Audre Lorde's 1988 speech at Medgar Evers College addresses the issues of being a Black Lesbian in relation to Black feminism and the Black Power Movement. Lorde talks to a mostly straight or heterosexual audience of Black feminists in this, explaining her identity as a Black Lesbian to them. Through the process of explaining and educating, Lorde is diluting or flattening her identity into one that is palatable for a heterosexual audience. As the oppressed queer, she appeals to privileged heterosexuals by telling them all the ways that she is just like them, and is ultimately their "sister".
Adrienne Rich's "Notes Towards a Politics of Location" brings up notions of a "politics of location", where one is located within the center or the margins based on where their privileges and oppressions place them in relation to the rest of the world. In talking about how the oppressed flatten their identities to appeal to the privileged, it is important to talk about where that privilege comes from and where exactly it is located.
Chapter 1 of "Up From Invisibility : Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America". Larry Gross talks about the increasing visibility of queerness in the media in America and the production behind that visibility. Gross's famous of/by/for model is included in this chapter, referencing what a media image is about, who it was produced/created by, and who it ultimately is for. In relation to ideas of privilege and the flattening of identities, Gross talks about how queerness is represented differently when made by the majority or for the majority.
Part III of the Handbook of Gender, Sex, and Media. Katherine Sender talks about queerness within media and through her concentric circle of media representation and production, talks about how Larry Gross's of/by/for model could be improved. Similar to Adrienne Rich's "Towards a Politics of Location", this model talks about the ideas of privilege and flattening of identities within the center and how this changes as you approach the margins and peripheral areas.
Mad Party Fucker was a Commodore 64 game released as a free, public domain text game in 1985. An altered version by Kool K and Miles Long was released the following year. The first sentence of Mad Party Fucker’s description reads: “The object of this game is to fuck as many women as you can without getting bufu’ed by fags (contracting AIDS).” Talking about the representation of queerness in this, we see the homophobic action of making queer people contractors of disease and also the use of slurs to further put down queer people. According to the LGBTQ Game Archive, this is their first recorded instance of a game referencing queerness.
Caper in the Castro is a murder mystery/puzzle solving game, developed by C.M. Ralph in 1989. Based on all available information to date, it is the first gay and lesbian themed computer game. In addition, Ralph made another version of the game called “Murder on Mainstreet” and sold it through Heizer Software. Knowing an LGBT related game might not be picked up by them, she “straightened up” the game. This artifact is important for knowing the history of queer representation in video games and also how in this first known instance of centralized queerness in computer games, the game's queerness was flattened and replaced with heteronormative roles and identities to appeal to a wider market.
"The Sims is a life simulation game series, set predominantly in fictional suburban neighborhoods. Often characterized as a virtual doll house, The Sims allows players to build and furnish home spaces and observe and control the domestic lives of “Sims” (i.e. simulated people). The Sims series has increasingly included lesbian, gay, and bisexual content as the series has progressed. This trend of progressiveness is evident in the series’ most recent update to The Sims 4 that allows players to customize their Sims’ gender identity, presentation, and biological capacities. The series is also notable for LGBTQ focused mods designed by fans and often freely available for players to install and change their play experience."
"In June 2016, Maxis added an update to The Sims 4 that allows the player to customize the gender of their characters. While player must still choose if the character is male or female, they can further choose from a list of gender settings: the physical frame (masculine/feminine); clothing preferences (masculine/feminine); whether the Sim is able to be become pregnant, get others pregnant, or neither; and whether or not the Sim can use the toilet while standing. The update also included a spectrum of six voices for all Sims, regardless of gender, and the ability to turn off filters for masculine or feminine clothing and hair styles, further allowing the player to customize the gender presentation of their characters." Updates like these show the progression that the Sims as a series has had, but also shows how gender representations by mainstream developers still stay within the binary. Players are still forced into choosing a starting gender as male or female.
Adrienne Shaw, professor at Temple University in the Klein College of Media and Communication, wrote this post for "Culture Digitally" in October 2013 about queerness and Fable. In it, she talks about how sexuality in "Fable" is restricted to solely who you decide to marry or have sex with. Characters have an "Unknown" sexuality until marriage or sex has occurred, which then prompts their sexuality to change. E.g. A male character marrying a woman is labeled as "Straight" while a male character marry a man is labeled as "Gay". If the same male character marries again, marrying the opposite sex of his first marriage, he is then labeled "Bisexual". Queerness when included in games, is often flattened to certain labels. What if the male character had been Bisexual since the beginning, and what if he wasn't Bi, but Pansexual, Queer, or something else entirely?
