Remaking Final Fantasy VII in HD may be the most common sense decision that a gaming company has ever ignored. A revolutionary title in its day that has dug a comfortably nostalgic place in most gamers’ hearts, the relatively cheap process it would t...
I first heard of Ultimate Gay Fighter through a friend’s Facebook post rather than any gaming news outlet, because do you really think that mainstream gaming outlets are going to bother with anything like this? I gave the trailer a look-see, wr...
I’m coining the word “xbroglio” as of today. It means, “any incidents occurring as a result of Microsoft assuming players to be heterosexual dudebros”. It’s quite a flexible concept, too – in fact, I’d ...
The idea of a game designed with queer themes at its heart is not a new one. Titles like Mattie Brice’s Mainichi and Anna Anthropy’s Dys4ia have already made waves in the indie scene, opening up dialogues about their creators’ exper...
When comes to groups that the most vile of gamers dislike, gay men are miles above common fodder like women and “the blacks.” The industry has spent so long catering strictly to the angry white kid demographic that its visual mythology and cultural p...
So, I know I promised a look at Fate Core for this edition of Tabletopping, but it’s Halloween! You need something scary. So instead we’re going to take a look at a game called Don’t Rest Your Head. DRYH is a game about madness and finding yourself. ...
As usual, New York Comic Con was full of tons of great cosplay. This year, Attack on Titan proved to be quite a favorite amongst attendees (I think because you can actually buy replicas of the uniform online, so there’s not a lot of home crafti...
Well, today’s contribution to the continuing imbroglio can be foundover on the site for the Xbox One – in the form of the “We Got Your Back” email template provided courtesy of Microsoft, replete with mad-libs style fields where you can customise a desperate e-plea for an Xbox One to a co-habiting human being and email it off. Which sounds fairly innocuous – if a little obnoxious – were it not for the weirdly gendered and heteronormative format of the entire letter itself.
Queer Mechanic is a regular feature here on GayGamer – each month, we’ll be presenting a new game mechanic that could be used in games that include or focus on queer identity or culture. Queer Mechanic is a thought experiment, to see both what we could add to games, and to recognise what’s been missing from them; it’s a challenge, both to readers, to come up with novel, interesting and effective ways to use them, and to developers, to include them in games; and it’s a discussion for a more inclusive, more varied, and more innovative future for the games industry.
Many of the LGBTQ characters in games come “as-is”, in the sense that they have already undergone most of their soul-searching and self-realisation about their gender, sex or sexual identity prior to the beginning of the story; similarly, although there are often dialogue options to bring up the fact that your character isn’t heterosexual, these are rarely (if ever) framed as your character “coming out” to that person – instead, it’s more like they’re getting the other person up-to-speed with something that has already been established.
Which is strange – because for all its potential for being an emotionally-taxing event, coming out can be a big event in queer folks’ lives, as it marks a milestone in the process of coming to terms with one’s identity. And, while it may be too niche to be included in all games in all genres, there’s certainly scope for using coming out either as a core or constituent part of a capital-Q Queer game, or even as a special event inside games with lots of character-driven narrative, such as Bioware’s Dragon Age or Mass Effect. So, with all that opportunity for interesting storytelling, why don’t we consider ways we could use it in games?
Scottish people love talking about Scotland. It’s kind of to be expected, since we’re a groovy bunch. We’ve got kilts – widely regarded as one of the sexiest pieces of gear ever – and we’ll fry and eat anything if it stands still long enough. To date, the only other people I’ve found who emphasize their nationalism in the same (non-creepy) way are Canadians; I can’t help but wonder if it’s something to do with being attached to a country that gets a bad rap internationally and wanting to distance yourself from them — in fact, the people of Scotland want to distance ourselves from England so much that we’re even voting on leaving the United Kingdom next year.
So, given this predisposition to singing the praises of all things Scottish, and given that Rockstar North, the team behind Grand Theft Auto V, are based in Scotland, I really, really want to talk about how brilliant Grand Theft Auto V is (and, by extension, how great Scotland is, because that’s totally how it works).
But I can’t, because it’s festooned with misogyny, transphobia, and creepy rape jokes that don’t really seem very funny.
Queer Mechanics is a regular feature here on GayGamer – each month, we’ll be presenting a new game mechanic that could be used in games that include or focus on queer identity or culture. Queer Mechanics is a thought experiment, to see both what we could add to games, and to recognise what’s been missing from them; it’s a challenge, both to readers, to come up with novel, interesting and effective ways to use them, and to developers, to include them in games; and it’s a discussion for a more inclusive, more varied, and more innovative future for the games industry.
If you’ve been around the gay scene in some form or another – pubs and clubs, online gay communities, or dating sites/apps like Adam4Adam or Grindr – you’re bound to have come across terminology like “bear” or “otter”, used as a kind of shorthand to discuss people’s body types. These terms of identity also help foster social groups and subcultures.
