I’ve been a researcher in diversity and queer representation long enough to have been asked to do a few interviews. One common questions I’m frequently asked—both in interviews and at casual networking events—is, “What is your favourite queer game?”
I have some go-to answers. I mean, it’s difficult to narrow it down to one. There are many games that are valuable for different reasons, that represent different identities well, that break new ground in important ways, or that have had a significant impact on the communities I work with. But despite being good go-to responses, this isn’t how I want to answer the question. I always want to respond with, “X game is my favourite because I really related to it. I played X game and saw Y character and thought, I see myself in them.”
But I can’t do that because I honestly cannot think of a game that completely represents me.
My “good but not quite good enough” example is Life is Strange. I think it’s the example on the tip of the tongue of many bisexual women. Max and Chloe have an interesting relationship that I can relate to—there are obviously some unresolved feelings, but little is said explicitly, and there’s a lot of confusion and experimentation through high school years that I can relate to. But Max is a timid hero with time travel powers that don’t really map to my life, and although Chloe is in some ways the too-cool-for-school scene kid I wish I was, I was really never quite that rebellious. If there was a spectrum from Max to Chloe, I’d be somewhere in the middle, and when there are basically only two not-quite-explicitly-bi women to choose from in games, that leaves you a little lacking in options.
That’s not to say that Max and Chloe are literally the only bisexual women characters in games. According to the Queerly Represent Me database, there are actually 88 games with explicitly bisexual protagonists, and the majority of these are women. But I’m yet to find one I click with; Chloe is still probably the closest thing. And that’s super disappointing.
I think about middle-aged straight white cis men with a little bit of stubble on their chin. How many options do they have? Of course, they might not perfectly relate to Nathan Drake or Joel or Booker DeWitt, but there are just so many choices. There’s no scale from Max to Chloe for that demographic; there are hundreds of games coming out every year that might be the perfect representation for each straight white male player.
So, in the meantime, I’ll just keep saying that there are many great queer games out there that do different things for different people, and have value for different reasons. But damn, I’d love to be able to respond one day with my actual favourite representation—the one I actually see myself in.