So, Pridefest happened at last.

I heard this today from my friend Bryce, who was engaging the “oh goodness, do I play this?” internal argument. I then had the same internal argument before deciding: yeah, I should see what is going on with this. And so I picked it up, since the game is free-to-play microtransaction mobile game territory which is familiar.

While I haven’t spent much time with it — maybe 45 minutes or so, since the iPad version crashes every single time and playing it on my wee iPhone 5s is a challenge — I believe I’ve spent enough time with it to make some initial commentary about this game, and more particularly about where it sits now, in the world of games and queers in the media in 2016.

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Hey, remember Mortal Kombat X? The series reboot by NetherRealm? Came out early last year.

I remember it, because in April I wrote the game’s subtle deployment of the first canon gay character in the MK series, Kung Jin, for Paste Magazine’s games section. In said article I was pleased with the way they handled the character’s deployment even if I was cautious about handing them too many laurel crowns for doing so in the first place.

That was basically where I left MKX. It’s never really been my sort of series, because of my general aversion to gore.

WELP: then today happened.

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This is a short post. But I am cranky.

Like many people in the gaming culture/press/business/what-have-you, I have spent many a moment over the past couple days looking at my Battle.net client longingly, hoping I too will suddenly receive a beta invite for Blizzard’s upcoming TF2-alike, Overwatch.

To kill some time, I decided to look through their bios for the various playable characters. While many of them are colorful and cool and fun, I definitely get a Street Fighter-y Cavalcade of Ethnic Stereotypes vibe from the cast, which… isn’t that great.

And then I came upon Roadhog.

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Where to begin.

Although the information has been floating around gaming’s social media spheres and message boards for a few weeks now, yesterday Polygon ran an op-ed by Laura K. Dale about Oryx, the titular king of Destiny‘s recent The Taken King expansion, being transgender.

As a cis-though-not-as-cis-as-they-thought-they-were-for-30-years person, I struggled a lot with whether it was even appropriate for me to write the blog post you’re reading at this very moment. I feel like as a thing that has the greatest impact on and for trans folks, their voices should be the ones you hear and consider first. In the end I’ve tried to address what feels like the broader issues related to representing marginalized characters in games that this is an example of.

My issue with this situation has very little to do with Dale’s piece, which I was relatively neutral on (meaning I agreed with parts of it and disagreed with others… i.e. a perfectly normal reaction to anything). Instead I have been ruminating on a question Laura Dale asked at the very opening of her piece: “Why wasn’t this discussed in the gaming press?” Or perhaps more accurately: is this being discussed in the gaming press as universal a good as we might imagine it to be?

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Where do I start.

On Thursday, Robert Yang put out a game called Rinse and Repeat. It is a game that is part of Robert’s growing body of work on making… well, gay sex games. However, these are not games about gay sex in the “want to watch some folks with cocks do it” way; rather, they’re about how we look at gay sex, and the role of sex in games, and bodies, and all sorts of other things. They’re almost all small, simple games, but they pack a lot in, usually.

For all sorts of reasons, let me slap down a cut — more on this beneath the fold/after the jump (that one’s for you, Maddy)

This post is 100% Not Safe For Work.

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Right. By now I’m sure many of you have heard about Michael Thomsen’s WaPo review of Super Mario Maker. Suffice it to say that I found it really freaking obnoxious. Others did, too. I didn’t see many people defending it, and I can imagine some reasonable ones; Tom Auxier at least had a couple reasonable explanations for how the author’s viewpoint maybe came to pass. Basically: if you come into Mario Maker expecting a game and instead get this Sargasso of player-created levels with varying degrees of quality, you’re likely going to react negatively.

Okay. Fine.

I Storify-ed a series of tweets by Night in the Woods dev Scott Benson that I think are worth looking at as well. His take on the review is a critique of tech utopianism and elitism as he sees them in that review and I think I agree with him for the most part. His final tweet is pretty telling, in which he basically argues that whether or not this author likes Mario Maker — or if his dislike of MM is “legitimate” or not — is sort of irrelevant to the problems with the review itself.

As with many pieces of games writing I take the time to critique here on this blog, the problem with the Mario Maker WaPo review is one of tone and framing, rather than pure/raw content.

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Hi, Twitter. So I made this tweet earlier tonight, around dinner time-ish:

I’ve got thoughts about both of these topics, obviously, but I’ve been skirting writing about them for various reasons. Some of them more professional, some silly (FF14 has eaten up a lot of my life lately), and some personal (I am scared of engaging these topics). But I figured, I should at least say something. Isn’t this kind of my job? So I sat down tonight and prepared to write a quick thing about Soleil. This means opening up a browser and looking for some links.

This led me to Kotaku, and a story by Brian Ashcraft on the situation (I’m comfortable adding a CW for homophobia to this link), and now I can’t write about Soleil. I was already reluctant, and now I just never want to talk about the situation. But as I’ve taken Kotaku to task in the past for problematic framing of a queer games issue, I felt compelled to talk about what Ashcraft does in this story that presents a serious fault in the craft of journalism.

So, if you want to hear me talk about framing in news, strap in; if you’re more interested in my thoughts about Soleil and FE:Fates itself? Sorry, but I’m gonna pass.

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So: Dragon’s Crown.

It’s come back into my life recently, as I have been playing it on my Vita (it’s a surprisingly good fit for that system). Also spoilers, despite all its art style problems I thoroughly enjoy Dragon’s Crown, as it’s an exceedingly well-crafted and satisfying brawler.

It also came up in this editorial about an Atlus release that toes the line of “porn game” in a gross way by Phil Kollar, who calls DC “a beautifully hand-drawn and relatively deep action-RPG dragged down by its obsession with sexualizing every woman character in the game, playable or not.” I am not gonna argue with that at all. Phil’s description is right on the money; almost every woman-coded character in Dragon’s Crown is hypersexualized in a deeply uncomfortable way, as Danielle Riendeau’s original 2013 review (which Phil links to) also explores.

Content warning for sexualized images of women, so check for the rest of this post behind the jump:

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