So let me tell you about the time I annoyed David Gaider at a major gaming event.

As many of you know, I spoke at GaymerX2 this July, as did Mr. Gaider who — if you didn’t know — is one of the head writers at Bioware and a major creative force behind the Dragon Age series of games. Bioware presented a number of panels at GX2 this year, including one called “Building a Better Romance” that was about creating and developing in-game romances. Considering that this is often considered Bioware’s oeuvre, and that as a developer they’re known for being the rare AAA entity striving for queer inclusion on this angle, it was a topic of some interest. This was, notoriously, the panel where they announced that Iron Bull, in the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition, would be romance-able by either gender.

Anyhow. So when they allowed questions, I decided I wanted to ask this team about the subject of what I was terming “Hawkesexuality:” the idea that the romance options in Dragon Age 2, with the exception of that toolbox Sebastian, were generally speaking always available to your created avatar (whose family name is Hawke), regardless of what gender you chose when creating them. To me, there was a question here about representing the sexuality of characters that I wanted to know their thoughts on.

So up front, let me tell you that many of the issues I’m about to discuss, Denis Farr has also talked about on The Border House back in 2012 — I absolutely recommend reading his piece. I’m going to cover some of that ground too, but in an additional direction.

Their responses are a thing I’ve been meaning to write about for some time and am only now just taking the opportunity to do. For the details, follow after the break.

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So to continue what appears to be an accidental series of blog posts writing about Gearbox Software’s Borderlands games, I wanted to get something down on paper regarding the newest title, Borderlands the Pre-Sequel. Now, if you follow my writing and Twitter and such you probably already know that I recently reviewed the game for Paste Magazine. My verdict, which I will summarize for you here, is that Pre-Sequel hews pretty close to Borderlands 2 but has enough new gameplay features and narrative/comedic elements to keep my interest.

Also, one of the things I mention in the review is that Pre-Sequel includes a number of queer lady characters, way more than I am used to encountering in stuff made in the AAA dev space for sure. Not that this is a particularly high bar to clear; I have a hard time thinking of explicitly queer women in games full stop, let alone in big industry titles — a number of Bioware characters come to mind, and of course there’s [SPOILERS] the recent The Last of Us DLC and Gone Home. But by and large when we get queer characters at all, they tend to be men. So I was pretty happy to see queer ladies with varying degrees of story importance appear in Pre-Sequel.

Borderlands the Pre-Sequel's Janey Springs

Borderlands the Pre-Sequel’s Janey Springs

This is Janey Springs (I’m vaguely grateful that the folks at 2K Australia didn’t run the ball all the way down the field and name her “Alice”). Janey lives on Elpis, the lone moon of Borderlands‘s typical setting of the planet Pandora. She’s a black marketeer, junk salvager, tinker, amateur childrens’ book novelist, and a lesbian. She’s also one of the first major NPCs you meet in the game, and the first one you meet after actually arriving on Elpis itself. For players who’ve gone through Borderlands 2, she serves a similar early-game feature to Hammerlock in Liar’s Berg, taking you through a series of quests that introduce you to the nuances of Pre-Sequel‘s mechanics and quirks before settling in to being an intermittent presence for the remainder of the game. Interestingly enough, both Hammerlock and Janey are queer characters, something I literally realized while typing the previous sentence.

Janey presents an interesting opportunity to talk about how Pre-Sequel represents queerness in its world in a way that draws on multiple approaches to doing so (compared to the “background” approach I’ve previously written on). While this post is primarily spoiler-free for Pre-Sequel, I’m gonna add a cut anyway just in case. Thus, more about Janey after the break!

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Okay, internet. It’s time. After my talk at GaymerX2 on fat characters, and after hearing the folks at Gearbox give their own talk on inclusivity in design, I decided I really wanted to write something about one of the NPCs in Borderlands 2, a Gearbox title. Her name is Ellie, and she’s a big lady mechanic.

Ellie from Borderlands 2

Ellie from Borderlands 2

As I’ve written about before, the issue of fat characters in video games is pretty fraught. Most of the ones that exist are really just awful, pandering to the worst of stereotypes without a hint of consideration, awareness, or empathy. Before GaymerX, I didn’t really know much about Ellie other than her existence, and what the folks at Gearbox shared about her in their panel. But she intrigued me. I talked to Borderlands writer Anthony Burch about her, briefly, at the con because I wanted to include her in my talk, and what he told me about her sounded great. So when I got back home I bought Borderlands 2 (again; this was my second time but my 360 was in storage) to play through and see what Ellie was all about.

