Gaming

VIDEO GAY-MER | What is homoeroticism?

And does it fit in this genre of entertainment?

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It's not really gay, but it's definitely gay adjacent. And I don't know if it has any place in gaming or modern entertainment outlets.

Homoeroticism is something that's existed in art for a long time - it's a way to show homosexual love but also not be super blatant about it. It arouses the feeling of gayness without actually being outright gay. Wikipedia says that it focuses more on the temporary desire and less on the actual identity. In video games, homoerotic is used as a tool to queerbait it's LGBTQ+ fan - serving them queerness in piecemeal and never following through. And while it was a necessary precautionary style in the old days - it definitely has no place in modern art forms - especially gaming.

It's very difficult to separate what the difference between queerbaiting and homoeroticism, and the difference lies in the history. In the old days, it was usually against the law to be openly homosexual, so you had queer poets and writers who would create these different allusions to queerness in their works.

Jean Broc's Death of Hyacinthus is definitely what some would consider homoerotic. upload.wikimedia.org

However, nowadays that kind of thing doesn't fly - and for good reason. Homoeroticism, nowadays, is used by straight people to bait queer people into a false queer narrative otherwise known as queerbaiting.

Why does it not have a place in the landscape anymore? What's so terrible about not having characters be explicitly queer but having queer moments? After all, isn't it more interesting? Isn't there a mysterious allure to the constant wondering of, "What if?" No, and using this style to manipulate queer people is a dangerous thing to do - as it often strips our experience away from us in detrimental ways.

In previous articles, I talked about the danger of a game like Life is Strange being touted as a queer video game, when it was clearly queerbait-y at best. It is a prime example of a negative use of homoeroticism to entice it's players and make them believe that they are having an honest-to-God experience. We are given a kiss and a strong friendship and it gives us the idea that these characters are definitely queer - they have to be - but we are never given confirmation.

We are left with an unfulfilled feeling, because a "What if?" is no longer enough. And yet, Life is Strange is still incredibly popular. It's still considered by many to be a positive representation of queer women. Why is that? It's because we're starved, all throughout history we've been given nothing but homoerotic images and subtext and led to believe that that was enough. So, we grew complacent, and we cheered at the slightest nod in our general direction.

It's hard to say if homoeroticism still has a place in modern media like film, television, and especially gaming, because the politics around everything are so tricky. Is it possible to just evoke the emotion without giving an audience the follow through? Can something survive on tension alone? I don't think so, because nowadays, queer people don't want piecemeal. They want the full experience.

The evocative depiction of a sexually ambiguous character or a beautifully sculpted man or woman is no longer enough.

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Gaming

VIDEO GAYMER | The elusiveness of queerbaiting...

Queerbaiting, no matter what media I consume, you always seem to be there.

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS

OH QUEERBAITING...

No matter where I go, it seems you are destined to follow me in my quest for queer content. You are an elusive little nuisance. Half the time, I don't even notice you're there. I play a game or watch a show. Two characters are always coded as queer. They share glances, light touches, and even a touch of homoerotic tension in a bedroom - and for a hot minute I think "IT'S GONNA' HAPPEN! YES. YES YES!" And then... nothing. I'm left hanging - wondering what's going on? Is it me? Did I do something? Wait. WAIT! Why are they dating a woman/man? What happened - you said - they were just - wait. Wait a minute. No. NO! GODDAMMIT QUEERBAITING!

It's hard to live in a world where this menace pervades so heavily. I've talked many times about my dissatisfaction in queer content across the board - especially in video games. And the problem isn't that queer characters don't exist - because they definitely do - they're just hinted at. We're left with a lot of could-bes and what-ifs, and queer consumers are always left with one question: "Why didn't it happen?"

WHAT IS QUEERBAITING?

TV Tropes defines queerbaiting as, "A media work's attempt to lure an LGBT fanbase with either false hints of representation or stereotyped, non-essential LGBT characters." It's something that's existed in media for a long time, but only recently got its name thanks to numerous online fan communities. Some major non-video game examples include Ryan Evans ( High School Musical), the entire cast of Supernatural, John and Sherlock of Sherlock. The list could go on and on and on, but you get the idea.

DOES IT APPLY TO VIDEO GAMES?

