“It became a project to portray a realistic coming out experience and try to communicate a lot of the struggles that I went through when I came to come to terms with my sexuality,” says Conway. A particular highlight is when a datable character reassures the player that there is “no wrong way to go out” and “no wrong way to be gay,” advises Conway that he could have received when he did. was “young and scared and locked up”.
In Conway’s view, the indie scene is better equipped to deal with such matters. “I feel like great studio writers can’t do justice to stories about marginalized characters when the writers aren’t in those groups. And generally, great studio writers aren’t. “
Dream daddy, although not from a large studio, was funded by the YouTube giants Game Grumps. It was praised for its engaging tone, and for giving dominant attention to a queer narrative, but was also criticized not to engage with gay culture or use queer language. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, but critics might say that a play on the gay dating scene wasn’t made by gay men. Good performance needs authenticity, and Conway noted that indie games are free from the demands of the market and design committees that can compromise accuracy.
“The portrayal of queer characters in mainstream video games isn’t great, although it’s improving,” Conway said. “So queer people find they want ways to tell their own stories and represent their identity, and often end up making games to do so.”
Charissa So and Tida Kietsungden, whose visual novel The end of summer depicts a romance between two women in the rapidly changing world of Hong Kong of the 1980s, echoes the feeling that freedom from market demands allows for a more honest portrayal of sexuality. “When sexual content is used as a selling point, its commodification produces content that can be dishonest and devoid of emotional depth,” they wrote. “Distinguishing sexual content from what is most marketable to a general audience erases the diversity of human sexuality. As LGBT + creators, we wanted to portray lesbian sexuality in an authentic and honest way. “
Authenticity can sometimes limit appeal. One of Conway’s games, which all feature queer characters, “received a comment from a player unhappy that the game contained gay sex” – despite a disclaimer on the download page, a second disclaimer in the game. game and an option to completely skip the scene. For Conway, it was “a good reminder that I just had to do whatever games I wanted to do.” But while the games about coming out or the unique social barriers encountered in the 1980s in Asia may not attract a huge following, that doesn’t detract from the importance they have to those who play them.
With authenticity, creators can tackle difficult topics in a way that feels productive rather than exploitative. Bobbi Sands’ Sister knives, about a 19-year-old non-binary youngster living in a diverse commune, sees his characters dealing with anxiety, peer pressure and other self-proclaimed “dark” subjects. But the game’s intimate moments, which explore BDSM and power dynamics, are always consensual and sexually positive, prompt a reviewer to take note: “There are sex games you play for fun, and there are sex games you play to explore, feel, learn.”
Sands’ goal was to have his characters face hardships without basing those challenges on their identity. The trick, in his words, was “to balance real-world discrimination with the notion of a ‘queer utopia’ – I wanted to create a world where it was totally okay to be an LGBTQ + person. , but I also wanted to talk about it issues to discuss. “
In a story-driven indie game, sex can also serve various thematic purposes rather than existing for the sake of existing. Hard coded was praised as a flawless celebration of the trans gaze, while sex in The end of summer was, according to So and Kietsungden, “meant to be expressions of intimacy, where the two main characters reach an emotional peak in their relationship.” Sands explained how erotica can serve history.