve Mamayani. Our primary target audience is the female Grade 6 students. Grade 6 because according to the K-12 curriculum of DepEd that’s the grade level that tackles the eras concerned. The male students can also play Mamayani, of course, but we’re prioritizing the female students because as said by one of our respondents, “Women need role models… to know how significant they were in history,” and this topic is more relatable to them. Young girls should be able to realize that they can explore different roles in society whether that be in the field of history, science, etc. That they are capable of doing more than what society expects them [to] do.

Mamayani is highlighting a specific point in history that, in conversation, is still technically divisive and contested even among fellow Filipinos. Do you have any words of advice for other artists and creatives who would want to create something like this where its strong commentary might be heavily challenged?

Back it up with proper research. Know why you’re pushing for this advocacy and who benefits from the outcome. The online world is a crazy place that’s both the best place for advocacy because of wide reach and easy access, and the worst because you have people interpreting things differently and challenging all these different angles to your idea. Some of these challenges may not be constructive at all, so save yourself from being like them and throwing meaningless arguments by actually knowing your advocacy and your audience. You will know how to improve on the game, answer to those challenges, and understand the passion behind the project.

Sprites of a group of women gather in front of large, white, classically designed building, complete with pillars and terraces. The text reads, "Maria notices a group of high-class women in panuelos just arrive at the side. One of them, however, stood out with a less decorative dress, and she seemed to lead the group with a certain flourish."

After Mamayani, other pursuits would you like to tackle from here on out?

As Salud Algabre once said, “No uprising fails, each is a step in the right direction.” We are definitely looking into more creative work in the future that addresses what we said for the first question, which is to see everyone equally and to uplift those who aren’t as lucky as the rest of us, and until this is realized, we will continue to live in service of that.

Mamayani, in its current iteration, is available to play in-browser on its website. It is additionally downloadable for both PC and Mac. As Meam and Crown look forward to more creative endeavors and further developing Mamayani, they are highly receptive to any feedback through the game’s Facebook page.