Golan Levin: Welcome back to Shall Make, Shall Be. Our next speak­ers, whose project deals with the Fourth Amendment, are Latoya Peterson and Cherisse Datu, both game design­ers who start­ed their careers in journalism. 

Latoya Peterson lives at the inter­sec­tion of emerg­ing tech­nol­o­gy and cul­ture. She’s cur­rent­ly cofounder and CXO and Glow Up Games, a game stu­dio work­ing on their first title set in the world of HBO’s Insecure. Previously, she was the Deputy Editor, Digital Innovation for ESPN’s The Undefeated, an Editor-at-Large at Fusion, and the Senior Digital Producer for The Stream, a social media-driven news show on Al Jazeera America. In 2018, she soft launched AI in the Trap, a col­lab­o­ra­tive art project that explores the future of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and pre­dic­tive polic­ing through a hip-hop lens. She is cur­rent­ly on the advi­so­ry board of the Data & Society Institute, and the board of vis­i­tors for The John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships. She is a US-Japan Leadership Foundation Fellow, a USC Civic Media Senior Fellow, and part of the selec­tion com­mit­tee for the Museum of Play’s World Video Game Hall of Fame.

Cherisse Datu was raised on the island of Guam. A first-generation Filipino American, she was born to Kapangpangan par­ents who despite not play­ing games them­selves fos­tered her love for them—perhaps because her Game Boy kept her qui­et dur­ing long car rides. Cherisse is cur­rent­ly a video pro­duc­er at Bethesda Softworks. She pre­vi­ous­ly worked in video at ESPN’s The Undefeated and Al Jazeera’s The Stream. Datu received her Masters in Game Design and her Bachelor’s in Film and Media Arts from American University. A video pro­duc­er with a back­ground in broad­cast news edit­ing and dig­i­tal enter­tain­ment, she finds com­fort in cre­at­ing small forms of playable art to help process cur­rent events.

Folks, I’m pleased to wel­come Cherisse Datu and Latoya Peterson. Hey folks.

Cherisse Datu: Hi!

Latoya Peterson: Hello, how are you?

Levin: Lovely.

Datu: Where do we start?

Peterson: Yes. Want to take it away from the slide deck?

Datu: Yes! I got you. Hi, every­one. Thank you for join­ing us. Can you see my screen?

Levin: Not yet.

Datu: Not yet. Okay. Great. That would have been real­ly embar­rass­ing if I start­ed talk­ing and you did not see my screen. One moment.

So today we’d like to talk to you about Contempt. And that is what we are call­ing an inter­ac­tive explo­ration of the Fourth Amendment. 

So a lit­tle about myself. Who is talk­ing to you right now. So, my name is Cherisse. Thank you so much Golan for the intro­duc­tion. I’m cur­rent­ly a video pro­duc­er with Bethesda Softworks. You may have known Bethesda Softworks for their title such as Skyrim, recent­ly came out with Ghostwire Tokyo, then pre­vi­ous­ly Deathloop. I’ve been work­ing with Bethesda Softworks since 2018. I’m shar­ing this BE3 video from the Blades mobile game. Those are my hands on-screen, so…it’s lit­er­al­ly hands-on at work.

Previously I worked with Latoya at ESPN. And before that I was a JoLT Fellow at America University, where we stud­ied the inter­sec­tion of jour­nal­ism and game design. And as you see in this Newseum pho­to, we had like a three-day sort of out­side pop­up at the Newseum in Washington, DC where we invit­ed peo­ple to talk about what was the water cri­sis in California. And they got to play a game and to sort of under­stand how water resources work. And they also got free pop­si­cles out of it because that’s how we got them to play.

Previously I played around with 360 soft­ware, dur­ing the time when it was real­ly pop­u­lar. And then I was at Al Jazeera where I met the love­ly Latoya. Worked there for quite a bit, and there’s just a list­ing of some of the awards that that pro­gram won, and it’s still going strong. 

To you, Latoya.

Peterson: Perfect. So I’ve had four or five dif­fer­ent careers at this point. I start­ed out, I had a whole kin­da pre-Internet career path. Then I was a blog­ger, and I had a pop­u­lar site called Racialicious. Which was…you know, big deal back in some­where between 2008 and 2012 was kind of a our hey­day. And we had a col­lec­tive that was about the inter­sec­tion of race and pop cul­ture, in which I wrote a lot about video games as part of pop cul­ture, which again was not done. 

