Need help?
Click here Need Help?
Need help? Click here

Life Is Strange with Katy Bentz (Safe Space Podcast Season 2, Episode 3)

In this episode of Safe Space, Rosie and Mikayla chat with Katy Bentz, aka Steph Gingrich from the Life Is Strange series!

Rosie, Katy and Mikayla are in the foreground on a backdrop of Haven Springs; there are trees, mountains, and a record store

Katy talks about her experiences as a voice actor, touching on the distinction between the games industry and the film industry, and how to handle audition rejection.

We discuss the impact of characters like Steph for the LGBTQIA+ community, and Katy’s experiences playing a character that is so adored within the LIS fandom. Katy recalls some of her favourite moments from recording True Colors, as well as her favourite interactions with the LIS community.

Links

Katy’s Twitter / Katy’s Twitch

Life Is Strange True Colors

Skills utilised:
News

Stonewall: Pride Month 2022 Highlight

As part of Pride Month 2022, we’re highlighting companies, charities and organisations doing great work within the LGBTQ+ space, and today’s highlight is Stonewall.

 

What is Stonewall?

Stonewall is an organisation that stands for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people everywhere. The work of the charity has helped bring the issue of LGBTQ rights to the mainstream political agenda, changing both attitudes and policy.

 

When did it start?

Stonewall was founded in 1989 by a small group of people who had been active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act. It was later granted charitable status in 2003.

 

What was Section 28?

Section 28 was an offensive piece of legislation designed to prevent so-called  “promotion” of homosexuality in schools; as well as stigmatising lesbian, gay and bi people, it galvanised the gay community.

What does ‘Stonewall’ mean?

The Stonewall Uprising began on June 28, 1969, when a gay club in New York City called The Stonewall Inn was raised by police leading to six days of violent clashes between the police and the gay community of Greenwich Village. The Stonewall Uprising served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the US and around the world.

 

What has Stonewall done?

Since 1989, Stonewall has been instrumental in LGBTQ+ rights movements:

  • An equal age of consent for gay and bi men
  • The end of Section 18 in Scotland, England and Wales
  • Same-sex couples being free to adopt children
  • LGBTQ+ people being free to serve openly in the armed forces
  • Protection from discrimination at work
  • The right for same-sex couples to have civil partnerships
  • The right for LGBTQ+ couples to be legally recognised as parents
  • The right for same-sex couples to get married
  • LGBTQ+ inclusive teaching in the national curriculum

Skills utilised:
News

LGBTQIA+ Characters In Video Games: A Spotlight

We’ve seen developments over the years in more characters within video games identifying as LGBTQ+, and whilst there is still more work to do, we wanted to celebrate some of our favourite kickass characters from games that are in the LGBTQ+ community.

Life Is Strange – Alex & Steph

screenshots of steph gingrich from True Colours

Where would we be without this wonderful duo from Life Is Strange: True Colours? Alex and Steph have been fan favourites since True Colours first came out in September 2021. Alex, the main protagonist of the game, is a bisexual character who begins the game reuniting with her brother Gabe in Haven Springs, Colorado. Her kindness and tenacity is a huge asset to the character, and is why so many players fell in love with her! Steph is a lesbian who, depending on the player’s choices, can romance Alex. We talk a lot about Steph’s character in an upcoming podcast episode with the voice actor Katy Bentz.

 

The Last Of Us – Ellie, Riley, Lev

a mashup of Ellie, Riley, Dina and Lev from The Last of Us

The Last of Us has a number of LGBTQ+ characters within the series, with Ellie, one of the main protagonists initially hiding her sexuality from Joel. Her lesbian identity is unveiled in the Left Behind DLC after Ellie and Riley share a kiss within the mall. Bill, a gay character is also within the first The Last of Us game. In The Last of Us Part II, Dina’s character is introduced as bisexual and as a love interest for Ellie. We also see within the sequel an introduction to the first trans character within TLOU universe; Lev.

 

The Outer Worlds

Photo from The Verge

Parvati is an asexual character from The Outer Worlds, and is a fan-favourite. Gayming Mag have a great article looking into their character more here.

