Kept you waiting, huh? No, I have not played the Metal Gear games please don’t @ me. Welcome to a special Pride Month edition of The Casual Gaymer! In case you’re new here, The Casual Gaymer is an occasional column from AIPT Gaming where I share my questions, comments, concerns, and other unsolicited thoughts about gaming and the games industry as a queer player.
Though the column has been away for a while, I couldn’t let the month pass by without bringing out the ole pots and pans to clang together and holler about supporting queer devs making queer art! When the crumbs of AAA “representation” leave you predictably malnourished, turn instead to the fount of weird, queer, much more nutrional offerings the artists over at itch.io continue to deliver all year round.
Throughout this month, however, the Queer Games Bundle 2021, supported by swampbabes.org, has been raising money on the premise that if they had just a third of the budget of an AAA game, they could “give every solo developer a livable wage for a year and every single team a massive funding boost. Imagine what the developers and artists in this bundle could create a year from now if they weren’t worried about starving or how to pay their rent this month. Purchasing the Queer Games Bundle is a direct action that you can take right now to support queer people in a life changing way and in exchange you get over 200 amazing, heartfelt, fun, and radical games.”
It’s a mission statement I adore and I wanted to use this edition of the column to showcase nine titles from the bundle that caught my eye.
Let’s start with a banger, a game that flew to the top of my GOTY list the moment the webpage loaded. This browser-based, interactive tapestry depicting the “patron saint of the voiceless” and “friend of slugs everywhere” is a visual and narrative feast. Fantasia Malware offers conflicting accounts of the game’s mythical hormone therapy drugs derived from slug slime, creating a mystery around their origins. It’s enough to find a new saint to light a candle to. The Life of Saint Fiona Bianco Xena also brings to mind the parasociality of our relationships to idols, the fetishization of trans bodies, and how sick a gunblade made of slug droppings would be.
Next, a tribute to a real saint who walked among us from obliviist. This brief bitsy game is a lovely tribute to SOPHIE, the musical pioneer who tragically passed away earlier this year. I highly suggest checking out the linked playlist on the itch page. Not only will you be set for an evening or two of revolutionary music, but you’ll be illuminated to the breadth and depth of SOPHIE’s impact on music that will be felt forever.
Relics of humanity lie strewn about, inert. In Thunder, you simply walk about the barren land and ponder the human race’s leftovers. What treasures have been left behind? What waste? Twin suns glare blazingly in an ocean I can see by clipping the camera through the ground. Physics themselves seem fractured in humanity’s wake. Regardless, this strange text from DurrutiGames is a game worth playing for simple reminder that all cats are beautiful — especially pink ones.
Next up is a gorgeous visual novel from EnbyKaiju. New Monstropolis is a city where human culture seeps through the cracks of the world above. It drips in noir goodness (with the cigarette smoke replaced by trailing smoky hints at fiery breath) couched in a setting haunted by the traumas of wars lost and borders sealed tight. Though only a demo is available at the moment, Kaiju Noir will lurk in my mind until its full release whereupon I will happily slither deeper into its mysteries.
KBNR, from DO3460, is a haunting little game. The itch page for the game notes a content warning for suicide that I will pass along here. However, there is nothing gratuitous about this title, only evocative. It’s short enough that I hesitate to say too much, as one playthrough only takes a couple of minutes, so I’ll recommend trying KBNR out if you’re in the mood for something dark, dour, and bleak.
Though Knickknack PJ’s charming and gorgeous visual novel centers around a shroud of wolf’s wool, it is a story about dogma. Forgive me (or don’t). Puns aside, Wolf’s Wool is a tight tale dealing with the truths enforced upon us and those we enforce upon ourselves. Whether it’s the clothes on our backs, the eyes in our bodies, or the stars above our heads, Wolf’s Wool begs us to reflect deeply on identity and presentation. Take a half hour or so out of your day to play this game and think about what weights might be pressing down on your shoulders.
MxAshlynn has crafted a full (yet compact) metroidvania flavored with queer monsters and simple-yet-satisfying puzzles. I’m fully invested in making sure Stheno, the gorgon’s plantgirl girlfriend, moves into her room of the Midnight Palace successfully. What earns that investment is the nostalgia Yurivania’s Game Boy-like look, sound, and feel splendidly evoke. This is the kind of game I would play under my covers, warm light illuminating the screen of my GBA, as the moon rises and creatures come out to smooch in the night.
What a romantic visual novel Moon Archer Shooting Stars is. Yi, a woman eager to reunite with her wife, meets Yu Tu at the elevator to the moon. As Yu Tu files paperwork, they both speak of legends, myths, and love. Though it’s a quick read, Moon Archer is dripping in longing and I found myself swept up in the new queer myth 4noki has crafted. Neither bureaucracy nor class disparity will hinder Yi’s passion as she sends messages of love into the stars.
Replicating how it sometimes feels to explore and work through one’s gender identity, What’s Your Gender from Purple Sloth lets you tour a small museum where each exhibit features a term relevant to gender identity with an accompanying definition. Winding through its twisting stairwells and repeating hallways evokes the circular trains of thought I have when interrogating how I feel about my body, how it presents, and how it relates to the world around me. That’s not to say that the game upset me. Rather, as I wandered through the exhibits, I recognized that Purple Sloth gets it. What’s Your Gender also makes for a handy tool cisgender people of all ages might use to brush up on their vocabulary. Educational and relatable. What a treat!
Playing these games was euphoric. Though the remake of Nier: Replicant renewed my enthusiasm for art, games, and the overall act of existing in the universe, there’s nothing like digging into works like these free of corporate oversight and fetishizing trophies that disrespect one of the greatest characters in the history of games. Enough about Nier; I hope you’ve been inspired to support this bundle and therefore directly support the developers associated thusly! The bundle runs until the end of the month, so if you have the means, act quickly. And until the next edition of The Casual Gaymer, happy pride!
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