Dungeons and Queers

Reparative Play in Dungeons and Dragons

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I play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) at least once a week–more if I can convince my friends to play with me. I have a monthly tabletop gaming group where we try new and weird role-playing games (RPGs) like Fiasco and Dread, where there are a few rules that create a space of play that’s otherwise pretty boundless. But I always come back to D&D. It’s something special, getting to play with friends in worlds that I’ve imagined alone for so long (see also my long-standing obsession with Bioware-style RPGs, heavy on character creation and relationship-building). Continue Reading

First Person Podcast Episode 26

I Dream of Daddies: Questioning the Queer Logic of Dream Daddy

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Content Warnings: Discussions of homophobia and assault

In this month’s podcast, we discussed Dream Daddy, an interactive visual novel developed and published in 2017 by Game Grumps that describes itself on its Steam storefront page as “a game where you play as a Dad and your goal is to meet and romance other Hot Dads”. So far, so good. Given the dearth of games catering to explicitly queer players, the FPS staff were naturally thrilled to have such a game and were eager to sit down to discuss it. As a bunch of gay and queer-identifying scholars, some of whom conduct research on queer representations in media objects, we had much to discuss about this game. Continue Reading

Friendship, Intimacy, and Play-by-Post Roleplaying

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Earlier this year, Shawn Dorey (2017) wrote a piece for First Person Scholar on play-by-post roleplaying (PBPRP), which is broadly defined as a form of text-based online roleplaying. In this activity, participants take on the role of specific characters and take turns contributing to the creation of a fictional world through narrative storytelling. Sometimes the world and characters are based on existing media, but all the writing is expected to be original. In her article on Livejournal roleplaying, Sarah Wanenchak (2010) provides a detailed description of PBPRP and observes that this kind of activity “is not a ‘game’ by the most traditional definition: there is no ultimate goal and no system of points, and the focus is on the creation and development of an ongoing story” (para. 18). Since, as she states, “[g]ameplay takes the form of written narrative in the style of traditional fiction[,]” this activity is often thought of as “collaborative writing” rather than playing a game (para. 18). However, Dorey sees the socialization involved in this type of roleplaying “as a form of metagaming” and argues that navigating through the rules, plot, and social hierarchies “functioned a lot more like playing a game than simply participating in collaborative writing” (para. 3). In short, Dorey argues that PBPRP is a game and that the contributors are players. Continue Reading

The Trouble with Bodies

A Trans Reading of Nier

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Last year, my friend convinced me to play Nier for the first time. Upon initially booting up the title, it seemed like a typical grimdark male power fantasy with severely floaty controls and a muted, masculine aesthetic. Today, I consider it the only mainstream video game I have played that embodies the trans experience. Over the course of my time with Nier, what at first seemed to be a weak narrative scaffolding attempting to justify fetishized violence transformed into a subversive work of empathic queerness. The game has a series of endings, each building upon the last, culminating in a nuanced network of meaning-making. Through these multiple playthroughs and endings, a cohesive queering of the text emerged in my player experience, with the intersection of my own lived-in qualia of being a trans person and the game’s transgressive body politics acting as the thematic core. What follows is the result of this—a deeply personal close reading of Nier as a triumph of trans narratives. Continue Reading