Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category


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May 28
2014

It’s Hard Being Tomodachi With Corporations

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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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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.

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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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May 15
2014

Russia Rates Sims 4 Adults-Only Due To Same-Sex Relationships

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From the first installment on – way back in the year 2000 – The Sims has had a venerable history of giving players choice in how to form relationships, shrugging off the restrictive heterosexual-only mechanics that have hamstrung more recent games like Tomodachi Life.  It turns out, however, that not all parts of the real world have been progressing in the right direction either, resulting in The Sims 4, the series’ latest installment, running afoul of Russia’s infamous “gay propaganda” law.

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May 9
2014

Nintendo Apologizes For Tomodachi Life’s Lack of Same-Sex Relationships

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Well that sure was quick. After spending the day no doubt dodging countless questions, insults, and boycott threats regarding Tomodachi Life‘s lack of same-sex options the big N has issued an apology.

It’s a start, right?

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May 7
2014

Nintendo Says No to #Miiquality

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Sometimes it’s better to just not say anything at all. The last time Nintendo released a statement on Tomodachi Life, there was plenty of backlash for the problematic way they chose to phrase things. Using a word like ‘strange’ in regard to, among other things caused by a glitch, the appearance of same-sex couples in the game probably wasn’t the best choice. You’d think after that mess Nintendo would learn to just stop talking about these kinds of things. That’s what most companies do.

But then, after finding out about gaymer Tye Marini’s #Miiquality movement, they went and released a statement on the issue of same-sex marriage in Tomodachi Life. A really bad one, no less:

“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life. The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of our fans will see that ‘Tomodachi Life’ was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.

The ability for same-sex relationships to occur in the game was not part of the original game that launched in Japan, and that game is made up of the same code that was used to localize it for other regions outside of Japan.”

Here we go. Again.

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April 29
2014

The Fight For #Miiquality

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Tomodachi Life is on the way to the United States and Europe this June and, as previously reported, the quirky title will not feature same-sex relationships. At least not without some trickery on the part of the player. By making male Miis with female features one could create what appears to be a lesbian couple in the game, for example. And many players did exactly that, posting cute pics of their gay Miis on twitter with the hashtag #homokore.

Separate from this trend was a game-breaking bug that also created the appearance of in-game same-sex relationships. A very poorly worded, when translated, statement on the issue from Nintendo sparked its own big gay controversy by referring to the appearance of same-sex couples as ‘strange’.

But let’s put all of that aside. Bottom line is, controversy or no, there aren’t any same-sex romance options in Tomodachi Life.

So what’s a gaymer to do? Some have turned to boycotting the game, while others like myself are eager to get our hands on the game in spite of it lacking queer options.

Gay gamer Tyeforce, taking a cue from #homokore, is taking to social media to get his voice heard.

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April 22
2014

Premiere: Gaming in Color, a Documentary Exploring the Queer Side of Gaming

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Gaming in Color, the first ever documentary about queer issues in video games, has finally made its debut! Kickstarted in early 2013, the film explores the rise of the gay gaming community, from games that have made waves for queer representations to the creation and importance of safe spaces for gaymers like QG Con and GaymerX.

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