Back when Read Only Memories ran on Kickstarter I had no knowledge who Midboss was and their connection to the LGBT inclusive gaming convention GaymerX (I barely even knew that existed at the time). All I saw was an interesting Cyberpunk adventure with queer themes. I really didn’t care much more about it than that. Which is why I backed the project without hesitation. Granted, the game doesn’t focus too much on these issues but with so few dealing with gay and trans characters out there I thought it was worth talking about.
There are a handful of characters in Read Only Memories that openly identify as gay or “genderqueer” (not necessarily transgender but not in line with society’s binary viewpoint). By 2064, at least in the city of Neo-San Francisco, this is treated as normally as most relationships of any kind. Most, but not all. More on that later. And nobody seems to bat an eye-lash when they talk about it. The bartenders at Stardust are obviously a couple (and get all lovie-dovie at times) and Lexi continues to pine over the player’s sister.
One of my favorite characters is TOMCAT. They’re the awesome hacker that you meet early on that helps you throughout your adventure. Notice that I said “they” above? That’s right, this character is what I labeled above as “genderqueer”. It’s not outright stated (to my knowledge) in the game but TOMCAT doesn’t identify as either male or female. Hence the pronoun used throughout as “they”. There are other hints to this, but they’re more subtle.
Outside of the characters themselves there are also other themes and small nods to the community throughout Read Only Memories. Very early on Turing, your lovable blue ROM, has to register you as its owner. In addition to asking your name it also wants to know your dietary needs (why I have no clue) and what gender pronouns that you want it and others to refer to you as. It’s a small thing but it adds a depth missing in so many games that don’t have a set protagonist. While I was really tempted to use one of the several non-binary options I ended up going with standard female nomenclature (which is what I identify as).
Read Only Memories contains a lot of philosophical debate. Including what makes us human. Turing isn’t your average robot as they were created with a sort of AI sentience. And they go through the game constantly questioning their existence. And when the concept of gender comes up late in the game they struggle with it. While a previous prototype insisted on being treated as a female Turing remains undecided by the end. In a way this kinda echoes how gender non-conforming individuals deal with their own identity.
One other theme that I noticed that can conceivably be tied to queer culture, and this is admittedly a bit of a stretch, is how some people treat those who aren’t “pure” as outcasts and undesirables. Hybrids and those with cybernetic implants are seen by groups like the Human Revolution as being quite less than human. Causing both sides to become militant, a powder keg just waiting to explode. This can actually be tied into pretty much any minority group, honestly.