This isn’t one of those articles proclaiming that gay folks like video games.
We’ve always played them and we’re starting to see a whole lot more representation.
Here are my favourite games that have something to say about the experience of being gay…
LIFE IS STRANGE
Life is Strange is an episodic mystery told over five parts. It plays very much like the love child of a serialised television series and an old school choose-your-own-adventure book.
We’re introduced to the sleepy, seaside town of Arcadia Bay through the perspective of Max Caulfield, who’s making a triumphant homecoming of sorts. It’s been sometime since the family moved away, but her old stomping grounds remain disconcertingly familiar. She’s returned for her senior year at Blackwell Academy, a prestigious liberal arts boarding school.
It doesn’t take an especially keen power of observation to notice the missing person posters scattered across the sprawling campus. Rachel Amber, a former student, has disappeared…
We hear the gossip and rumours – it’s something fellow students tend to talk about, after all. There’s talk of a possible affair with a teacher. There’s talk of cliques and a secret society on campus known as the Vortex Club. We get a hazy sense of who this missing girl is as a person. It’s not until Max reunites with her childhood best friend that we get some clarity.
Chloe Price has changed dramatically in the years since Max moved away. We spend the first portion of Life is Strange reconnecting with an old friend and finding that common ground again. It doesn’t take all that long, though – the connection that made them friends in the first place is still most definitely there. Max confides in Chloe and Chloe confides in Max.
Something weird has been happening to Max ever since returning to Arcadia Bay.
An ‘ability’ has manifested. It seems she’s a human time machine of sorts, with the power to alter the timeline through sheer force of will. That’s quite the hook, right? It’s safe to say that Life is Strange leans heavily towards the ‘high concept’ realms of the teen drama genre. It’s one that’s grounded in compelling, relatable character stories and a well realised world.
So, how does this all relate back to the disappearance of Rachel Amber?
Rachel and Chloe were close. Really close. So close that Chloe spends her days plastering those missing person posters across town and desperately investigating her whereabouts. Intuition gives a distinct impression that these girls were more than friends, something that’s soon confirmed. Rachel initially filled the best friend void left by Max when she moved away, but that developed into something else. Chloe is gay, that’s not a throwaway piece of information.
The high concept weirdness of Life is Strange is grounded through the normal day-to-day life of Arcade Bay. Being gay is normal. It’s just a part of us. The other parts are also important.
Chloe Price is flawed, impulsive, irresponsible, selfish, and might just be an awful influence on Max. She’s also funny, smart, and incredibly loyal. There’s many a thing that makes her tick. We’re given a character that is a complicated on many fronts and is pivotal to the plot. Her experiences are meaningful. This is a gay character who isn’t just here to make the game diverse and isn’t a caricature in the slightest. She’s a well-rounded person with a story to tell.
The real strength of Life is Strange is in the strong, complicated friendship between two people who have drifted apart over the years. It’s a mystery framed around a human story.
Max joins forces with Chloe, using her ability to work out what really happened to Rachel.
Life is Strange is the video game equivalent of a page turner.
There’s twists, turns, and cliffhangers a-plenty over the course of the five episodes. You’re given many agonising choices that shape how the story will unfold in very real ways.
THE LAST OF US AND THE LEFT BEHIND DLC
The Last of Us paints a harrowing picture of a world destroyed by a zombie-like apocalypse.
It’s an action/adventure survival game with a strong focus on story and characters.
Humans adapt, survivor’s survive, and life goes on. It’s been a good twenty years since Joel lost his daughter in the initial out break. He lived to tell the tale. It’s not the greatest of lives, though – he works as a smuggler in the militarised zone that once was downtown Boston. Experiences have hardened Joel, but he presses on the best he can. It’s not too long before he’s reacquainted with the dangerous, overgrown perils of the world outside the city walls.
Joel is recruited for his smuggler-related skill set. The contraband is unusual this time around from the usual food, drugs, and supply runs that make up his day-to-day life. He’s tasked with smuggling a teenage girl named Ellie out of the city. Yeah, this is a little close to home for Joel.
What’s so special with Ellie, though? Why’s she worth risking life and limb over?
