Researchers Talk the Exciting Rise of Queer Representation in Games

Hey, folks! This is Jess Zammit and Alayna Cole (who has written for FemHype before) from Queerly Represent Me, and we’re excited to share some new projects with you! 

If you haven’t heard about Queerly Represent Me, we’re a research organization focused on exploring representations of sexuality and gender in games, and supporting queer folks who love to play games or who work in the games industry. We create resources and speak at conferences about queer representation, and provide links to all sorts of wider reading that cover a wide range of topics.

We also maintain a database of games that feature queer characters and themes. It currently includes over 800 games, and we’re adding more all the time (with the help of our readers who provide tips about what games we’re missing).

Researching awesome queer content has inspired us to create more ways of connecting with our wonderful community — people like you! If you’d indulge us, we’d love to share some of the games we’ve had the joy of researching, the ways they inspire us, and the new projects we’re working on.

Continue reading “Researchers Talk the Exciting Rise of Queer Representation in Games”

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‘The Arcana’ Developers Cast a Spell Over Fans & We’re So Here for It

When it comes to mainstream gaming, being late to the party is not usually considered a badge of pride. Although attitudes are thankfully shifting, it can sometimes feel as though the flurry of initial engagement has waned for players who discovered an older title too late. Reviews, livestreams, Easter eggs, entire walkthroughs of each and every ending — they’re published with such immediacy that the impact of all this content can bleed into the expectations for a game way before the player has even reached for a controller.

By contrast, The Arcana welcomes latecomers with a gripping episodic storyline, enchanting setting, and gloriously enthusiastic community of fans. And that fandom is still going strong for one very important reason.

The development company is Nix Hydra, which is based in L.A. and founded by women. They are committed to “making magical, colorful, bold products for young women and anyone else traditionally ignored by the gaming industry,” as per their Kickstarter. One of the team’s latest ventures is The Arcana, which is an otome-inspired visual novel for iOS and Android that flirts with a sinister mystery beneath its rich illustrations.

The player character is an adept magical apprentice, honing their natural gifts in fortune-telling. The wandering, secretive Asra is your mentor, and while packing up to leave on another mysterious journey, he entrusts his prized tarot deck to you. Whether you challenge Asra’s repeated disappearances or defer to his judgement, he becomes dreamy and melancholy, tangled up in thoughts of words he should have said.

Continue reading “‘The Arcana’ Developers Cast a Spell Over Fans & We’re So Here for It”

Stand By Me: Love & Vulnerability in ‘Final Fantasy XV’

Final Fantasy XV centers around love between men. If you’ve played the game, this is not a contentious statement.

It’s been almost a year since the release of the latest installment in the Final Fantasy franchise, and after playing it, I would argue it’s one of the most emotionally nuanced stories in the series’ history. The game follows Noctis Lucis Caelum, a prince of the kingdom of Lucis, as he undertakes a road trip with his closest friends. His goal to wed his fiancée, Oracle Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, is dashed when the expansionist empire of Niflheim invades the capital city of Lucis. Noctis’ journey refocuses on harnessing the power of Lucis’ old rulers to free the land of Niflheim’s corrupting influence.

FFXV continues the series’ legacy of exploring themes of vulnerability, loss, and intimate relationships among its title characters. While there are women in the game, they feature less prominently than the “chocobros,” and struggle with their own host of problematic representation.

Oracle Lunafreya, Noctis’ promised, takes the role of white mage and, while self-sacrificing, is effective at rallying the gods to save the world until she ends up conveniently dead halfway through the story. Iris Amicitia, sister of the burly Gladiolus, is a cutesy tagalong, but it’s only mentioned in passing that she grows up to be a famous monster hunter.

Aranea Highwind is the sarcastic, jaded mercenary and powerful warrior (that boob armor tho) while celestial servant Gentiana is an enigmatic, helpful spirit, but also a giant, dead, half-naked goddess who’s not actually dead. Pure Final Fantasy. There’s also the expert mechanic yet highly sexualized Cindy Sophiar (don’t even get me started). Characters often comment about how she’s married to her work, which is a slight improvement.

