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 took a trip down memory lane to queer high school life with Fire Emblem: Three Houses? Get over there before the bell rings!
This week: more Fire Emblem! Even though I spent the last edition harping on the game’s lackluster (read: nonexistent) handling of queerness, this game has taken over my free time. When my partner and I are both home, the Switch is always on with us taking turns in our respective save files. The reason the game’s foot is so firmly on my neck can be found in its excellent characterization. This game might end up being my Game of the Year for the strength of the ensemble alone!
One of my all time favorite games is Tales of Symphonia which, like Three Houses, has an ensemble full of well-written characters whose personalities are so rich, I could give an educated guess on what they would order at a coffee shop or where they’d prefer to sit in a movie theater. I know Lysithea would order either a plain coffee or latte to seem mature, but when asked if she wants whipped cream, would absolutely ask for extra. Ignatz would sit near the back of the theater for fear of potentially blocking someone’s sight, but would sit near the middle to best take in the screen as a whole. From my second month in the game, I was able to start making insights like this thanks to how well the writing team makes the cast’s personalities come through in every interaction. This masterful characterization is extremely important for a game in which you not only want to bond with the students in your class, but get to know students in other classes as well in case there are any you want to recruit before (as the trailers prior to the game’s release reveal) you have to cut them down on the field of battle.
I for one live for the melodrama and have only recruited one student from the Eagles and Lions into my Golden Deer class. I know I’ll be doing at least one more playthrough for the Black Eagles story and think I’ll be taking the same approach to recruitment then to maximize the tragedy once Edelgard, Claude, and Dimitri are at each other’s throats. What can I say? Sometimes it’s fun to suffer through a controlled, fictional medium. But returning to characterization, these kids are so distinct and their personalities are made so known, I was able to correctly identify a student who isn’t in my class while my partner was playing their save file based on their battle cry alone. Oh, and we both play with the Japanese voice track, by the way. The actors are that good!
That’s all from me this week! Here’s hoping I actually get around to playing another game before the end of 2020 while still intending to finish not only my Golden Deer save, but another Black Eagles playthrough on top of that. I know I need to recruit Lysithea on that run through the game because in my current save she is a walking death machine with her talent for black magic. I would recruit Hilda because she’s one of my absolute favorites, but the developers wanted to make sure I suffer by making her recruit-proof. Don’t they know I’m already suffering enough from all the heteronormative nonsense woven into this game? And how are there no same-gender pairing available for Golden Deer students, the unquestionably queerest house of all? smh.
P.S. Allow me to add to the chorus of outlets shouting out the now legendary thread of fake Three Houses tweets. They not only exhibit Twitter user, @coolfest1999’s comedic talent, but also that the game’s characters are rich enough to be elaborated upon thusly and sound completely true to themselves. I cackled my way through the whole thread.