 

Tell Me Why

Dontnod’s Tell Me Why moved so many players with their powerful story telling and engaging story, but Tyler’s representation within the game as not only a trans man but a complex character outside of that, was inspiring to both players and game devs alike. Dontnod’s collaboration with GLAAD and using lived experience was a huge factor in creating Tyler.

 

Technobabylon

Max Lao; one of Technobabylon’s 3 main characters, who is a tech-savvy operative on the police force. It is discovered within emails within the game that she is a trans woman, who previously attended an all-boys school.

 

Mass Effect

Liara T’Soni is the very first queer (and romanceable) character within the world of Mass Effect, with her own DLC within the second game. Mass Effect has a number of LGBTQIA characters within the series in total, and this article by Gayming Mag goes into greater detail on each of them!

 

Dragon Age

Dorian is the first male companion who is a romance option exclusively for a male protagonist within Dragon Age, making his debut in Dragon Age: Inquisition. He is a charming character, a mage, and an inspiration for David Gaider to continue to integrate LGBTQIA+ characters within his future game narratives.

There are so many characters within the games universe that have well-written LGBTQIA+ characters, and these are just a few highlights from our community! If you’re looking to delve into more LGBTQIA+ characters, our friends at Gayming Mag do fantastic work in queer culture.

We’ve found resources such as Represent Me and LGBT Characters Wikia to be brilliant in documenting LGBTQIA+ characters across fiction and video games.

Skills utilised:
News

Character Creation and the Privacy of Playing with Gender

Video games have offered queer nerds a safe space to explore aspects of themselves for decades.

I’m not the first to have noticed, and more personally felt, this phenomena and I most certainly won’t be the last. From romancing characters of the same gender, to opening up a new save and creating a character of the opposite one, games have always been playgrounds for positive exploration of sexuality and, especially, gender.

Gaming is often a solitary hobby with the majority of releases focusing on single-player campaigns. Because of this, gaming is often also a very private hobby, with players retreating to their bedrooms or studies after school or work to tune out the rest of the world and dive into the one loading up in front of them.

It’s this privacy that is important to why video games lend themselves so well to gender exploration. Players can dive into a new skin with a sense of security, knowing there’s nobody to perform for.

See, there is still an awful societal pressure for queer people to know exactly how to label themselves as soon as they are comfortable coming out, particularly queer youth. Society perpetuates the idea that changing your mind, discovering something new about yourself, or growing into a new identity is something to be ashamed of. I’m sure you’ve heard the stereotype prescribed to bisexuality as the ‘in-between’ step towards ‘realising you’re actually a lesbian / gay man’ or the similar belief that coming out as non-binary is just one step away from coming out as binary transgender.

For many people, discovering themselves does lead them from one label to another, but these stereotypes have come to assign a certain amount of shame to that. These should-be-comforting moments of self-discovery can become tainted as wrong-turns, when in reality they’re often natural progressions.

This is where the privacy of video games, and character creation, come in. Not only does creating a new persona to inhabit allow you to test the waters of presenting and identifying in a different way, but you can experiment and change that persona as you go, sometimes within games and sometimes between them. All within the privacy of your own save files.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, for example, was the first game in the Animal Crossing franchise to remove gender restrictions in the game. Previously you would be asked to choose ‘girl’ or ‘boy’, often in bizarre dialogues where the question isn’t specifically asked but is instead assumed on whether you think your name is ‘cute’ or ‘cool’…you know, the two genders. Clothing options and haircuts would be restricted depending on this choice, and it couldn’t be changed without creating an entirely new character.

New Horizons, however, let’s you change your gender marker whenever and clothes and haircuts are available to all. In an interview with The Washington Post, Aya Kyogoku, the game’s director, spoke about this flexibility of gender in New Horizons:

“We basically wanted to create a game where users didn’t really have to think about gender or if they wanted to think about gender, they’re also able to.”

This freedom offers small and private moments of gender affirmation, including when that affirmation comes in freedom from gender; letting you run around knowing your character’s gender marker is set to boy while you terraform in your most ‘girly’ cottage-core dress with not a single villager caring (something I did myself).

What happened with New Horizons is just one of the examples of the ways game designers are beginning to push better representations of gender. More games are allowing a mixture of traditionally feminine or masculine traits within one character, including non-binary identities, and are providing a wider / mixed choice of pronouns. While this has been in the works of several developers over the years, it came more to the forefront during Covid when separation from society was greater and people had the space and privacy to experiment in real life as well as in their
games.