Amanda Phillips writes about the popular game, "Bayonetta" and how many feminist critiques of the game and character have labeled Bayonetta as hypersexualized and meant solely for the male gaze, or as Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency has labeled her, a "fighting fuckdoll". Phillips argues that Bayonetta empowers queer femme individuals through the use of what Micha Cárdenas calls “femme disturbance,” the propensity of femininity to disrupt phallic power structures through its own excess. Femme disturbance, rather than wholly reclaiming a feminine figure for progressive ends, disrupts simplistic notions of agency and resistance to open the way for recognizing how systems might be assailed from within. In terms of queerness and the flattening of identities to appeal to the privileged, Bayonetta is a good example of how something queer can be hypersexualized and made to be viewed solely through the male gaze.
Anita Sarkeesian writes about wondering if Bayonetta plays up camp or if she's just a fighting fuckdoll for the male gaze.
"Lim is a game about violence. About the violence of standing out, and even more about the violence of blending in." When this translates to queer identity and the idea of "passing" or "blending in", the game becomes an important commentary on how queer people have to suppress their identities to avoid violence in a heteronormative world.
"Dys4ia is an abstract, autobiographical Adobe Flash video game that Anna Anthropy, also known as Auntie Pixelante, developed to recount her experiences of gender dysphoria and hormone replacement therapy." The game, like Lim, was released as an indie game. We see more and more indie games with queer content that doesn't totally adhere to hetero-or-homonormativity.
Naomi Clark talks the intersection of queerness and games and uses many different examples of that intersection, including Lim by merritt kopas and dys4ia by Anna Anthropy.
Zoe Quinn is the famous female game developer known as the first main target of the "Gamergate" movement. Her game, "Depression Quest", focused on how it is to live with depression, and received a large amount of hate from online gaming communities such as Steam. Quinn is a female game developer and identifies as Queer. Her game, when brought into the mainstream by Gamergate, acted as something entirely different than what mainstream gamers were used to. In a way, it tried to queer gaming in that it rejected the stereotypes of "first person shooter" and "violent" video games. Zoe Quinn and "Depression Quest" are prime examples of what happens when marginalized voices try to speak without diluting their experiences for a generalized privileged audience.
In this interview with Zoe Quinn and Christine Love, the question, "what really is a queer game?" is discussed and answered.
The developer of Depression Quest speaks to Alex Hern about her life at the centre of a hate campaign.
UNDERTALE! The game where no one has to die. The premise of this game is that a human falls into "the Underground" where monsters have been banished to by the humans. This human (who is never gendered in the game) is a child who navigates the Underground, trying to find a way out, while also encountering monsters along the way. The human child is given the option of slaying these monsters or sparing them with a "Mercy" option. In "Undertale", humans are known to have tremendous power compared to monsters, so monsters have very little choice when encountering a human on whether they should fight or not. The player, controlling the human child, is the only one who can make that decision. This gives the privilege of agency to the human child, so it is up to the player whether or not to use that privilege and how. Monsters' experiences are diluted through the lens of a privileged human, even if that human is simply a child. Players are unable to play as a monster to truly understand the experience of the monster; their only knowledge of monsters comes from preconceived notions of that specific group and whatever they are willing to listen to from monsters themselves.
In this review, Undertale's queer representations are talked about, while also talking about how Fox's presentation of violence and mercy within the game are too simplistic and don't account for occasions where violence is necessary for oppressed groups.
Stardew Valley is an indie farming simulation role-playing video game developed by Eric "ConcernedApe" Barone and published by Chucklefish. It has been heralded for it's inclusivity with allowing characters to create an avatar of any skin tone while also allowing them to romance both male and female NPCs, regardless of the avatar's gender.
This article addresses the issues with 'optional' queer content in relation to character creation and/or romancing in-game characters. In many games with 'optional' queer content, such as Stardew Valley (the game pictured above), queer characters are not commonplace in your playthrough unless you specifically seek those storylines out. It's a sort of "gay button" you press to see gay content. This means that these types of games still adhere to heteronormativity by othering queer players and queer characters with "side" options.