One thing that I love about crowdfunding in general is that sites like Kickstarter give smaller indie teams a chance to realize their dreams of creating a game that they want to play. And hopefully a game others want to play. If it resonates with their target audience this usually becomes the case. Crowdfunding is especially useful to bring to light games that would normally fall under “niche” categories. Such as “queer games”, titles with heavy LGBT themes.
I’ve previously covered games in general that feature trans characters or themes in an article on the “Transgender Day of Remembrance“, but here I want to talk about LGBT games in general. Those that include gay and bisexual themes as well.
The number of them might surprise you. Below is a list of all of the games that are either heavily showing off queer concepts or at least use them in a more subtle but still profound manner. There are more, of course, but these are the ones that I’m personally familiar with to some degree.
Here they are, in no particular order.
Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme
Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme is the story of two idiot scientists that try to take the quick and dirty way to changing their sex. This is more of a comedy than anything and the hijinx that ensue could possibly be a turn off to anyone that identify as transgender. However, based on comments and reviews that I’ve seen on this one the majority of complaints were from straight, white cis males. In fact, the few people that I’ve seen that openly admitted their trans status, myself included, have said that they enjoyed each path released. It’s not a serious take on the culture but it also doesn’t blatantly make fun of it either.
Max’s Big Bust
Like GBDNATE above, Max’s Big Bust is also another “tongue-in-cheek” comedy take on the transgender community. Also, this one has a much higher art quality. Max isn’t completely finished yet, but backers and those that have pre-ordered the game have been treated to monthly short releases of content.
This is another title where the protagonist has his gender pretty much irrevocably changed by some strange marble and his quest to return back. Aside from the expected crazy situations, Max finds him… herself in this one is also treated with a modicum of respect. I’ve gotten to know Lach personally to know that he’s taking the transgender issue as seriously as you can take it in a comedy game.
Coming Out on Top
I’ll admit that while I did back this one I have yet to play the full game. I’ve honestly been waiting for the rest of the “Brofinder” dates to be released before diving headfirst into this gay dating sim. However, I did play the demo way back when Coming Out on Top ran on Kickstarter and I was thoroughly impressed by the little bit that I did see. There’s really little else to mention here other than you get to date some rather good looking guys, but I will point out one more thing. In addition to the dating aspect this one also deals with “coming out” as queer to close friends and such.
Read Only Memories
Read Only Memories is mainly a Cyberpunk mystery surrounding the death of your close friend and developer of a ROM (a walking computer) with sentience. The fact that there’s a lot of queer characters is frankly secondary to the plot as a whole. In addition to gay and non-binary major characters, you can also choose your preferred gender pronouns, which was a big selling point to me when it ran on Kickstarter.
It should be noted here that Midboss employs (both paid and voluntary) people who identify as queer themselves. They also run the GaymerX convention, which recently saw it’s fourth year successfully Kickstartered.
Starlight Vega is the story about a girl who finds herself bonded to a beautiful demon princess through some magical stone thing, but honestly this visual novel is all about her romancing one (or more) of three girls. A traditional romantic yuri tale of finding her true love… or perhaps just building a harem with them all. Even if you don’t take into account the strong lesbian overtones it’s still an interesting story about supernatural forces and their take on the demonic hordes that humanity have, well, demonized. The fact that all four girls are cute are just a bonus.
Brilliant Shadows/Pale Spectrum
“The Book of Grey Magic” series is a fantasy tale about paladins and necromancers living in peace and are bonded in pairs, which is what had originally piqued my interest, but the obvious queer themes were what had originally sold me. Ash is a necromancer that had found herself in love with Prude, her best friend and fellow paladin, and wished dearly to be her partner. Fate steps in and makes sure that she doesn’t realize this desire. The ending of Brilliant Shadows I’ll keep for you to experience for yourself, but she does find her partner. Also, we find out rather early that another major character in the series, Aelfnod, is gay. We should be expecting a love interest for him in Pale Spectrum when it releases.
Queen At Arms
Queen At Arms isn’t an LGBT themed game in the strictest sense but I’m including it here because it does deal with gender and identity. In this visual novel, Marcus Cordale is a young woman that enlisted in the military and since females aren’t allowed to serve she disguised herself as a man to fight. She’s forced to take on this role due to circumstances in her past that were they come to light would put her life in jeopardy. In addition to this, we also have budding romances with other male characters and at least one comes off as rather feminine in his demeanor.
This is another one that strictly shouldn’t fall under the LGBT category, but I’m only including it here because of one particular character. If you haven’t played Dreamfall or Dreamfall Chapters yet I suggest skipping the rest of this one.
If you’re still here then chances are good you know who I’m talking about. One of the three playable characters, Kian Alvane, divulges that he’s gay on more then one occasion, but this only comes up in certain conversations and only if you choose certain dialogue options. Frankly, his sexuality doesn’t impact the story at all but it does add to his personality.
The above is just a taste of the LGBT themed games out there that have been made possible through crowdfunding. They’re all worth playing if you haven’t already done so. There are many more out there that are either still being funded, have been unfortunately unsuccessful, and some that have less than stellar plot lines. Even with the recent upswing in queer games, both through Kickstarter and those funded through other means, it’s still a pretty small drop in the bucket of white heteronormative narratives out in the marketplace today.