Welcome to another edition of “The Casual Gaymer!” This is a bimonthly column from AiPT! Gaming in which I’ll share my thoughts, questions, and concerns about video games and the gaming industry as a queer person with limited free time. Missed the last edition where I speculated semi-wildly (and was even correct on a couple things!) about Nintendo’s E3 presentation? Check out how wrong and/or right I was!
This week, I want to celebrate Pride Month right. Not by partnering with a brand and earning ad cents by posting a #sponsored #ad where I link expression of identity and pride in the face of oppression to a corporation’s acquisition of wealth. No, I want to celebrate by finally putting my money where my mouth is and using what platform I have to support a queer game by a queer creator! As I’ve written before, we as queer players should stop relying completely on AAA developers throwing us bones with token representation that ultimately ends up hurting more than helping. Instead, we should look more to indie spaces where queer creators are out here with games that are queer as hell and often cheap or free!
Take my word for it, I still want to see diverse, widespread, mainstream queer representation when I drop 60 bucks for a shiny new AAA game as well; especially if that representation comes from queer creators in AAA spaces. However, in celebration of Pride Month, let this edition of The Casual Gaymer kick off a regular feature in which I spotlight a queer developer or game you may not have heard of (but hopefully have!) and hopefully convince you to throw a few dollars their way.
This week, I’m spotlighting kc, an ace/aro developer with a number of works on itch.io. The other day, I had the pleasure of playing their short visual novel from last year, one night, hot springs, in which the player follows Haru, a transgender woman who anxiously agrees to go on a trip to an onsen for her best friend Manami’s birthday. Manami brings her friend Erika along who is, shall we say, a little tactless when it comes to Manami and her transgender identity. Through the characters’ conversations, the game not only shows a realistic portrayal of well-intentioned–but still harmful–microaggressions, but also presents some of the ways transgender people are held back from living their truest selves by Japan’s legal system.
What made this game such a pleasure to play, is how it presents this representation simply by showing real people having real conversations. This isn’t a game that’s Message first, characters second, but instead one in which the narrative is centered completely on Haru, her experiences, and her comfort. As with most visual novels, there are multiple endings to see and kc even adds optional “heart hints,” at the top corner of the screen to help the player reach more endings. The goal of the game is for Haru to enjoy her time at the onsen as much as possible both in taking advantage of the hot springs as well as spending time with Manami and Erika. Some of your choices may run in opposition to that and if you lose all three hearts, you can bet on the “best” endings being locked out of reach.
Don’t fret too much over losing all your hearts, though. I used the term “best” just now in sticking with conventional visual novel…conventions. All the endings, even the “bad” ending, are worth seeing to learn more about the characters and see various, very real, scenarios trans women in Japan live through on the regular. Like a lot of visual novels, kc was even kind enough to add in a feature that lets you skip all the text you’ve already seen, making a one night, hot springs a game you can spend an hour or so with (depending on your reading speed) and see every ending!
Want to grab one night, hot springs? You can download it for free here at kc’s itch.io page. There you can also find the game’s sequel, last day of spring, and if you’re feeling generous (or want to save the few Pride Month dollars you’d spend on a some cheap merch with a rainbow slapped on to support a queer game dev!), throw a few dollars kc’s way to get a PDF of the game’s artwork. What’s better is, through the end of the month, all of kc’s itch.io projects are on sale in a bundle for only $11!
Okay, I’m not going to tell you anything else about the game. Visit their itch.io page, follow them on twitter, check out the rest of their links, support this developer! My goal is to do at least one spotlight like this per month, so keep your eye out for future editions of my column! (I mean, you’re doing that anyway right?)