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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.
The idea of a game designed with queer themes at its heart is not a new one. Titles like Mattie Brice’s Mainichiand Anna Anthropy’s Dys4ia have already made waves in the indie scene, opening up dialogues about their creators’ experiences as trans women. My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant garnered lots of attention merely for existing as a gay game at all. And to paraphrase Mattie, these games were made precisely because nobody else was going to do it for them. If we want more queer content in games, then we’ve got to make our own.
Today the team behind LGBTQ gaming convention GaymerX have decided to do just that, launching the Kickstarter for Read Only Memories.
“Overturning the status quo of gay characters in gaming, Read Only Memories is a new cyberpunk adventure game for desktop and mobile that features queer characters in prominent roles.”
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 perspective is stubbornly entrenched in that singular perspective. Enter My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant: its release a supposed threat to Xbox Live trolls and Anita Sarkessian-haters the world over. But beyond its usefulness as a conversation starter, or appeal as troll trap, it’s difficult to recommend Up Multimedia’s effort as effective industry parody, or even a worthwhile gaming experience.
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.
With 2,300 attendees this past August, the very first GaymerX got industry-wide attention for being one of the only conventions to openly celebrate gamers from the LGBTQ, female and minority communities. For its second year, the handily renamed GaymerX2 or GX2 is moving up to the swanky InterContinental Hotel in the SoMa (South of Market) district in San Francisco. Running from July 11th through July 13th, attendance is expected to rise to more than 3,500 gaymers and their allies.
The featured speakers – dubbed Bosses of Honor – are also expected to increase. Returning from last year’s program are famed Valve game voice actors Eileen McLain and John Patrick Lawrie, along with webcomic creator Zack Weinersmith (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal) and musical guest Aethernaut. They will be joined by industry vet and former International Game Developer’s Association Executive Director Gordon Bellamy, games activist Mattie Brice, writer Jaime Woo, Senior Bioware Writer David Gaider, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and sci-fi author/blogger John Scalzi. New musical guests will include 2Mello and Super Soul Bros.
Those wishing to help out at next year’s convention, or just looking for more info, can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Update] The Eurogamer Expo Emcee featured in this story has since released an apology for any offense caused in the matter, and claims to have never referred to the journalist as an “it”. Any indirect pronouns heard were reportedly used during the hectic fervor of a convention event. Neither Microsoft nor the journalist subject of the below story have updated their statements at this time.
Original Article is as follows:
Here we are again.
The games industry looks to be collecting transphobia controversies these days, with another pungent example of mobilized hatred rearing its head just over two weeks after theGTAV review fiasco. What’s even more horrifying is that the situation has appeared to have escalated, more malicious and certainly more personal than when we last heard trolls bitching on this specific subject. Which makes writing about it all the more difficult, because we’re not exactly going to tell you what went down.
Now, we are fine name-dropping Carolyn Petit in the wake of the comments her Gamespot review received. While the language directed towards her frequently dipped into the obscene and personal, it was largely diverted into calling her credibility into account as a reviewer and demanding her dismissal. Yes, that’s a light offensive these days.
The basics this time around was that a Microsoft conference Emcee at this year’s Eurogamer Expo brought a transgender games journalist on stage during an Xbox One event. During that time, she was both misidentified and referred to as an “it”. Expressing her discomfort at the treatment, she was given the traditional PR reach-around known as the “We’re sorry you were offended” line, and not given the opportunity to speak to the Emcee directly. So far, so frustratingly expected.