While the meat of this post goes into specifics after the cut, here’s the gist: there’s a lot about Ellie that I really like, but there’s a lot about her situating within the BL2 game and narrative that unintentionally plays into the most insidious problems that writing a good fat character can have. (more…)

So there’s this thing that bugs me about being gay and I imagine it bothers a lot of other people on the queer spectrum, too. It mostly comes down to: when do I want being gay to “matter?” The problem is that there are two answers to this which are concurrently true —

  1. Always
  2. Never

Doesn’t seem helpful, right? But let me put a few more words into those list items and it might become more clear.

  1. Being gay is part of my whole identity, and I can’t shut it off, and it had a huge impact on my formation as a person, so yeah, it always matters. It’s always going to be there.
  2. There is usually a point in every day where I just want to not have to deal with the bullshit that being queer in the modern world can provide.

Can you see the dilemma? I don’t think it’s resolvable, nor does it really need to be. I think this paradox (can we name it after me? Can it be the Ladyboss Paradox?) mostly informs how we approach creating content. You just need to understand that these two poles exist and try to be aware of how your content falls in the field.

How does this relate to both recently-released Watch Dogs and Transistor, you might ask? Well, check behind the cut for the explanation. NOTE: spoilers for Transistor in post.

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A short post for you but my Tumblr is mostly about awful depression feelings I have poured out like an emo poetry slam, so it goes here. No videos/images, sorry America. GUESS WHAT THERE’S A VIDEO I FOUND ONE FUCK YEAH

Anyhow, Patrick Miller made a blog post today called “Fighting games aren’t just about competition” in which he says some on-point and perceptive things. I suggest giving it a read over.

However at the beginning my book gets a mention as a partial inspiration for the post, and I had some thoughts about what he talks about in it, so I wanted to write these out.

If you want the executive summary that might get you to skip this blog post: I agree with Patrick’s post pretty much all the way through in the general. This post of mine is about specifics and adding in some of my views that you would find in the book (and my other work/talks). More after the jump.

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Sorry, guys. This isn’t a very funny post, and there’s not going to be any images or videos, mostly because I’m writing it to get something off my chest before something seriously bad happens.

So my friend Mark Vigorito mentioned a story from Slate on Twitter earlier. Specifically, this story, titled “LGBT Microaggressions: Are We Making Mountains out of Molehills?”

The extent to which that story has sent me into a fury is unimaginable and so I’m going to break this down for you piece by piece, after the break.

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So I wrapped up Lightning Returns and in the process I had some thoughts about how the history of the FF13 meta-series has gone down. Thus I just sort of sat down and poured them onto the page. In the absence of having any new or interesting critical commentary to post, I figured I’d just throw it up here in case any of you were interested.

The following warnings apply:

  • Spoilers for FF13FF13-2, and Lightning Returns
  • This was not meant to be a coherent blog post; it’s more Exposition-Fu. Just bear that in mind.
  • WALL OF TEXT.

With that in mind, feel free to jump in after the cut:

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This has been a long time coming. It’s time… to blog about Saints Row. Specifically, the latest game in the series, Saints Row 4. We’re going to get there in a roundabout way, however, so bear with me until this is over.

From SR4 mission "Millerspace"

From SR4 mission “Millerspace”

I want to talk about how Saints Row 4 is a game, about games, about games. If you’re interested in hearing more about this topic, feel free to join me after the cut. Definite (though not Earth-shattering — puns!) spoilers for Saints Row 4 and potentially for Saints Row: the Third ahead. (more…)

So earlier today on Twitter, Denis Farr and I were discussing how mages in the Dragon Age universe have a lot of queer readings, especially in the sense of political queerness in the 70s/80s. In the process I mentioned that I got a similar vibe from the much-maligned cast of Final Fantasy 13, specifically the relationship between “fal’Cie” (power supernatural beings in the setting) and “l’Cie” (e.g. the heroes of the game). In keeping with a drive to shorter stuff more often, I figured I’d delve into that tonight.

REMINDER: This blog is a no-FF13-hating-for-the-sake-of-hating zone. If you don’t like the game and aren’t interested in criticism of it don’t roll up in here telling me about how it’s awful, I’m awful, and especially not how Final Fantasy is dead. We’ve already covered that ground. So my rule is: if you’re going to read/comment on this, do me the favor of backing your assertions up with examples instead of inarguable affective things like “it’s awful.”

Right. Ground rules set, let’s begin. Spoilers for FF13 and FF13-2 follow: (more…)

I’ve realized I probably do too much Mega Buster charging when it comes to blog posts: I wait until I’ve got so fucking much to say that it pours out in a sometimes untempered flood of nonsense that people excusably stop reading 10% of the way through. So today I’m trying an experiment in just getting a quick post out there.

I’m gonna write some stuff about being fat. You were warned. (more…)