Space, Navigation, and Queerness in Gone Home; or Toward a Queer Spatiality

Kennedy Cover Image

The house’s spatial design mimics moments of secrecy and Foucauldian confession in interpersonal relationships; that is, things are only hidden in order to be discovered (Foucault 20-1). This is maybe most apparent in the game’s map mechanic, in which spaces are revealed only after they have been discovered in-game by the player. The map indicates which rooms have yet to be explored, but does not reveal the purpose of unexplored rooms. This continues to do the work of de- and re-familiarizing the player with the domestic space as well as creating a drive to explore the house and “collect” all the rooms. This mechanic is not unique to Gone Home, and is particularly common in first-person horror games. It’s one of many horror mechanics and tropes used in the game—perhaps because in this sense, the work of making something queer is similar to the work of making something creepy or uncanny. Both work to make that which should be familiar unfamiliar. Continue Reading

Writing New Bodies in Digital Fiction

Perram cover image

A significant scholarly and popular media criticism of bodily-focused video games is that they perpetuate harmful body image (Barlett and Harris; Sarkeesian). Yet, game scholars such as Kafai, as well as significant subsets of gaming communities, have argued that the medium can act as a resistance mechanism for heteronormative, racist, and anti-queer sociopolitical influence. In a Western context, gendered notions of appearance in media work to affirm an idealized body image for women, communicating that a body that is not white, able-bodied, thin, toned, and feminine, is, in fact, inferior. Continue Reading

The Gendered Mechanics of Pokémon Sword and Shield

I’m Sorry But I Have to Talk About My Force Masc Kink in a Pokémon Game, Oh Gosh

HeaderImage

These possibilities do still exist within frustrating limits on fluid and non-binary expression. When you pick a character, the game won’t say this is what Game Freak thinks a “boy” and “girl” look like, but it will treat them as such. Temtem and Battletech have already shown through a separate pronoun option how gender is not an unspoken aesthetic of bodies, and Sunless Skies provides one of the most sound systems I have seen represent gender. As Ruth Cassidy describes, the unordered presentation of body parts, clothes, and titles that are gendered in our world works for the game that doesn’t comment on gender: “Sunless Skies is a game that cares about telling stories, about people and their temptations and curiosities, and at no point does it need to define the player’s gender to do so.” I’m left wondering why Nintendo thinks they need to have—or rather, why they think they can get away with—a facsimile of inclusion when the boutique in Motostoke only offers my avatar, Ada Lovelace, a fraction of its inventory. Maybe walking while trans has made me hyper-aware, but I notice every time an NPC insists on calling them different pronouns and nouns based off the binary set of bodies I chose from. Continue Reading

Interview: Olivia Wood

Klaehn - Header

Olivia Wood is a video game writer, narrative designer, and editor, specializing in interactive narrative. She works for Failbetter Games in London, UK. Her credits include Sunless Skies (2019, writer, narrative designer and editor), Sunless Sea: Zubmariner (2016, writer, narrative designer and editor), Sunless Sea (2015, writer and editor), Fallen London (2009, writer, narrative designer and editor), Where the Water Tastes Like Wine (Dimbulb Games/Serenity Forge, 2018, contributing writer), The Mystery of Kalkomey Isle (Kalkomey, 2018, design consultant and editor), Cheaper than Therapy (sub-Q, 2019, writer, designer and developer), and Lethophobia (2016, writer and designer). Continue Reading

Modern Masculinity In Red Dead Redemption 2’s Old West

How Arthur Morgan’s Vulnerability Is His Biggest Strength

Cover Image

By virtue of its thematic setting, Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games, 2018; hereafter RDR2) is inherently anachronistic, in that video games are typically thought of as cutting-edge media technologies, while the Western genre has a more historical appeal. Not only historical in that the game takes place in 1899, but in that Western movies and TV shows had their boom in 1950s-1960s with a post-war “injection of violence” (Cook, 1999, p. 134) into popular media. The Western genre has in fact had several bursts of popularity, with a rich literary history beginning when the frontier still existed in the late 1800s. Red Dead Redemption (hereafter RDR), while not the first Western video game—Wild Arms, Call Of Juarez and RDR’s spiritual predecessor Red Dead Revolver all came first—was the first Western video game to have such a significant cultural impact. Continue Reading

First Person Podcast Episode 32

Romance in Gaming

Podcast Ep 32 Banner

This month on the First Person Podcast, we sit down with Lia Black, and Sarah Stang for Valentine’s Day to discuss their hot takes on romance in gaming. What are their video game crushes? What makes for a good romance narrative? What should we be seeing more of in our romance titles? All these questions and more will be answered on this episode of the podcast. Continue Reading

To Bloom New Possibilities

Atlus's Hypocritical Portrayals of LGBTQ+ Narratives in Catherine: Full Body

RinHeader

While there was hope that Catherine: Full Body could fix the narrative issues from the original, it does the exact opposite. Catherine (either version), in essence, is a game where you play as a character who is -phobic and misogynistic, surrounding himself with others who mostly think like him. Vincent is sleazy, but we are encouraged to support his quest since he is the “hero” of the game. However, Vincent rarely learns that his behavior is abhorrent—the only time he has repercussions for his actions are in the “bad” endings of the game, and even then, there is no indication that Vincent would change anything about his behaviors. Continue Reading