“A glimpse of the possibilities”

A Review of Queerness in Play

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It seems overly reductive to claim that any field is “characterized” by certain traits, but sometimes I’m tempted to resort to this tactic anyway after excellent first impressions of new work. So, by way of compromise I’ll say it this way: new scholarship in game studies is often influenced by the ways in which game studies itself is a developing and interdisciplinary field. And, in a strong recent example of this, the 2018 anthology Queerness in Play is at once a realization, a celebration, and a call for more work drawing from the intersections between queer studies and game studies. Contributors do a commendable job of keeping both the theory and the games they discuss accessible, and I imagine that this text will prove valuable to scholars and students alike. (I know I was taking notes for two of my other projects as I read!) Continue Reading

Planting the Seeds for Positive Queer Representation

My Personal Experience with the Harvest Moon Series and Stardew Valley

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In 2012, however, with the release of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, players were afforded the opportunity for the first time to customize their character’s appearance in ways that defy stereotypical gender roles. For example, though players are forced to choose their sex at the beginning of the game (thankfully, they didn’t have to purchase individual versions of the game), they can gender bend their character to the point where players can create ostensibly queer relationships. However, other characters continuously refer to the player with the pronouns that have been historically linked to their biological sex, which breaks the illusion of queer content. Continue Reading

Playing Dead

Queerness, Photography and Video Games

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As early as I can remember, there is a Buddhist shrine carved out of redwood (metasequoia) placed right in front of the entrance door of my family home. As you leave and come home every day, it is the first and last thing you see. On it are three levels; the top level is Guanyin, the bodhisattva that protects peace and tranquility. In the middle are photographic portraits of my ancestors, and on the bottom level is Dizhu Gong, the protector of travel and the land. Continue Reading

VA-11 HALL-A

Queer Spaces and Drug-dream Fantasy

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I first played VA-11 HALL-A (pronounced Valhalla, like the Norse hall of gods) the day it released while I was living in an indoor patio used to house dog kennels. I only had a mattress to my name and ate instant noodles just to survive. Such is the life that VA-11 HALL-A’s protagonist, Jill, lives in her pursuit to pay rent by the end of the month during a financial crisis plaguing Glitch City. This title is as much about escapist-fantasy as it is about survival all while trying to maintain a positive outlook on life. It’s a bittersweet title that wastes no time strapping its player into a queer world of cyberpunk nostalgia, winding conversations about life, and flirtatious drink-mixing. VA-11 HALL-A is preoccupied with the question of what does capitalism ultimately give us, and what do we receive in exchange for not just our physical labor, but our emotional labor, too. Continue Reading

Nonbinary

A Choose-Your-Own Adventure

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Follow the thread / of twine / to find / your way home / if home ever existed in the first place / We make space / for our breath / for our spines / that are bending / Breaking / the binary / of a binary culture / built on binary code and passcodes / passwords we are hacking / with our
Living, loving bodies Continue Reading

Possibilities for Queer Community-Building Through LARP

In-game photo by Karin Ryding from a Sweden Run in 2012

More than just trying to present an immersive, believable world, both games attempted to ensure that players were grounded in a sense of history. Moreover, by creating worlds dominated by queer issues, it was queer histories that rose to the forefront. Players were given the opportunity to gain some level of understanding of how being queer here and now directly related to the events then and there. Continue Reading