Ellie got bit and that’s a guaranteed death sentence in the world of The Last of Us.
A funny thing happened, though – she didn’t turn. She was immune to whatever it was that messed up everyone else, good and proper. She just might be humanity’s best damn hope at kicking this zombie apocalypse thing for good. The stakes don’t get much higher, right? Even the most broken of people can see the value in ensuring this girl’s safety. Joel reluctantly agrees to traverse the apocalyptic wasteland with Ellie to ensure she lives to tell the tale.
The storytelling in The Last of Us is right up there with the best the medium has ever offered. It’s sophisticated, with delicate and mature writing that sets its apart from its peers.
The people who live in the world of The Last of Us reflect the diversity of real life. There’s a couple of strong gay-themed story arcs told against this perilous and bleak setting.
Joel and Ellie’s first port of call takes them to a fortified township with a population of one. This is where Bill lives. You can most definitely say that cabin fever has taken hold with this guy. He’s as paranoid as he is strange and off-putting. He’s also gay. It’s not particularly note worthy to the predicament we find ourselves in, but an interesting aspect to his character all the same. By the end of our stay here, we learn about his life and who he shares it with.
Bill is notable because he’s normal, just like any other person living in this world.
The more weighty gay-themed story line occurs in the Left Behind downloadable content.
By the end of Joel and Ellie’s adventure, we find out the circumstances in how she was bitten.
She was attacked in an abandoned shopping mall with a teenage pal who didn’t make it.
The Left Behind DLC finally gives insight into this event and the characters behind it.
Something went down between Ellie and Riley, and their friendship seems a little strained. The two make an effort to reconnect, knowing that Riley is about to leave town for good. The girls decide to have one last hurrah, by exploring a dilapidated shopping mall in an off-limits part of the Boston militarised zone. We know this isn’t going to end well…
There’s still an unexpected story to be found here and a new piece to the puzzle that is Ellie.
As the plot unravels, Left Behind takes us on a relatable coming of age journey, showing us the story of two girls clumsily coming to terms with their complicated feelings for one another. It’s beautiful, understated, and deepens Ellie’s character with a steady, respectful hand.
It’s tough to talk about the gay themes of Gone Home without spoiling the game itself.
It’s an experience best had with not a whole lot of knowledge going in. If you have any interest in playing this game as intended, I recommend you stop reading now. You can thank me later.
Time moves differently when you’re younger. A year can seem like a lifetime.
Katie Greenbriar’s about to get reacquainted with the life she’s missed while spending a year abroad. First mystery that needs solving? Just where is the Greenbriar family?
No one seems to be here to greet Katie after the airport shuttle drops her off…
They say you can’t go home again, but that’s especially true for our protagonist. The family moved houses while she was away, this new place they call home is strange, unfamiliar, and the definition of spooky. There’s also an ominous note on the door from her sister.
I’m sorry I can’t be there to see you, but it is impossible. Please, please don’t go digging around trying to find out where I am. I don’t want Mom and Dad anyone to know.
We’ll see each other again some day. Don’t be worried.
I love you.
Well, that settles it. It’s time to go digging around trying to find where she is!
The extent of Gone Home’s gameplay is to explore the house in all its foreboding, atmospheric glory. There’s a thunder storm raging outside and there’s a heightened sense of isolation for Katie. There’s an entirely unnerving feeling that comes with playing through this game, as you wander the dark and unfamiliar halls – not knowing what’s around the corner.
There are so many clues scattered about and a whole lot of visual storytelling, all conducive with deciphering just what happened to the family during Katie’s absence. It’s all about family secrets and skeletons in the closet. You feel all kinds of voyeuristic rummaging through the Greenbriar residence, especially when you begin to read Sam’s journal. (Written as a Katie substitute.)
Sam has had an interesting few months, that all began when she met a girl called Lonnie.
Gone Home depicts a year in the life of a family and a coming out experience, while masterfully subverting expectations. It might be a slow burn, but it’s still a roller coaster of emotions. All of this is brought to life through heartfelt, honest writing and a highly detailed visual design. Anyone who grew up in the ‘90s or has lived through the teenage angst of coming out will find something special here, but the less you know the better. Trust me.