Video games no longer A Closed World to LGBT gamers
Since the days of old school video games, be it Donkey Kong or Mario Bros., the traditional narrative premise in most games has usually been a story about a guy trying to save the girl. With the straight-male sex-drive as the structural foundation of most games, queer gamers (not to mention straight women) were left to simply acquiesce to male heterosexism (or invent their own slash storylines in their imaginations).
Since that time, there has been some, albeit limited, progress. A number of LGBT characters have appeared in video games. Unfortunately, they were usually side or minor characters rather than central ones, and were often questionable, stereotypical or derogatory depictions.
A new digital game, however, is daring to venture into new territory.
In the RPG–like game prototype "A Closed World", players can choose to be either male or female. The main character, in search of a beloved who has vanished, leaves behind a village to explore a forbidden forest said to be inhabited by demons.
The character wanders through the forest, discovering clues and facing off with opponents. In combat (which are actually emotionally loaded confrontations), management skills are the main emphasis. The player can use three powers—logic, ethics, or passion—to defeat foes, and can also use deep breaths to recharge their vitality level.
The educational message about handling discriminatory exchanges is geared towards young players, which is particularly pertinent in light of the numerous bullying issues covered in the media. Enemies turn out to be something other than what they first appear to be, and the character travels on a journey of self-empowerment.
One oversight is that the choice of choosing gender does not provide for a third option for intersex or gender-neutral players (as was recently permitted on Australian passports, for example).
Overall though, it's a step in the right direction. The central character and storyline integrate basic LGBT issues with respect, a major shift from being a subsidiary, optional, ambiguous, or derogatory storyline.
Games like these could also potentially help non-LGBT players become sensitive to queer issues.
The project is the brainchild of the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, a research initiative designed to address issues faced by the digital game research community and industry. Hopefully it will help to inspire game developers to consider ways in which LGBT–sensitivity can be incorporated as an integral part of game design.
To play the game, click here. (It's fairly short so don't worry about it consuming vast amounts of your life.)
Give it a spin and let us know what you think of the game.
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