The extent of my procrastination usually increases in proportion to its ridiculousness. If I’m on Twitter, it will probably pass. If I’m reading the archive in a blog deconstructing fashion choices in old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I’m in trouble. (But seriously, look at sttngfashion.tumblr.com right now.)
So I knew I’d reached a pinnacle of procrastination when I spent four hours playing Tokyo Jungle. Released last month on PlayStation 3, this very strange video game puts you in control of an animal living in post-apocalyptic Tokyo, where humans are extinct and animals rule the streets. Starting out in the shaggy shoes of a Pomeranian puppy, you have to kill other animals for food, mark out your territory, impress the ladies and then make little Pomeranians to survive as long as you can.
But this exploration of survival is hardly Darwinian in tone. You will kit out your animal with sweet gear, pit chicken against velociraptor, and when it comes to business time, see the screen slowly fade to black as your little guy mounts his gal and ushers in The Next Generation. (I mean it, that blog is awesome.)
Such a setting might seem an odd place for a discussion of gender politics, but even staring at the cartoonish vision of animal sex, part of me wished my Pomeranian could be into dudes. Couldn’t he eschew the drive to procreate and settle down with a nice boy dog in a burned-out apartment? Why won’t the game let me use my hard-earned Pomeranian street cred to woo a bad-ass beagle from Shibuya?
Of course, that’s not really the point of the game, and just like in the animal kingdom, mounting the man of my dreams won’t get him pregnant. I hope. But whenever a game asks me to identify with a male character, even if that character is non-human, I feel a little betrayed when I’m then asked to spend my time chasing ladies.
This wouldn’t be as big an issue in a game like Tokyo Jungle where if it wasn’t also the case in most games. As any queer gamer will tell you, we get so used to playing it straight, when the opportunity to do otherwise is presented it’s astonishing.
Maybe wanting a big gay wedding for my Pomeranian alter-ego is optimistic. But until gaming culture becomes less about straight guys, Tokyo Jungle will be just another reminder that most games aren’t made for people like me.
INFO: You read more by Benjamin Riley at SouthpawSlug.