Category: Sexuality in gaming

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 I was looking through my blog drafts folder and noticed a few blog posts that I never actually finished, but had started writing at some point. I don’t have significant time to finish most of them, but since Twitter expressed some interest in seeing them, I figured I’d do my best to bring them to a natural concluding point and just throw ’em out there.

I want to emphasize that though I’ve put in some work to make these post-able, they are very much still Really Rough Drafts. Please treat them with a bit of indulgence and kindness if I end up sailing off the edge of the map.

This first one was originally part of my post about Kotaku’s Tingle story, but I cut it when I realized it needed to be a post all its own (and that it went on a tangent that didn’t add a lot to that story).

Also, if you want some further reading on this topic I would highly recommend Aevee Bee’s “The Story is a Spell.”

So, without further ado, take your peek into draft folder purgatory after the cut.

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So as some of you may have read, yesterday Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo posted a story based on an interview with Zelda mastermind Eiji Aonuma about Majora’s Mask and other topics. One of said other topics was the creation and history of series NPC and running gag, Tingle. And if you follow me on Twitter? Well…

…you know I had Feelings™ on the matter.

Totilo’s certainly not the only one to blame here — we’ll get to that in a moment — but generally speaking, I’m a little tired of how characters like Tingle are used to confirm existing, harmful ideas about queerness while simultaneously being used to suggest those harmful ideas aren’t real or harmful. More on this after the cut.

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Lately, I’m beginning to feel like a bit of a crank when it comes to LGBTQ issues in games.

Specifically, I’m worried that I’m being too hard on people who are potential allies. And while I am vehemently against that as a critique coming from allies themselves (“you’re not making any friends, you know”) I think it’s a valid thing we queers can ask ourselves when it comes to treating allies with respect. Sometimes, allies making the effort can and should count for something. So occasionally when I bust out a critique like… well, spoilers, like the one I’m about to write… I get worried that I’m being too hard on people that are trying.

What I’m saying is, if you get to the end of this and are mad at me, cut me some slack.

So recently Jamin Warren released a video in his “Game/Show” webseries for PBS called “The Value of Playing Gay in Videogames,” which I have included below:

I have some concerns about this video, or maybe more accurately, I’d like to add some nuance to the discussion of this video that it very likely had to cut to fit everything into an 11 minute video. I’ve also got some thoughts about Mike Rougeau’s Kotaku article on “playing gay” in Dragon Age, which is cited in the video. Details after the cut.

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I want to talk about the part of Dragon Age: Inquisition that made me cry, or at the very least to tear up and force myself to not cry.

There are a lot of narrative beats, a lot of moments, in DA:I. I am sure you might expect that this emotionally-impacting scene is one of many in the rather large, global scope of the game’s story. Right?

Nope. It’s about a woman. Specifically this woman:

Cassandra Pentaghast, Seeker of the Chantry

Cassandra Pentaghast, Seeker of the Chantry

Probably my biggest, tear-jerking-est emotional moment in Dragon Age: Inquisition came when Cassandra Pentaghast had finally had enough of my flirting and had to tell me, in no uncertain terms, that it wasn’t meant to be.

While this post is mostly spoiler-free, I’m still going to put everything behind the cut just in case.

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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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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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