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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 20
2014

Review: The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 3: In Harm’s Way

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Since you’re feeling comfortable and relaxed, it must mean it’s time again for another episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead to freak you out all over again! Season Two has been focusing more on the living threats than the dead (or undead) ones, and Episode Three: In Harm’s Way, takes it to the logical extreme it’s been building to so far. Read on for my full thoughts (spoiler-free, of course!)

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May 17
2014

Smash Saturdays: May 12th-16th

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Hey there gaymers! DJ here with another entry in Smash Saturdays covering all the Miiverse updates for the week. This weeks batch of screenshots was pretty good and had some great pieces of information in them. I won’t belabor you with a long introduction so let’s jump right in.

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May 16
2014

Wootini’s Weekly Animal Crossing Diary

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Dear Diary,

This was a good week. I remembered to check out the Reset Surveillance Center after it rained twice this week, I kept a friend from moving away, and I got a new treasure for the museum. Also, I’ve been keeping an eye on the round topiary that I’m trying to build. As you might recall from last week, I’m not donating any of my own hard-earned bells to the project, and seeing how much my townsfolk will contribute. I’ve been checking the totals every day, and it seems that they’ll donate around 1,760 bells. Although every couple of days the donation increases by a couple bells, so by the end of the week, the last couple contributions were 1,768. At this rate, it’ll take forever to finish, but I’m curious because when I left one bell on the last town project, nobody donated it, so I would like to see if the townsfolk will fund a project on their own without my help. I’m not optimistic, but we’ll see what happens. Come back in a month and find out! But until then, there’s all kinds of stuff to see, so read on!

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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 13
2014

The Game Theorists Ask “Are Video Games Anti-LGBT?”

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The wonderful and always entertaining Game Theory series has taken a look at LGBT issues in gaming. What starts off as an innocent exploration of drag (inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race) in video games turns into a more far-reaching expose on some of gaming’s more problematic gay tropes. From queer characters presented as crazy villains to the gender disparities of censorship (lesbians making out is ok, but non-sexualized trans characters get erased), this video does a pretty good job of exploring the kind of wide-spread representation issues that sites like ours explore every day. How wonderful to see such another popular video series tackle queer issues, just as PBS’ Game Channel did last year.

Check out the video under the cut, and if you like what you see you can subscribed to the Game Theorists for more videos like this one.

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May 12
2014

Game Review: Child of Light

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Child of Light is a fine-tuned passion project courtesy of Ubisoft Montreal. It plays like an interactive fairy tale that cleverly blends the genres of platforming and traditional turn-based RPG. It recycles from the best of these genres to create something wholly original. Visually, Child of Light is a masterclass in artistic engineering. The soundscape is equally captivating. The final product is a fresh and unpretentious journey (unlike so many other art-games that are overly impressed with themselves) and a whole lot of bang for just 15 bucks. Yet although I enjoyed my time with Child of Light immensely, I come away every so slightly unconvinced. I can’t shake the feeling that some further crafting with a fine-tooth comb would have propelled this splendorous quest to an even higher echelon of masterwork.

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