The Burden of Queer Love
Video games are a unique narrative and interactive experience that allow players to construct their own fantasies through play. The fantastical possibilities a video game could explore are nearly limitless. However, a game’s design often precludes certain imaginative routes, shutting down one fantasy in favour of another. Games close out possibilities through actions as small as character design (gender, race, ability) and restrict imaginative interpretations to serve a narrow audience. Game developers design play that prioritizes hypermasculine narrative experiences, and players that do not align with this identity must condition themselves to play that excludes fantasies or alternate worlds that align with their experiences.
This essay explores attempts by game development studio Bioware to create video games that are inclusive of gay, lesbian, and bisexual players by writing in queer romantic narrative subplots into their games. While Bioware’s attempts are certainly not malicious, they fail time and time again, game after game, to break free of the hypermasculine and heterocentric culture dominant in the gaming industry. Instead, Bioware appropriates queer experiences and construes them as a burden to the player so as not to displace the fantasies of male, heterosexual gamers.
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