That led to a lot of host­ing gigs, book­ing gigs, start­ed writ­ing for mag­a­zines, writ­ing for news­pa­pers. And guest host­ing on what was then Al Jazeera International’s (or Al Jazeera English, specif­i­cal­ly’s) ver­sion of The Screen. Also was a com­men­ta­tor on var­i­ous things. You see me there down at the bot­tom on MTV’s Look Different cam­paign. And so just talk­ing about dif­fer­ent things around race and dif­fer­ent anniversaries. 

Eventually became as Golan men­tioned, one of the exec­u­tive pro­duc­ers on Al Jazeera America’s The Stream and then got poached out of there to go to Fusion. Got poached out of there to go to ESPN’s The Undefeated, where I rehired Cherisse. Over there at the left is a talk that I gave at the MoMA, which was real­ly cool. so the Fluid States of America. 

So my career has been uh…looking at the con­tours, essen­tial­ly, of how soci­eties oper­ate, how race func­tions with­in those soci­eties. And over­all kind of fight­ing for more jus­tice and more rep­re­sen­ta­tion for all. Cherisse and I are fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tors, as seen on the next slide, where we are…just about— I think— How many places have we been around the world togeth­er. It has been quite a few. So we’re at GEN Summit, which was in Vienna. We col­lab­o­rat­ed on a doc­u­men­tary about girl gamers for Fusion. 

Datu: In 15, I think. 2015.

Peterson: Yeah. 2015. We’ve done so many things. And then I think this was at EVO one year when we were shoot­ing [inaudi­ble; crosstalk]

Datu: Yes, 2017 EVO.

Peterson: 2017 EVO. And so you know, through the years we’ve def­i­nite­ly col­lab­o­rat­ed on a lot of projects that have a lot to do with games and dif­fer­ent things to do with the cul­ture. And so when the oppor­tu­ni­ty came up for us to make a game togeth­er, both of us now firm­ly in our post-journalism lives, we were like what bet­ter time to do this and par­tic­u­lar­ly around the cur­rent events and the land­scape of the time.

Datu: And so that all leads us to our project on the Fourth Amendment. And you know what the Fourth Amendment is. It’s the right to be pro­tect­ed from unrea­son­able search and seizures. And the name Contempt” came from this idea of all the emotions—especially from the death of Breonna Taylor—a lot of the con­tempt we felt for how the sit­u­a­tion was being treat­ed; con­tempt of the law, which many peo­ple of col­or are accused of; and just gen­er­al­ly we decid­ed that this project would be our own way of cop­ing with the trau­ma of that time and what does it means to be American, what does it mean to be a per­son of color. 

And so we were inspired by a lot of won­der­ful things. Latoya, do you want to take this one?

Peterson: Absolutely. And so as lovers of games, as well as game design­ers, as well as jour­nal­ists, we love things that kind of bridge the two worlds. So on the left we have Papers Please, which was from—Lucas Pope was the cre­ator. And it’s a game around…being a bureau­crat essen­tial­ly. It’s a very unusu­al game. But one of the things it’s about, it’s essen­tial­ly about resis­tance and being com­plic­it, par­tic­u­lar­ly in author­i­tar­i­an regimes. So, won­der­ful game, won a lot of well-deserved awards. 

We also real­ly enjoyed the Parable of the Polygons, which again is more of a playable than a game. But it’s a won­der­ful explo­ration of seg­re­ga­tion, and how do we get to a soci­ety that is so seg­re­gat­ed when every­body says Oh yeah, I don’t need every­one to look like me,” and real­ly being able to play through that bias and under­stand what is con­tribut­ing to that type of bias we found very inspiring. 

And then final­ly we have a piece called Breonna’s Garden, which is around Breonna Taylor. The artist Lady Phoenix in this cre­at­ed first an AR and then a VR expe­ri­ence that was cre­at­ed to be a safe space for the activists who were speak­ing out and try­ing to hold the police offi­cers who killed Breonna Taylor account­able for what’s hap­pened and they were get­ting harassed. And so she cre­at­ed this kind of inter­ac­tive gar­den expe­ri­ence as a space of heal­ing and as a space to take a breath. 