During this time, I myself remember playing Arcade Spirits, the already very queer dating sim from Fiction Factory Games. On opening the game, I was met with a character customiser where I was able to give my ‘me’ a cute blonde bob, a masculine build, and, for the first time, they/them pronouns. It was one of the first times I had been able to experiment with these pronouns; despite wanting to see how they felt for me, I wasn’t yet comfortable asking others to try them out.

But there, alone in my bedroom with a cup of tea and my laptop propped up on plushies, it felt private and personal and good. After I finished the game, I was able to recognise that, while those pronouns did feel right for me, there were times where I missed more gendered ways of presenting and interacting in-game. This Arcade Spirits version of me didn’t quite capture ‘me,’ and it was affirming to uncover that without the onlooking eye of others.

That experience could not have been the same were it broadcast and shared with others, and Arcade Spirits is only one example of how powerful the intimacy with video games can be. It’s why there is so much queer joy waiting to be found in games, because there is always excitement in the fact that we can try again and again to learn more about ourselves whenever we load into the next character creator.

Skills utilised:
News

Global LGBTQIA+ Support

During Pride Month, we wanted to compile a list of resources aimed at supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, but specifically focusing on trans friendly communities.

Below, we’ve put some international resources for those who need it; everyone deserves mental health support.

 

United Kingdom

Mindline Trans

Emotional and mental health support helpline for anyone identifying as trans, non-binary, gender variant, and their families, friends, colleagues and carers.

Their phone line is open Mondays and Fridays, 8pm to midnight. Ring 0300 330 5468.

Switch Board

A one-stop listening service for LGBTQ+ people on the phone, emails or through instant messaging.

Their phone line is open 10:00 – 22:00 every day. Call 0300 330 0630, chat on their website or email at chris@switchboard.lgbt for support.

The Beaumont Society

The Beaumont Society is a national self help body run by and for the transgender community.

The Beaumont Society operates a national 24 / 7 information line. This information line contains the telephone numbers of all the societies regional organisers who are available to speak to for advice, details of where to go for a good night out – even a friendly ear to listen. Call 01582 412220.

Mermaids

Helping gender-diverse kids, young people and their families since 1995.

Call 08088010400 Monday to Friday, 9am – 9pm to speak to a trained member of the Mermaids Team.

Gendered Intelligence

Gendered Intelligence, established in 2008, is a registered charity that exists to increase understandings of gender diversity and improve trans people’s quality of life.

LGBT Foundation

The LGBT Foundation are here to offer support and advice on a range of topics. Our service is non-judgement, and we are here to talk through whatever is on your mind. When you call, you will find someone on the other end of the line with a friendly voice and a listening ear.
Call on on 0345 3 30 30 30 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm) or email helpline@lgbt.foundation 03453303030

Ireland

LGBT Ireland

National LGBT Helpline on freephone 1800 929 539 (7 days a week)

Transgender Family Support Line on 01 907 3707

Or use this instant messaging service.

BeLonG To Youth Services

At BeLonG To, we offer non-judgmental, confidential support. We’re here for you. BeLonG To is an LGBT youth organisation catering for young people between 14-23 years. 

 

United States

PsychCentral

Support for Trans, Nonbinary & Gender-Expansive Folks including a list of hotlines and support.

Trans Lifeline

The Trans Lifeline has answered over 100,000 calls since it launched in 2014. It operates with the determined mission of providing “direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis — for the trans community, by the trans community.” Call 877-565-8860 (Press 2 for Spanish)

To reach the Trans Lifeline toll-free from anywhere in Canada, dial 1-877-330-6366 https://translifeline.org/

oSTEM

Text ‘oSTEM’ to +1 (313) 662-8209 anytime, from anywhere.

LGBT National Hotline

The LGBT National Hotline is for all ages.

They provide a safe space that is anonymous and confidential where callers can speak on many different issues and concerns including, but not limited to, coming out issues, gender and/or sexuality identities, relationship concerns, bullying, workplace issues, HIV/AIDS anxiety, safer sex information, suicide, and much more.