A quick run-through of the most common of these terms, all of which have some degree of overlap: “Bears” are typically large men, often with plenty body hair and facial hair, and their size can either be down to fat, or muscle – though large, muscular men can also be called “bulls” as well; by extension, “cubs” are younger men with all the attributes of the aforementioned bear bodytype. “Otters” are lean, hirsute men; “wolves” are similar, but are typically more muscular than lean, and also tend to have an aggressive or assertive quality to them. “Chickens” has almost fallen out of use in favour of the word “twink”, to describe younger men, typically without much bodyhair.
These terms of identity are a big part of the experiences of gay men in the West, but have largely been ignored in videogames (a sneaky nod to bear subculture in Mass Effect 3 notwithstanding). They may seem trivial or inconsequential in comparison to previous literary contributions from, for and about gay culture and subcultures; but then, the content and mechanics of videogames – or any genre, in fact – don’t have to have an immense literary quality to be worthwhile to represent or include. And you know what I think would be awesome? A game all about the dudes we know in those subcultures!
The 2013 Penny Arcade Expo took place this past weekend! And, as fate would have it, there is once again controversy surrounding Mike Krahulik as he fires another bullet into the Penny Arcade Dickwolves timeline.
For those not up-to-speed with the debacle: back in 2010, Mike and Jerry, the creators of Penny Arcade, posted a comic called “The Sixth Slave”, featuring a character talking about “dickwolves” and some grim allusions to rape in an attempt at “dark humour” (trigger warning for discussions of rape: “The Sixth Slave“). And ever since, they’ve been attempting to defend and justify their comic – most significantly by creating women’s T-Shirts with a “dickwolves” logo on the front, which was pulled almost two months later. And now, the controversy has been reignited – surrounded by a number of other controversies that highlight problems with Penny Arcade’s management, including Mike Krahulik’s recent transphobic comments.
Harassment seems ubiquitous, inevitable and inescapable in the world of videogames, and targets of harassment run the gamut from folk who show the slightest interest in games, to folk who regularly play and write about games as a career, all the way to folk who create games – and that harassment can come from folk in those roles, too.
Folk of other sexes and genders don’t fare much better, nor do gay gamers, or indeed, folk from any given group of people that aren’t the “straight white middle-class cis male” profile that’s continually reinforced as the norm.
Queer Mechanics is a new regular feature here on GayGamer – each month, we’ll be presenting a new game mechanic that could be used in games that include or focus on queer identity or culture. Queer Mechanics is a thought experiment, to see both what we could add to games, and to recognise what’s been missing from them; it’s a challenge, both to readers, to come up with novel, interesting and effective ways to use them, and to developers, to include them in games; and it’s a discussion for a more inclusive, more varied, and more innovative future for the games industry.
Character customisation is present in some form in the vast majority of games, but it’s only recently that we’ve seen an explosion of games where you can design the lead protagonist from top-to-toe, such as Mass Effect, The Secret World, Dragon’s Dogma, or Skyrim. Sometimes, we get the option to have the characters have romance options with a character of the same sex, but as of yet, we never get the option to explicitly state that our character is gay, or bisexual, or trans*, or any other terms of identity. We often have to read these identities into the characters, come up with personal “headcanon” where we decide, in our own heads, what our character is “really” like (even though there’s no way to represent that in game, and it often contradicts what actually happens in-game as well).
There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach – it means your character isn’t necessarily shackled to their sexuality because you ticked the “gay” or “lesbian” box. For example, Oscar Amell, one of my characters from Bioware’s Dragon Age, started a relationship with Leliana (a woman), and then, when the relationship came to an end, he and Zevran (a man) got together. That was only possible because of the “laissez-faire” approach to sexuality in the game, where I wasn’t choosing what Oscar was (e.g., homosexual), I chose what Oscar did (i.e., had sex with a person of the same sex as himself). Any character trait I read into that – that Oscar was homosexual, or bisexual, or pansexual, or situationally homosexual, or heteroflexible – would only ever exist in my own head. In the world of videogames, our characters are only ever WSW, MSM, WSM or MSW.
Many folk interpret that as a perfect world that we’re striving for in reality, where we’ve moved beyond the need for restrictive labels, where gay folk don’t need to define themselves as gay, where trans* people don’t talk about being trans*, where queer folk are Just People like the rest of us. But I don’t think bigotry suddenly disappears if we just stop labeling ourselves – I’m pretty sure a bigot will still understand the significance of two men kissing one another and that it is A Thing That They Hate.
Besides, identity is important – it literally informs who were are as people, and its importance, significance and ubiquitousness is immediately apparent if you start noticing every time you use the verb “to be”, or count the number of times you refer to yourself in speech. Identity influences everything from our daily lives all the way up to the peaks of human culture and society – and it’s a system that’s rife for exploring in games. And, with that in mind, let’s present the very first of GayGamer’s Queer Mechanics – the “Identify As…” Mechanic.