So all of those projects were kind of front of mind as we were think­ing about and form­ing Contempt. 

Intention: Lead the player to their own conclusions about the 4th amendment's role in current events while providing historical and legal context

Datu: And so that’s what our inten­tion is behind Contempt, using what Latoya just spoke of. Like vri­ous forms of inspi­ra­tion and sort of also our jour­ney to sort of dis­cov­er­ing what we thought the Fourth Amendment means and what it actu­al­ly means. 

And so we’re call­ing Contempt a playable explo­ration, where through a series of small games, or a playable expe­ri­ence if you real­ly wan­na you know, be real­ly strict about what a game is. But the idea of do you know the words of the Fourth Amendment? Do you know that means the right of the peo­ple to be secure in their per­sons, hous­es, papers? Do you know where prob­a­ble cause comes from? And then, there’s also an expe­ri­ence where you’re sleep­ing and you are awok­en. And you have to sort of make some choic­es based on the con­text you have. 

In addi­tion, we went and inter­viewed some civ­il rights lawyers. This is pro­fes­sor Cliff Sloan, who was inter­viewed by Latoya. And he is the legal coun­sel for Kenneth Walker, his case. And I’m just gonna go ahead and play this clip from his interview.

The Supreme Court some­times address­es issues of race. But the Supreme Court in the Fourth Amendment con­text has been very explic­it that claims of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, for exam­ple in police prac­tices, should be brought under the Fourteenth Amendment equal pro­tec­tion guar­an­tee. And the Court has tend­ed to exclude those from con­sid­er­a­tion under the Fourth Amendment. I have to say I think that’s a very seri­ous mis­take. Because the Fourth Amendment pro­tects us against unrea­son­able search­es and seizures. That’s the lan­guage of the Fourth Amendment. And if there are police actions in search­es or seizures that are based on race, then by def­i­n­i­tion it’s not a rea­son­able search or seizure.
Cliff Sloan

And so, dur­ing our research in work­ing on this project we found that race is rarely dis­cussed around the Fourth Amendment, despite what Professor Sloan men­tioned that a search and seizure based on race is by def­i­n­i­tion unrea­son­able. So that leads to a ques­tion that we’re try­ing to answer.

Peterson: Right, with Contempt and actu­al­ly real­ly to pro­voke thought into the audi­ence. Because most peo­ple don’t think about their amend­ment rights on a reg­u­lar basis. It’s only gen­er­al­ly when you need them that peo­ple start to think about them deeply. And with all we’ve known and all we’ve learned, and hope­ful­ly what peo­ple learn play­ing through the expe­ri­ence, is the ques­tion is do we believe the Fourth Amendment is still effec­tive, con­sid­er­ing cur­rent events? And you know, the focus of our project is race, specif­i­cal­ly. And look­ing through the lens of race around search and seizure, and unlaw­ful con­duct par­tic­u­lar­ly by the police.

But there’s also a sec­ond ele­ment to this, which is also dig­i­tal rights. And so we real­ly want folks to be able to reflect on the full­ness of the Fourth Amendment, even though we are focused on race for this project. And to think about what does it mean if the courts, if you the struc­tures that we set up to pro­tect us based on the Constitution, are tak­ing such a nar­row view that the Fourth Amendment is ulti­mate­ly ineffective. 

Datu: And then, we’d like to also sort of ded­i­cate this project to Breonna Taylor and many of the peo­ple like her, who still are look­ing for jus­tice today.

Peterson: Yeah, Breonna Taylor is unfor­tu­nate­ly one of many many folks who have been sur­faced who…should have cas­es under the Fourth Amendment. And since she was killed I think there have been forty-four cas­es brought to the Supreme Court—that’s just count­ing the ones that made it to the court dock­et, not all the ones that’ve been filed, or things in cir­cuit court. There’s been forty-four addi­tion­al cas­es since then, since March of 2020. And even with that, if Professor Sloan is able to bring Kenneth Walker’s case before the Fourth Amendment, we prob­a­bly won’t see that reflect­ed for a few years. So we real­ly want­ed to take space at the end of the project to hon­or all the folks who should’ve been pro­tect­ed by this amend­ment and who have not been.

Datu: Thank you for listening.