Call 888-843-4564 Monday – Friday 1pm-9pm PT / 4pm – 12am ET or Saturday 9am-2pm PT / 12pm-5pm ET

The Trevor Project

Founded in 1998, The Trevor Project defines itself as “the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.” 

Trevor Lifeline: Call 866-488-7386 | Trevor Text: Text ‘START’ to 678-678 (Operates 24/7, 365 days a year)

 

Australia

Twenty 10

We work with people across Sydney and New South Wales who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse, non-binary, intersex, questioning, queer, asexual and more (LGBTIQA+) people and others of diverse genders and sexualities, their families and communities.

We are a Sydney based service working across New South Wales, providing a broad range of specialised services for young people 12-25 including housing, mental health, counselling and social support. For adults we provide social support and for people of all ages we offer telephone support and webchat as the NSW provider for the national QLife project. We also offer inclusivity training and consulting for organisations and service providers across most sectors.

Phone: 02 8594 9555 – (Intake/support line is staffed 1-3PM weekdays)

Reach Out

Reach Out offers a list of emergency, national and state based services.

If you’re feeling distressed and want to talk to someone right now, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or one of the other contacts in the urgent help section, all of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7.

 

New Zealand

OutlineNZ

Our free confidential support line is answered by trained LGBTIQ+ volunteers. Leave a message if we can’t answer and we can call you back. Call 0800-688-5463 – 6pm-9pm every evening.

There is also a free chat service.

 

France

SOS Homophobia

Ligne d’écoute anonyme
01 48 06 42 41
Lundi au vendredi de 18h à 22h
Samedi : 14h – 16h
Dimanche : 18h – 20h
Sauf jours fériés

 

Germany

Lesbenberatung

Center for Councelling, Communication and Exchange

+49 30-215-20-00 (information line)

They offer meet ups for young queer people between the ages of 16 and 27 once a week (german speaking), and will soon offer counselling on social and medical transition for all trans people.

 

We also have more resources, support lines and games relating to the LGBTQ+ community on our previous pride article, and global mental health support lines on our Find Help area.

Skills utilised:
News

The Beginner’s Guide – A Subtle yet Powerful Trans Allegory by Ruby Modica

The Beginner’s Guide (TBG) is an environmental narrative game written by Davey Wreden and tells of his experience with a friend who used to make games.

TBG is a tightly written venture that poses many questions but answers only a handful of them by the end, leaving much of the story open for interpretation. Despite the overarching themes of game design and creator burnout, there is also room for an allegory that focuses on one of the characters being transgender and their difficult journey of self-discovery. 

The term “transgender” refers to an individual who lives as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth. This Pride Month, where many will be proudly celebrating their right to be themselves and love themselves despite oppression, it is important to remember that trans people have come under serious attack in recent years. Therefore, examining this trans interpretation of TBG is important for those who may be unaware of the difficulties a trans person typically goes through, or even for someone who is unsure of their gender identity. 

Davey tells the story of his friend who uses the nickname Coda. Since the entirety of TBG is narrated by Davey, we are only given access to Coda’s life through another person’s perspective, which is why the conflicting story details might not accurately portray Coda’s gender identity. Hints at Coda’s true identity are revealed in subtle ways all throughout TBG, something that can be easily overlooked on an initial playthrough. 

a screenshot of an empty room with cream coloured walls, one wall is open and there are bars across the length of it

Firstly, Davey uses he/him pronouns when talking about Coda, initially suggesting that they are a cisgender male (that is, assigned male from birth and living as a male). However, this simple detail becomes less credible as the game progresses, since most of the games Davey shows feature multiple sound clips of a woman’s voice guiding the player directly, such as The Whisper Machine’s announcer. Davey’s voice is recognisably male, but if Coda is assumed male then the voice’s origin becomes unclear. 

Other examples of female-gendered dialogue are found all throughout TBG. The second game Backwards reveals several pieces of short text, using the pronouns “she” and “her” throughout. The Island and Machine levels also portray the player as female, and other minor references appear in the Notes level that have all seemingly been written by Coda. 

4 images within corridors inside a building. There are words on the walls: "The past was behind her", "when she stops and looks it becomes clearer", "but if the future is always behind her" and "how will she find strength"

Based on other interpretations seen in TBG, each game created by Coda simulates something personal and experimental. Despite Davey’s attempts to connect them and add meaning, it is clear that Coda’s games are a safe creative space. In turn, it would make sense that these private thoughts would better depict Coda’s desired mental state, one where they use female pronouns and exist as a female. 