Yes but, video games are different, because they're only just beginning to catering to the queer community. Queerbaiting happens because the queer community is a minority - and a lot of people don't want to cater to a minority (no matter how harmful it is to said minorities). Usually, its used when discussing film and television. If you have a tumblr, you've no doubt heard it flung around just about everywhere. But that doesn't mean that it only exists within these contexts. No one want to look like bad guys in the eyes of public, so they'll put these characters out there that "could be," to try and satisfy everyone involved.

This kind of strategy worked for a while, until queer people gained a louder voice that straight people both listened to and agreed with. And for a long time, most gaming companies just didn't pander to queer audiences. So, why try? And they have almost avoided it, at least in a lot of the games I've played.

Flea talking to Chrono and friends. netdna-cdn.com

Unfortunately, it still exists - it's just a lot harder to find. Of course, there are early examples - in my article on trans characters in gaming, I talked about one: Flea from Chrono Trigger. A character that's presented as trans, but is hardly explored in any way, shape, or form. There are numerous other coded characters throughout the gaming landscape - but most of them aren't made to pander to audiences. They're the butt of a joke or just down right offensive.

PROVE IT!

I've got three words for you: Life. Is. Strange. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about Life is Strange for this column. I had been told it was great - I played it, and it pissed me off. For a long time, I thought it was just the ending - then I thought about my entire experience. I thought about the lead up - Chloe and Max's relationship. Queerbaiting got me again and I didn't even realize it.

We'll start with sexualities. Max and Chloe never discuss their sexualities. Max literally never has a single dialogue option in which she states her attraction to girls - neither does Chloe. You just assume, because that's what queerbaiting does! It traps you! You fall for it, because the game not only gives you the lingering looks and the near-flirtatious joking. They go one step further, giving you kissing.

Max and Chloe's "joke" kiss. www.gameslikezone.com

But are they ever confirmed to be dating in-game? No. Do they openly state their attraction? No. They're best friends - and Life is Strange makes sure that you can always interpret them that way. Max and Chloe are so definitely queer. Chloe's intense feelings for Max and her missing friend, Rachel, are heavily hinted at being romantic. Max's constant devotion to keeping her alive, and being there for her borders on almost obsessive.

But that step is never taken.

There are other titles where this is apparent - I can't speak for them personally, but I'll let these writers speak for themselves.

WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS INFORMATION?

Lots of new games come out every year - and recently we've been given a lot of amazing content. But as Life is Strange has proven, queerbaiting can still happen. Keep a look out for games like this. When playing a game with a so-called queer character, ask yourself:

1. Is the character's queerness canonical?

2. Is the queer character stereotyped/joked about?

3. Is there an ambiguous almost-but-not-quite queer scene?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions - you're being queerbaited, spread the word on social media. Tell people. Tell me! I'll make sure everyone knows. We have to stop queerbaiting in its tracks, because we deserve better.

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Gaming

VIDEO GAY-MER | Life is Strange and the plight of queer women

Life is Strange is just one of the many examples of queer women's troubling treatment in the entertainment industry.

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!

There are few games that have elicited such an intense emotional response from me. A lot of games I play are too high fantasy or too different from the life I'm living. The characters are familiar, but not in a "Oh, I know someone like that kind of way," so emotionally, I can pull myself away from them and simply enjoy. That is not the case with Life is Strange.

I did not know what expect. A few people told me to write about it, and honestly, I dreaded starting it up on my Xbox One. Episodics can be so... long and dull - the whole "butterfly effect" system is often contrived or a little white and black. So, as I began my adventures as Maxine "Max" Caulfield, I was pleasantly surprised.

[S81YI31512556766] Max and Chloe hydra.cdn.sqexeu.com

THE GAME

In Life is Strange, as Max, you are an aspiring photographer/student at Blackwell Academy, who - after having a vision of a devastating tornado - develops the ability to go back in time. And with help of her best friend, Chloe, you embark on a dark journey down and twisted rabbit hole into the secrets of the world around you.

To say that Life is Strange's story is great would be an understatement. It takes its episodic platform to new heights, bringing a level of emotional development for the characters that a lot of video games don't capture. This is due to both the writing the game's overall cinematic feel. Plus, the game's "butterfly effect" actually has a lot of weight - as most of the choices you make are almost never amazing choices.

