It all started with a small game called Moonmist way back in the 80s.
Queer history is vast when it comes to civil rights, literature, even myths and legends. Nearly everything in our history has a touch of the gay - because we've always existed. But what about video games? I've spend a lot of time talking about the history of gay video games, or lack thereof, and it made me wonder: Are queer characters as new as we think? Were video games such a non-inclusive place that gay things couldn't even be put anywhere in secret?
Naturally, the answer to that question is: of course not!
After some digging, I believe I have found the first instance of a queer character ever in gaming. It's small, and definitely not really big, but considering the time the game was - that's very surprising. According to the LGBT Game Archive, the game is called Moonmist - Infocom released the game in 1986. And honestly, it's not the most exciting find on this little quest for historical representation, but it's definitely a start.
WHAT IS THE GAME ABOUT?
Moonmist is an interactive fiction detective game. You are a young detective who has been asked by a friend to investigate a strange castle. It's simple, and it's definitely not one of the most nuanced epics you're every going to experience, but it's a competent little computer game for its time. I am going to be honest and tell you that I haven't played it - but I did watch a small play through of it.
WHO IS THAT QUEER CHARACTER/TRADITION/PLACE/ETC?
The person in question is Vivien Pentreath - and much of like many queer characters in most fiction - her sexuality is never openly stated. You know that she's very upset with the main character's friend, because he married a woman she was very attached to. Of course, all of you know that that probably means she was attracted her - and possibly in love with her. Of course, her character doesn't stop there.
Vivien is also, you guessed it, one of the villains of the game. She is apparently the antagonist of one of the story lines of the game. I would say I was surprised, but honestly, after everything that I've seen, I'm really not.
IS THIS POSITIVE? OR NEGATIVE?
Normally, I'd say negative, because not only does the character never says that they're queer, but also because this character is coded as an antagonist. And for a really long time that's how queer people were always portrayed in the media - as not out and villainous. But, does that discredit the presence of a queer character in such a new medium so long ago?
I don't know - it's a gray area. While I don't think that Vivien necessarily set the path for other queer characters later on, I do feel like there's some significance in her presence. In a time when gay men and women were fighting for their lives during the AIDS crisis, they were finally so much of a presence that even a fiercely heterosexual and underutilized medium like video games (almost) accepted their presence.
It's by no means incredibly positive, but it's a small step in the adjacent right direction - and that's something. Right?
HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE RATING
4/10 - It's not very historic and most people have no idea what Moonmist is, but it does allegedly have the first queer character, and that matters, right?
Shann Smith is a lover of video games and writer of plays and screenplays, based in NYC. Do you guys have a game that you think is significant to the LGBTQ+ community? Email me, and I'll give it a look!
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