If Coda is indeed a trans woman, then the continued use of he/him pronouns by Davey could add another disheartening layer to the allegory. Refusing to acknowledge a trans person’s identity can cause trauma and dysphoria, both of which lead to psychological damage if unchecked. 

However, if Coda is a trans man (female-to-male) then this would be the inverse: Davey is respecting Coda’s new identity. The timescale for Coda’s games takes place over several years, so it is possible Coda begins transitioning during the course of their game development. That would also explain why Coda becomes more detached from their older games due to featuring an outdated version of themselves. Artefacts like their old username and voice clips can easily trigger dysphoria, which would parallel most trans people’s experiences. 

Additional signs of Coda’s female presence include the small number of NPCs appearing across TBG levels. One NPC model is seen in the Theatre level, where the disembodied narrator states that this person embodies everything the player wants to be. The deliberate gender choice is expanded upon when the game forces the player to recede back from the stage, followed by prison gates closing in. 

The only realistic female body seen in TBG comes at the end of Island, which depicts a crying woman behind a prison barricade. It is possible that all of these factors depict Coda’s thoughts of being trapped in the wrong body and unable to escape. 

An animated character with long brown hair is sat in the corner hugging their knees, with 3 dialogue options in the corner: 1. Hello?, 2. Where am I?, 3. What is this?

Coda’s happiness occurs in the House game where a male-bodied NPC is portrayed in a feminine manner. This could symbolise Coda’s desired gender identity, which contrasts heavily with the Theatre game where the player is told to hide themselves away instead. With this in mind, both of these levels could simply be a portrayal of Coda’s euphoria and dysphoria respectively.  

Of particular note is the final message to Davey, where there are certain lines that refer to distrust and insecurity brought about by Coda’s games being shared publicly. Coda states that this is “violating the one boundary that keeps [them] safe”, a potential allusion to having their gender identity publicly outed against their wishes. This has resulted in numerous upsetting instances in real life where kids are disowned by parents and/or suffer bullying, which would serve as a more impactful reason for Coda to cut contact with Davey. 

an animated tree on a series of grassy islands suspended in a white background/space

This trans allegory portrays the everyday difficulties that trans and non-binary people face on a daily basis, from finding their identity to a lack of help. Thankfully, despite all the attempted attacks, the world is gradually becoming more accepting of trans people. Deltarune and Tell Me Why are just a few gaming examples that feature trans/non-binary protagonists who are presented as independent and strong, a proud depiction that LGBTQ+ individuals and allies can empathise with.  

Additionally, there are many charities at hand such as Mermaids and GLAAD specifically designed for reaching out to trans individuals with support and guidance. There is hope for the future that the tragic trans allegory from The Beginner’s Guide will soon be a thing of the past, and this Pride Month is a good opportunity to show support where possible. Even small actions like respecting one another’s pronouns and helping those dealing with dysphoria can go a long way to making the world a better place. 

Ruby Modica is an independent content creator, editor and writer.

She loves sharing insight into video games and discovering new things, with a desire to work in the media/gaming industry full time. Most days she is busy at her computer working on her next big project.

LinkTree

Skills utilised:
News

Gayming Magazine: Pride Month 2022 Highlight

This Pride, we are highlighting organisations and companies doing outstanding work within the LGBTQ+ gaming community.

Today we’re highlighting Gayming Magazine; the home of queer geek culture.

Gayming Magazine is a hub of LGBTQ+ culture within video games; from news to reviews to lifestyle and events – there is so much being covered by the fantastic team at Gayming Mag.

They’ve even collated a list of LGBTQ+ games that have come out this year, which you can find here.

The team will also be hosting DIGIPRIDE 2022, which will run from June to August this year, featuring panels, streams, podcasts and more! We are proud to be hosting a mental health focused panel for gaymers as part of this event on July 26th!

Follow Gayming Mag on Twitter

Skills utilised:
News

How to Tell Meaningful Stories Through Games with Paula Angela Escuadra (Safe Space Podcast Season 2, Episode 1)

In the first episode of Season 2 of the Safe Space Podcast, Rosie talks to Paula Angela Escuadra about her vast experience within the game development space where she has broadened the conversation around inclusivity, representation, sustainability and climate consciousness.

