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?
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.
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.
So, let’s talk about Cobra Club, the dick pic simulator by Robert Yang, for a little bit.
Because the content of the game is NSFW — and because I’m going to spoil some of the game’s stuff — you can find the rest of this post under the fold.
TW for this post: homophobia, transphobia
Because of the sensitive content, the remainder of this post comes after the jump:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.