I enjoyed every second of developing Max and her relationships with the people of Blackwell. And honestly, it was almost a perfect experience... until I got to the end. The ending of this game hurt, and not in a good way. It became one of the many, many examples in a long line of straight people's ability to use queer women to generate tragedy.

[8VE9D51512556766] Max staring out at the storm hydra.cdn.sqexeu.com

THE CHARACTERS

First, let's talk about Max. Max is a character that grows based on your decisions - which means you can choose Max's love interest. You do this by either choosing to pursue things with her male friend, Warren, or with Chloe, her best friend and the main instigator of the game's plot. I can't say for sure exactly what choices determine this, but in the end, I chose not to romance Warren at all.

Then you have Chloe, the other half of the game and the queer love interest. Chloe basically drives most of the plot forward. You save her from getting shot with your powers, and this leads to uncovering one thing after another. She's Max's polar opposite - displaying a confidence and a drive that Max slowly gains throughout the game. And, the small moments, when she and Max are alone are adorable. And Chloe is an amazing character with a tremendous amount of depth.

Discussing these two characters in terms of sexuality is both interesting and frustrating. On one hand, they are both clearly meant to represent bisexuality and/or pansexuality, due to their mostly fluid nature when it comes to attraction. The obnoxious part of this is that the same-sex attraction is much more hidden and hinted at, whereas the straight attraction is boldly stated. And, neither of these characters discuss their sexuality - which, while not necessary, annoyingly ambiguous. I like to think of them both as bisexual.

Max and Chloe's relationship starts strained. Five years prior, Max and her family moved away to Seattle. Max is only just returning to Blackwell at the beginning of the game. During this time away, she has not attempted to contact Chloe - which Chloe is justifiable bothered by. However, as the plot unfolds, you see these girls develop one of the closest and most poignant relationships I've ever seen. This makes the ending all the more offensive.

[I4UP7A1512556766] Max (Left) and Chloe (Right) holding hands. hydra.cdn.sqexeu.com

Why?

Because the entirety of the game's outcome relies on killing her or not.

The violent storm that Max has a vision of? It's a result of her screwing up reality by saving Chloe about a million times - and the only way to keep from destroying an entire town is by letting your best friend/potential lover die. And let me tell you something, as a queer person, who played through that ending - I was seething.

At the end of the game, after going through a nightmarish (and incredibly annoying) level. We are taken to a large Lighthouse - where most of the storm visions take place. Chloe carries you up to the top of the Lighthouse's cliff, and you realize that this massive storm happened because you went back and saved Chloe so many times. Chloe, realizing what this means, produces a photo for Max to use to go back in time and let her die.

You're left with an ultimatum, you either let Arcadia Bay die (an entire town, mind you) or you sacrifice Chloe and save everyone. And of course I'm going to save everyone, because I'm not a sociopath! Not to mention, but choosing to kill the people of Arcadia Bay, you are throwing away all of the work you've done with the other characters. And believe me, you do a lot with the other characters.

[375TEC1512556766] Max and Frank, the local drug dealer. hydra.cdn.sqexeu.com

The game makes you choose to kill Chloe and if you've taken the time to do the more romantic path with her, both of you share a kiss before you go back in time. This is so cruel to queer women, and perpetuates the same obnoxious trope: All queer women must die. As the credits rolled, I slammed my controller down and had to take more than a minute to relax myself.

I realized how tired I was of seeing these same things over and over again. Why do queer people - especially women - have to sacrifice themselves to save society? Why does wanting to save them come at the cost of hundred of lives? What's up with that?

Not only do you have to choose to kill Chloe, but you are forced to listen to it happen and watch Max's grief. I felt disgusted having to sit through it, because it's not fair. The entire game relied on Max's relationship with Chloe - Max would have never started on this journey without Chloe. And we have to kill her? Why is this always the twist that people use? Why do we have to kill another queer woman? Is it for the tears? Because let me tell you something, queer women are getting enough shit in real life for me to have to sit through it in a damned video game.

So, in the end, Life is Strange now sits in a Hall of Infamy with Orange is the New Black and The 100 as a form of media that killed off it's queer woman for no real reason. And I have never been more disappointed.

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