We talk about the importance of using games to portray important messages, and how it differs from messages within more static media such as films and books, and what steps developers can take to implement these messages in ethical and proactive ways. We also discuss the effect that video games can have on player’s introspection and identity, and how it can act as a support mechanism to those who may often feel unsafe to be themselves in person.

Click here to listen!

There are two people in the foreground (Rosie and Paula), between them is a Audio waveform graphic in white and the text 'Safe Space', with a white siow logo at the bottom. There is a forest with light flickering through the trees in the background and a SIOW Pink wave shape at the top.

About Paula
Paula Angela Escuadra (She/Her) has spent +12 years elevating the power games have to redefine our relationship with failure and create meaning. She leads research for Xbox Game Studios Cloud Publishing, helping developers make great games that foster meaningful communities. She co-founded IGDA Climate Special Interest Group, co-authoring its newly released Environmental Game Design Playbook. She’s also on Cologne Game Lab’s advisory board with a focus on unlocking sustainability competencies.
(Lastly, she’s a very strong advocate for community care, psychological safety, and dog cuddling as a form of self-care.)

Links

Want to listen to more episodes of the Safe Space Podcast? Check out the full list of episodes at this link

Skills utilised:
News

Hub World – Representation

Welcome back to Hub World!

In June, we spent time reflecting on the theme of representation. As people, we naturally look for representation – people and stories that connect with us on a personal level. As an industry, we still have a way to go in ensuring a diverse range of voices are heard, but we continue to see many brave individuals and communities pushing for change. 

This month, we will get straight into the stories from the SIOW community and what representation means to them. 

Suneet Sharma 

Sometimes my British Indian heritage and society’s heteronormativeness makes my gay identity sometimes feel stifled. These clashes of culture make it easy to withdraw and want to hide my sexual orientation, thus playing into societal stereotypes of LGBTQ+ people of colour. 

Opening up about this uneasiness has let me reclaim my identity and celebrate who I am. Persona 4’s depiction of Kanji’s Tatsumi struggling to accept his sexuality, represented through a fight with his inner shadow really struck chords with me. 

The depiction is controversial. But most importantly it’s there. A faithful depiction of a LGBTQ+ character. Not just queer coding. So to me that’s the most important thing- games telling these stories in an authentic way.  


Mel Plays Games

I’m a bisexual retro streamer on twitch. I also struggle with depression, anxiety, and chronic pains.

Being a Bisexual there is a lot of odd stigmas that pressure us. I have, as probably many before me get those odd “but you cant be a bisexual if you are only dating men” or “Bisexuals are always 50/50 of who they are attracted to”, this only serves to amplify stereotypes. It was hard for me to come out as Bisexual but even harder when I mention I’ve only dated cis men, it seemed then that I wasn’t Bisexual enough in some lgbtq+ communities.

Bisexuals experience high rates of being ignored or rendered invisible in the community. I felt left out and it had a negative effect on my health.

Finding a community that fosters a safer place for you to feel welcome has helped me feel more comfortable, I sat in a discord group once and listen to all the stories people talk about being bisexual and the stigma they go through every day, they gave me some helpful articles surrounding bisexual stigmas and now I know I’m not left out, it’s ok to be more attractive to men and still love women or vise versa, you still bisexual despite what you prefer to love the most.

Night in the Woods is a game I really felt connected to, the main character Mae especially, the whole game has a great understanding of going through emotional trauma and gives a good representation of mental health. Mae is dealing with depression and anger issues and trying to repress the feelings she is having, she’s a bit misunderstood but as you go along you see her more compassionate side. I love that about her, it reminds me of me growing up. It was a good escape to play through the story, made me feel ok with what I was going through myself, I felt at peace. If you haven’t tried the game out, I highly recommend you do.


Lilylefae

I’m Lily and I’m a streamer from Brazil. In general, coming to the US and adapting to a new culture was hard, but streaming gave me the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. However, I love seeing other latinx content creators but could also definitely feel the lack of representation. A lot of the latinx streamers I see are born and raised in the US, most of them have an American culture and fit right in. I would love to see more people who have the same struggles as me, who overcame xenophobia and how they did that. I’d just love to see more diversity all around, not only concerning my culture, but every other aspect that needs representation too!


