Everyone can name their first queer movie.
Mine was Beautiful Thing, a British made-for-TV film based on the play by Jonathan Harvey. I watched it in secret on Logo when I was twelve - and it made my little gay heart go pitter-pat, and really opened my eyes to how great (and sad, sometimes) being gay can be. A lot of people had this experience with their first queer movie - unless you watched something like Brokeback Mountain (in which case, I'm very sorry).
I don't know how to describe the feelings - it's a mixture of validation and giddy joy. It's a unique thing to minorities in the US - because most of the time we're not talked about. So, to see a movie that captures our experience is pretty amazing. And, despite the pickings being slim when it comes to video games, these kinds of experiences still happen. Whether we project onto a character, or we were lucky enough to start gaming when queer characters became a thing - we have felt that mixture of validation and giddy joy.
MY FIRST QUEER GAMING EXPERIENCE
My first queer gaming experience was back in 2012 - I started gaming when I was about 9 years old. My first major game was Kingdom Hearts, and at that point in time, I had only been playing JRPGs. My cousin introduced me to Fallout 3 when I spent the summer at my grandma's house. My grandmother had no internet or cell service, so playing games and watching anime was all we could do (my cousin had a crap-ton of anime and games).
By the end of the summer, Fallout had taken over my life. It opened up a whole new world of video games for me, and I loved it for that. So, when Fallout New Vegas came around - I was ecstatic. Ultimately, though, I ended up disappointed, because the game was riddled with post-release bugs and my files got corrupted two different times. But not before I had my first ever queer gaming experience.
For those that haven't played the game, Fallout: New Vegas, much like Fallout 3 gives you the opportunity to gain "perks," which are in-game buffs to each character. They can do a lot - you can shoot rifles better, take more hits, etc. There's a special one called "Confirmed Bachelor," which allows you special dialogue options towards other men. I thought it was going to be like deadly options, because it also gave you a damage increase on male targets. Turns out that's wasn't the case.
Basically, this perk let you flirt with guys and succeed. It delighted me, and made the tumultuous experience that I'd had with game a little better. Every time I could use the perk's dialogue option, I did. And the guys, despite being video game characters, were all pretty attractive. It changed a lot of my perception about what kind of characters could be in a video game. I smiled for the rest of the day after I first used "Confirmed Bachelor."
It also made me hyper aware of the lack of this feeling in other games. It sparked this odd sense of boredom within me every time I played a game that lacked any sort of queer element. I rolled my eyes when I replayed Final Fantasy X and watched Tidus and Yuna fall in love. I got annoyed during my replay of Fallout 3, even.
I didn't hate these games. I still loved them very much, but I began noticing a pattern that repeated itself over and over again. And I needed some more spice to that same tired formula. So, while my first queer gaming experience was amazing - it also broke the glass in terms of the lack of content I was getting. My eyes were opened and I couldn't close them.
It's the same with queer movies - once your eyes are open, they want to see more. And unfortunately, you don't always get more. You just get the same or worse, none at all.
Luckily though, trends are changing - and I couldn't be happier.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
I want to hear from you, the person reading this. What was your first or favorite queer experience in gaming? What opened your eyes to the beauty of representation in your desired medium? I want to hear about what moment you felt connected to a video game. It doesn't have to be 100% queer. Did you relate to a character? Did you see a storyline that resonated with your queer experience?
You can comment below, or you can even send a submission to my website!
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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