Getting Some Play: The year in gay gaming

Welcome to Getting Some Play — the spiritual successor to Sarah Warn’s excellent Good Game column — where we’ll take a look at the latest releases, news and developments in the world of video games.

The Gayest Games and Gaming News of 2011

Games with explicit LGBT characters and/or themes are still a tiny minority of the titles that come out in a given year, but slowly and steadily, queer content is making its way to everything from high-profile RPG’s to smaller, indie projects.

Surely, one of the biggest and boldest gay moves of the year was in Dragon Age II’s potential couplings – where both female and male characters could pair off in same-sex relationships. The game itself got mixed reviews, but we were very excited about all of the queer content back when Getting Some Play was a wee newborn column last spring.

Dragon Age

Just as exciting was the announcement that Bioware’s other ultra-popular RPG series, Mass Effect, was to receive full same-sex equality for Mass Effect 3. There were never any male/male possible couplings in previous ME games, and the core potential lesbian romance was always explained away by saying one character was “monogendered,” but the new game (which will launch early next year), will let you play by whatever shade of the space rainbow you prefer.

A Closed World, by MIT’s Gambit Game Lab, explicitly tackled LGBT issues using an abstracted RPG format early last fall. It was a big deal for the University’s program to take on a project of this nature. From MIT’s news site:

Harper argues that LGBT content, if it shows up in a popular game at all, is usually incidental and never drives the story: “Rather than having it be sidelined or there for a one-off joke, games can and should be doing something explorative and expressive on the topic.” However, a clear call to action can’t mask the difficulty of making such a game. “We started with my having mapped out the narrative of the game ahead of time,” Harper says. “But in eight weeks we’d done something completely different.”

You can play the results right here.

Possibly the most interesting work of all is coming from Anna Anthropy, an indie designer with provocative, lo-fi sensibilities and incredibly prolific output. We covered the outrageously awesome Lesbian Spider Queens of Mars (an Adult Swim game) in a Weekly Geek column earlier this year, though perhaps without giving much weight to the actual subversive substance of the artist’s work – there’s something much deeper going on here than a quick glance at the pixels would imply.

Anthropy hosts a site bursting with web-based games covering LGBT (and other) topics you won’t see touched elsewhere in gaming, everything from Dan Savage’s transphobic comments to a game based on the phrase “Trigger Warning.” You owe it to yourself to take a look at Anthopy’s work if you’re at all interested in the power of games to do things other than blow stuff up in increasingly expensive ways.

Upcoming

I don’t know about you, but I’m still knee-deep in Zelda:Skyward Sword’s epic world. Many others are still totally stuck in another sky – Skyrim’s massive quest, and still others are hopelessly addicted to the newly released Star Wars: The Old Republic. Whatever you’re playing, don’t stop now, because we’re still in the middle of the slow season. There’s still a steady trickle, however, so keep your eyes out for the following titles in the next two weeks.

If you missed NFL Blitz-mania from the late ’90s, a new version of the arcade-y over-the-top take on football will be here shortly. It’s downloadable, and available on the 360 and PS3 on January 3.

On January 10, Crush 3D makes its way to the 3DS, presenting Crush’s innovative puzzle stylings with 3D effects. The original game was extremely well received, so we expect good things from this iteration. 

Also on the January 10, Gotham City Imposters lands on the 360, PS3 and PC, offering team-based FPS action set in the Batman universe. I played this at E3 and enjoyed it, though the jury’s still out on whether this will have the staying power (or depth) of, say, Arkham City. We’ll find out soon enough.

Until next year!

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