Karen Lee  

I used to spend much of my time in MMOs such as Runescape and World of Warcraft. Being a Canadian-born Chinese who moved to Hong Kong for much of my high school life, online games allowed me to connect back with my North American upbringing with like-minded folks. I mainly played from Hong Kong—meaning I’d stay up late at night so I could properly sync up my playtime with North American servers.

I truly felt that I belonged in these games, despite feeling different from my peers in Hong Kong. There was no judgement based on age, race, geographical location, or gender. We focused on the game and that was it.

I continue to love online multiplayer games. I’m overjoyed that I’m now seeing characters that align with my actual Chinese Canadian heritage! Frost from Rainbow Six Siege is an immediate favourite that comes to mind. However, I’m eager to see even more video game characters and stories develop around the unique culture of Asian-Americans in the future!


Richard Lee Breslin 

Representation comes all in forms. It could be skin colour, upbringing, sexuality, disability, mental wellbeing, and more. In one way or another, whatever our background, representation can be an important aspect of our mental health.

Other than being physically disabled, I’m an adult with autism and up until recently, I was scared to talk about my autism. I was concerned with how society might judge me, even some of my family and friends. However, with the help of social media, I learned that I’m not alone.  

There are loads of people like me from all backgrounds who are on the autistic spectrum. Autism is a different experience for each individual.  But the one thing that connects us all on social media, is that none of us are alone, and we’re all ‘ausome’ 😉”


Emma Withington is a freelance writer and Senior PR at Bastion who has worked on campaigns for a variety of titles, including Control and Final Fantasy XIV: Online.

She is currently spending time focusing on the wider community and how she can help others through her personal journey with mental health.

Twitter

Skills utilised:
News

LGBTQ+ Representation In Games, Organisations and Support for Pride Month

Happy Pride Month everyone! 

We’re proud to spotlight a variety of different things for Pride month, including games with LGBTQ+ representation, organisations and charities doing brilliant work for the LGBTQ+ community, specific resources and helplines.


Support

We have a list of LGBTQ+ specific resources available at our Find Help page, or at our information page.

Albert Kennedy Trust – The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are homeless or living in a hostile environment.

LGBT Foundation – The LGBT Foundation provides advice, support and information for LGBT people via their helpline.

London Friend – A support group for LGBT mental health and wellbeing. They offer specific trans and intersex support.

MindOut – A LGBTQ+ dedicated mental health service. Phone – 01273 234839

TransUnite – TransUnite is a great resource which can help you find your nearest trans support group.

Stonewall – Service Stonewall is a leading LGBTQ+ charity which provides a helpline for any LGBTQ+ person seeking support. Phone – 0300 330 0630 – 10:00am – 10:00pm

Trevor Project – A charity providing dedicated support to LGBTQ+ under 25’s. Phone – 1-866-488-7386 – 24/7/365


Organisations, Groups and Charities

Out Making Games – Out Making Games (OMG) are here to connect and empower the LGBTQ+ community working in the games industry across the UK, by addressing and overcoming the barriers that exist for LGBTQ+ professionals in the industry, both by transforming policies and institutions, and by changing hearts and minds through education. OMG are a partner and friend of Safe In Our World, and we’re delighted to support each other.

Gayming Magazine – The Gayming Magazine is a global magazine for the LGBTQ+ video games community, with games features, news, reviews and events including Digi Pride 2021!

Ukie’s Raise The Game Pledge – #RaiseTheGame is designed to inspire meaningful, cultural and behavioural change in all games businesses, companies and organisations – whatever your size and wherever you are in your journey. We’re proud to work alongside Ukie and be a partner of this pledge.

Trans Lifeline – Trans Lifeline provides trans peer support for our community that’s been divested from police since day one. Run by and for trans people.

Peer2PeerLive – Peer2Peer.Live is an opt-in discoverability tool for marginalized streamers and viewers to find each other through robust identity-based tagging.

Represent Me – A not-for-profit helping marginalised communities through resources, training, and support. Represent Me also has a huge database detailing representation in games here where you are able to search by keywords for to find games based on multiple LGBTQ+ representation options.

