In the game world, platform is everything: it’s how you’re seen, the marketing you have at your disposal, the kind of income you can expect from your creations.
So what happens when the biggest platforms refuse to acknowledge your existence? You find somewhere that will!
As of the beginning of 2019 Steam, still the largest online distributor of games for the PC, does not have a tag for LGBTQIA+ games, nor any variant of that tag. Want a game with “Intentionally Awkward Controls”, “Inventory Management”, or “Villain Protagonist”? They’ve got you covered. But a game made by or with queer representation? Welp, you better enjoy digging through the thirty-two thousand plus indie entries till you find what you want.
For this reason and many others queer game creators have flocked to itch.io—a platform that not only lets the developer tag their games as they see fit but also allows them to set their own price point so users might pay what they can afford, even if their pockets are bare.
Itch.io offers a number of other benefits to queer developers and queer players too. Want to find games by the queer community? They’re tagged under the broad category ‘LGBT’. Looking for something more specific? Try the ‘transgender’, ‘lesbian’, or ‘gay’ tags, among many others. With nearly a thousand games tagged ‘LGBT’ at time of writing, it’s easy to see why itch.io is the hot choice.
Has this been an entirely positive migration of platforms? That’s difficult to say at this time.
Valve’s monopoly on videogames ensures that the Steam platform remains a source of income for many developers, often outselling games available on other platforms by several factors. But it’s that monopoly that has buried thousands of deserving indie games in an ongoing quest for the biggest sellers. Of all the platforms, the most supportive of the queer community is itch, but those developers have to eat and pay the rent and support themselves.
So what’s the solution here?
How do we support the developers that need some of the most recognition?
Getting that LGBTQIA+/Queer tag on Steam would be a start. Then games like Ladykiller in a Bind, Life is Strange, and Escape from Pleasure Planet could be found with a casual search instead of a grinding ordeal.
As for itch.io? What we need is recognition. We need the community to point towards the platform and loudly exclaim in public, “This is what we want. This is how you give us the space to make our voices heard”. We need organisations to put their money where their supportive mouth is and provide grants for games on the platform to market themselves properly and to give devs the funding they need to make their dream projects. Because rarely will those dream projects end up on the Steam front page, despite being deserving of attention.
There is hope. There is a home where queer games can be loud and proud. Without the kind of restrictions they find elsewhere.
Now we just need to make it the best damn home around.