The main focus of FFXV is — for better or worse — on the relationships between Noctis and his three friends; the beefy bodyguard Gladiolus Amicitia, his tactical advisor and perennial mother Ignis Scientia, and his best friend and gun-toting precious little cinnamon bun Prompto Argentum.

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An Open Letter to Nintendo From a Lifelong Fan

Dear Nintendo,

Another E3 has come and gone. You unveiled a plethora of games that your fans, myself included, are eager to pick up and play. However, despite my excitement for what you have planned for the near and distant future, I still can’t help but feel disappointed in your continued stance on the subject of “politics” in video games. Remember what happened on June 15th? A brief interview surfaced involving Reggie Fils-Aimé, Nintendo of America’s president. He spoke to a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and during the interview, Reggie had this to say:

“Making political statements are for other people to do. We want people to smile and have fun when they play our games.”

This statement continues your long history of claiming that video games are apolitical; that gamers from all walks of life can simply play your games and have fun, similar to the Walt Disney Company’s marketing strategy of a “family-friendly” experience. However, this claim is widely inaccurate, as all video games — no matter who developed them — are political in the same way that all forms of media are. While you’ve certainly developed a number of games that make players “smile and have fun,” this is not a phrase that many of your fans would agree with.

Queer gamers have faced the brunt of this, specifically during the Tomodachi Life controversy where you did not wish to include same-sex marriage because you “never intended to make any form of social commentary” in the game. However, by making this statement, it further showcases what many queer people, myself included, have already known: that merely by existing, our lives are seen as inherently political to you.

Displays of heterosexual love and affection — be it a chaste kiss on the cheek from Princess Peach in so many Super Mario games and subsequent spin-offs — are extremely common. Other examples include the numerous women who fell in love with Link in The Legend of Zelda franchise, which plays into a masculine power fantasy. Then there’s the ability for (straight) couples to flirt, marry, and eventually have children together in recent games like the Fire Emblem franchise. Heteronormative narratives are pervasive throughout all of your games. Meanwhile, queer gamers have been told time and again that our presence is undesirable.

Continue reading “An Open Letter to Nintendo From a Lifelong Fan”

Atlus & Accountability: We Need to Stop Giving Queerphobic Games a Pass

I can’t decide if I’m going to play Persona 5 or not. It’s 2 AM, my eyes are fixed on the searing blue of my computer screen, and I’m railing on Atlus with the two people closest to me, a week’s worth of frustration and feeling condescended to by randos, peers, and friends alike pouring out. I don’t love Atlus. Well, scratch that, I want to love Atlus, and that’s what makes this so painful — like a specially tailored hurt that’s at once callus and personal.

I wouldn’t be writing this piece if I didn’t care. I do care about these games, and I find immense value in having played them. It was in my freshmen and sophomore years of high school that I took the Atlus plunge headfirst into Persona 3 and 4. I was sick back in those first two years of school, mostly bedridden and trapped in a bubble of close yet distant friends. Two friends — no, then one friend — were the only social interaction I had every Friday night, and my schooling consisted of a personal tutor in a public library for around two hours a day. I couldn’t walk without a cane, and the level of exhaustion I felt always tethered me back home.

In his recent review of Persona 5, Kirk Hamilton described the game as an ideal high school sim, but for me, these games took on a special meaning — a perfect escapist fantasy where I could explore themes of identity and friendship during a time when I felt so hollow. I could have a small shred of wonderment satisfied, suspend disbelief, ignore my social famine, and pretend to soar outside myself.

While I used to feel so strongly tied to these games due to their affect on my life, it’s been just over a year since I began transitioning, and my perception has changed. Those early months were something of a marketplace, where a feeling of gut-sinking betrayal was the currency paid to gain an understanding of my place in the American medical, political, and social cosmos. I could no more identify with my old icons than find any solace in them. It felt like a betrayal of the value I once found in these games.

Continue reading “Atlus & Accountability: We Need to Stop Giving Queerphobic Games a Pass”

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