Welcome back to Pushing Buttons, folks. In case you’re wondering where I’ve been, I was seconded to video games for Glastonbury for a week. Fortunately, over a decade of E3 coverage has prepared me well for the fragrant crowds and inevitable technical difficulties of live blogging. Thanks to our always brilliant games correspondent Keith Stuart for covering for me while I screwed my head back on after the festival.
Pride events took place in London this past weekend, and among the million people who lined the streets for the event’s 50th anniversary were parade contingents from PlayStation, Microsoft and Square Enix, and other game publishers and developers. . Thanks to the industry’s fully justified reputation for toxicity, people may not think of video games as a particularly gay-friendly medium, but they’ve always been a little odd, borrowing the title of academic Bonnie Ruberg’s book. I am one of the millions of queer people who have found community through games: 21% of UK video game staff do not identify as straight, according to a survey by industry association UKIE (the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment).
In honor of all the LGBTQ+ talent working in the gaming industry, and because queers won’t suddenly cease to exist when Pride month ends on July 1, I wanted to share some of my favorite queer storylines in video games. While by no means an exhaustive list, here are some of the games that have moved me or made me feel seen over the years.
The Last of Us: Left Behind
Until this title came out in 2014, most of the gay novels I’d seen in games were implied or optional. Sure, you can romance a same-sex character in Mass Effect or Dragon Age; you could marry your Sims of the same sex; a few characters in games were coded obscurely with queer, or had implied relationships. But The Last of Us: Left Behind was the first blockbuster game that showed me not only an authentic friendship between two teenage girls, but also what happens when that friendship becomes something more. It surprised me at the time to see this story in a video game. I wrote about it for IGN when it came out; it was one of the first times I had the courage to write explicitly about queer themes in games, and how important they are to those of us who never really saw ourselves in them.
Queers in Love at the End of the World
I could easily write a few thousand words about the impact transgender indie game designer Anna Anthropy had on the early 2010s gaming scene. I’d never played anything like Dys4ia – a collection of experiential minigames about transition. The first time I played Queers in Love at the End of the World – a 10-second text game about the power and purity of gay love, about what we would do and what we would say to each other when the world was about to end – I was at a work event where it was housed in an arcade cabinet, and I had to take a break from all my co-workers because I was crying.
I hope this isn’t a spoiler, as this game is almost ten years old, but I was convinced that Gone Home’s story of a secret romance between teenage girls would end in tragedy. I was conditioned by the TV shows and movies of the 90s and 00s, where gay characters usually ended up dead or miserable. So I was relieved and moved by the joyous ending. Gone Home is influential for a few reasons: It was part of a wave of indie games asking questions about how games tell their stories and answering those questions in their own way. However, it’s the handwritten notes and mixtape covers that I remember the most.
if Found it…
This haunting, ethereal coming-of-age story is set in rural Ireland in the 1990s. You experience it by reading and erasing the pages of the protagonist’s diary. Kasio is transgender and in the process of discovering herself – just like all her friends. They are in a stage of life that we all remember well, queer or not. If Found… has such a strong sense of place and time, and the hand-drawn art makes it feel real and lived.
Did you expect a game about the Greek gods? not be super gay? Hades is one of the best roguelikes ever made in my opinion – a game about trying to escape Hell as Zagreus, Hades’ son. After each failed attempt, he ends up back in his father’s chambers in the underworld, but what makes it so easy to get on with Hades are the brilliantly entertaining interpretations of characters from Greek mythology, most of which are fabulous. And Zagreus himself can romanticize three characters of different genders, if he wants, all at once, like the bi-polyamorous sex god that he is.
Wait: There are more I subscribe to, including another teen novel, The Last of Us: Before the Storm; Dream Daddy, a surprisingly healthy dating sim about setting up cute dads; and the entire NSFW oeuvre of anarchic, erotic game designer Robert Yang. And, of course, The Last of Us: Part II, a landmark game in many ways – lesbian representation is one of them.
What to play?
Recently mysterious anime inspired speedrunning game neon white have grown up. I’m a sucker for a game that defies every category, and this is one of them, described as a “game for freaks” by its designer Ben Esposito. Ten masked sinners dressed in white have been temporarily plucked from hell to purge some demons before God, and now there’s a competition to decide which of them gets to stay in heaven. It’s kind of a parkour shooter, but also… a card game? And a visual novel? Watch the trailer and you’ll agree it’s super intriguing. It has tremendous adolescent energy, in a good way.
What to read?
The Sega/Creative Assembly team has announced its new game: a multiplayer shooter called Hyenas, in which teams compete to loot items from spaceships. Every time an online multiplayer game is announced, I sink my teeth: it’s a busy genre, the measures of success are very relentless and many of them sink without a trace.
The new Sims 4 expansion will send players and their Sims back to high school – perhaps not a place the huge queer fans of The Sims will enjoy coming back to, although it could be a chance to experience our sub-optimal adolescence experience. rewrite through gaming’s premier wish fulfillment simulator.
It’s been a terrible week on gaming social media as Monkey Island creator Rob Gilbert vows to stop posting about the upcoming sequel because people keep sending insults to him about it, and one of the developers behind God of War : Ragnarok asks people publicly to stop sending dick pics. Huge sigh.
Business Insider interviewed a die-hard Nintendo fan who spent $40,000 (£33,000) on company stock so he could ask at an official shareholders’ meeting if a new F-Zero game was coming soon. utilities That is dedication to a series. (Predictably, he didn’t get a clear answer.)
What to click?
F1 22: A stunning racing game tainted by money robbery – review
Simon Parkin on why Neon White is an exhilarating speedrun through a heavenly dreamscape
Melbourne startup raises $9 million for mental wellness game based on houseplant care
A question from the reader Laurentius† Can you recommend a JRPG that is not turn-based? I enjoyed Kingdom Hearts battles, but could use a little less Disney!
I don’t have a life where there is time for Japanese role-playing games, but they were once one of my favorite genres – the last one I finished was Persona 5. So I looked up some more time-bound friends for some up-to-date recommendations. They came up with an existential cult classic Kidney vending machines† sprawling, grandiose anime-influenced Bandai Namco epic Stories of origin† or last year’s ambitious, stylish sci-fi action RPG Scarlet Nexus, starring a bunch of well-dressed telekinetic fighters. Enjoying!