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November 21
2014

Preview: Read Only Memories

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romss1
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MidBoss‘ upcoming cyberpunk adventure game Read Only Memories – or ROM – is due for release next year, and, to give would-be players a little taste of what’s to come, they’ve released a playable demo over on their website - and we’ve taken a look to tell you what you can expect from this teaser.

In ROM, you find yourself on the cusp of a story of intrigue and secrets as a cute personal helper robot which has broken into your home informs you that his owner, a former friend of yours, has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. As a journalist in Neo-San Francisco in 2064, you are best placed (according to Turing, the aforementioned robot casually disregarding property laws) to find out what happened to your friend.

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November 7
2014

Second Chances: An Interview with Dale Lazarov

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secondchancescover
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Dale Lazarov is a gay comics writer, well known in gay-geek circles as being the smut lord responsible for unleashing hardcover and digital gay comics like MANLY, BULLDOGS and STICKY into our world, available over at http://www.dalelazarov.com/. Since his most recent release “Second Chances” with Foxy Andy and William O. Tyler came out last month, we caught up with him to talk a little about his new comic, his approach on creating comics and the politics involved, as well as getting a glimpse of what Dale’s bringing into being in the near future.

Fair warning: there are some NSFW links and discussion below, as well as some (censored) NSFW images!

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November 3
2014

GG on GG: The Problems with GamerGate

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Gamergate Logo
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[Editor’s note: Given the touchy nature of this article’s subject, and the very real instances of harassment that have been connected to those involved with it, comments will be disabled. While normally we encourage a wide variety of viewpoints, including ones we may not agree with, to be shared on our posts we do not want to risk the safety of our readers, community members, or contributors. However it would be irresponsible of us to not comment on the issue at all, both as an LGBT-focused gaming site and as a gaming site at all. For anyone who has been lucky enough to avoid the GamerGate story thus far, here is a recap via the Washington Post that manages to cover things.]

I want to open with a nice, objective statement that I can be sure won’t dissuade specific groups of people from reading on ahead, taking the time to read what I’m saying, and critically engaging with the points I’m raising: but to be honest, fuck GamerGate, and fuck the people who choose to align themselves with it in spite of all the horrendous things it’s been responsible for.

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October 7
2014

Quiet Queers: LGBTQIA+ Invisibility in Games

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QuietQueers
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There is a problem in videogames of LGBTQIA+ characters whose queerness is silent.

This isn’t to say that all LGBTQIA+ characters whose gender or sexual identity is only mentioned in-passing are inherently bad, or are examples of bad writing; sometimes, the most interesting, effective and emotionally-engaging way to state something about a character is to understate it.

The problem is that “invisible queerness” – queerness that is effectively absent in a text except for authors stating it outside of the text (e.g., Dumbledore in Harry Potter), single lines ad-libbed at the end of the text as an afterthought (e.g., Gobber in How To Your Train Your Dragon 2), or going utterly unspoken but hinted at through vague allusions, nudge-wink stereotypes and plausibly-deniable overtones (e.g, most queer characters during the first and second millenium CE).

So long as their queerness isn’t intrusive, or doesn’t require players to talk or think about queerness in any but the most basic terms, they’re lauded as being exemplars of the entire LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

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June 26
2014

An Interview with Dani Landers of Studio Fawn

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Bloom-Memories
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Dani Landers is one of the four members of Studio Fawn, the creative team behind Bloom: Memories, an upcoming game set in a strange and beautifully-crafted world designed to evoke feelings of adventure and exploration, as well as including emotionally-involving storylines using game mechanics and themes that the larger games industry tend to avoid. Bloom has already seen a very successful Kickstarter having met (and exceeded!) their target goal, and their continued progress in developing the game is documented over at the Studio Fawn website. Dani’s role at Studio Fawn encompasses game design, art, writing and marketing, and the world of Bloom stems from her own creative vision.

We caught up with Dani to ask her a little about her vision for Bloom,  her experiences as a game developer, and her thoughts on the contemporary games industry.
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May 28
2014

It’s Hard Being Tomodachi With Corporations

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TOMOD
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Recently, an uproar tore out across the internets when Nintendo decided not to include same-sex relationships in their life-sim game Tomodachi Life; people were incensed, Nintendo issued a fairly standard apology, people were mildly more optimistic but also still kind of sore. In response, there have been questions, confusions and concerns from folk criticising the backlash against Nintendo, for various reasons.

Many have echoed Nintendo’s sentiment of “social commentary” by claiming that games are “just games”, they’re escapist fantasies, they’re entertainment, and as such, they shouldn’t serve any “political agenda”. But games are not just “escapism”, they’re not just frivolous forays into time-wasting in between reading “Ulysses” or “Animal Farm”, they’re not “just” anything – there’s an entire side to the games industry called serious games! Games, like any medium, like any artform, like any kind of entertainment – both reflect the culture that created it and influences that society’s perspective. As Anna at BorderHouseBlog notes, choosing to abstain from “social commentary” on an issue IS social commentary — any action in a politically-muddied situation is political action. Similarly, Nintendo’s initial decision not to include same-sex relationships – and their subsequent decision not to – did not happen in a vacuum. They happened in an industry already hesitant about, if not inimical to, LGBTQ representation, in a culture where LGBTQ people are already marginalised, poorly represented and discriminated against.

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May 20
2014

Queer Mechanic #6: Relationships

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queermechanic6
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Relationship mechanics have become enormously popular in recent years, to the extent that it”s not uncommon to see forum threads of speculation about whether certain characters in games can be “romanced”, guides for the optimal way to romantically engage with Love Interests (LIs), or discussing the difficulties inherent in romance options in games. The creation of engaging and interesting romance options and mechanics is something that’s vital, timely, and, most importantly, wanted.

Nonetheless, implementing romance options isn’t as easy as just rubbing one character on another until hearts pop out (…figuratively speaking). For example,the complexity of the sexual politics involved in Dragon Age: Origins alone is staggering, before we even get to what Denis Farr refers to as the “Schroedinger’s Sexuality” of Dragon Age II and the fact that some players had reservations about how the in-game Love Interests were portrayed as “playersexual” rather than bisexual – that is, there is little-to-no reference to their sexual orientation except in the case of when the player-character puts the moves on them. And, in those instances when romance mechanics go wrong, they can go really wrong: case in point, Gaygamer’s Trevor Smith’s discussion of the abject horror of badly-implemented romance mechanics resulting in a deeply creepy ‘romance’ scene.

hawkexisa

So, it’s important that we have interesting and engaging relationship options – but it’s also important that these options don’t undermine themselves by cutting corners, which can lead to perpetuating tired stereotypes without commentary, creating one-size-fits-all mechanisms that take away nuance and context, and sending out mixed messages.

Unfortunately, the games industry has done all three of these things repeatedly over the years, to the point that whenever games include relationships or romance options that aren’t your regular cis-heteronormative man-kisses-woman-and-they-marry fare, they tend to be cliché, crude, or conflicted. And that’s if they include them in the first place.

But in this month’s Queer Mechanic, we’re not talking about “the gay romance option”. We’re talking about romance options, plural – using game mechanics to explore how we could model and represent alternative relationship structures like polyamory, open relationships, D/s relationships and more, and the possibilities and difficulties these bring with them.

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