LGBTQ+ Representation in Games

As part of Pride Month, we wanted to collate a wonderful list of games, stories, themes and characters that are representative of the LGBTQ+ community.

If you’re looking for a new game to play, it could be in the list below. Having characters to connect to, resonate with or be able to shape to be any identity is incredibly important. Below, we have collated different examples of existing LGBTQ+ representation across a variety of genres of games, and we’d love to hear your favourites too. 

Whilst there are a number of games that feature LGBTQ+ NPCs and protagonists, such as Borderlands, Persona, Overwatch and Valkeryie Chronicles (and lots more), we wanted to highlight a handful below!

If you’re looking for a specific representation and role that they play, Represent.Me as mentioned above is a fantastic place to start!


Coming Out Simulator

Coming Out Simulator 2014 is an interactive fiction video game made by Canadian developer Nicky Case. The semi-autobiographical game was released on 1 July 2014 as a submission for the Nar8 Game Jam. Inspired by real-life events, Coming Out Simulator 2014 is intended to help LGBT youth to understand their sexuality.

Joe Donnelly discussed Nicky Case’s other games which all deliver powerful messages.


The Last Of Us 1 and 2

The Last Of Us features Ellie’s love life which delves deep into her relationship with Dina. Lev identifies as Trans, and Bill and Frank in the first game were in a gay relationship.  


Life Is Strange 1 and 2 

Max identifies as bisexual, with the game featuring other characters within LGBTQ+ as-well. 


Mass Effect   

Mass Effect lets you romance any of the genders and also has LGBTQ+ characters.


Dragon Age 1, 2 and Inquisition

Dragon Age lets you romance any of the genders. It also features LBGTQ Characters.


Ace Attorney 

Jean Armstrong from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials and Tribulations is revealed to be a gay cis man who likes to perform non-passing drag. 


Baldurs Gate 1, 2 and expansions

Dorn II-Khan is Bisexual, Mishena is a Trans Woman.


Destiny

Osiris Saint-14 is gay, the game designer Robert Brooke wrote the two characters as a couple. Despite it being initially vague, in Destiny 2 there was a lot more detail released about their relationship. 


Divinity Original Sin 

Ifan Ben-Mezd, Red Prince, Lohse, Fane, Beast, Sebille and Butter present as Pansexual/Bisexual.  


Fable 1, 2 and 3 

Fable lets you marry, or get in a relationship with NPC townspeople of the same sex.  


Fallout Series

LGBTQ characters with advantages to choosing same sex relationships in New Vegas and other titles within the franchise.


Final Fantasy Series 

  

The game features a lot of LGBTQ+ representation. Final Fantasy 14 also has Gay Marriage.


Shadow Hearts Series

Gay characters with backstories.


The Sims 

The Sims lets you identify who you want to identify as.


The Walking Dead Telltale Series – Features characters that identify as LGBTQ+ 


Stardew Valley – LGBTQ+ you can romance and marry same sex characters.  


Assassins Creed Odyssey – You can romance same-sex characters.    

Skills utilised:
News

A Hero’s Guide To Gardening

A Hero’s Guide To Gardening puts you in the shoes of Noomi who sets off for her first summer at Camp Pitch Pine in where she hopes to become a heroic adventurer. When things don’t quite go to plan, Noomi will have to find the courage to take charge of three struggling botanists. To help them Noomi must get to know them and help solve each of the problems that plague the gardens.

Through A Hero’s Guide To Gardening players will learn about different expressions of emotion and learn strategies for coping with fear, anger, and sadness. Players will also learn about LGBTQ+ themes as well as learning literacy along the way in a wonderfully written and very beautiful interactive story game.

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Coming out, chilling out and welcoming in: the wonderful games of Nicky Case by Joe Donnelly

Nicky Case is a Canadian indie developer whose free and readily accessible browser games challenge us to think differently on a range of sensitive subjects which can hugely impact our mental health.

Coming Out Simulator is a semi-autobiographical text-based adventure that asks players to weigh up the pros and cons of coming out to traditionalist, conservative parents. Parables of the Polygons explores collective cultural bias and how seemingly harmless decisions can have distinctly harmful consequences for segregated communities. And Adventures With Anxiety offers a unique take on exploring the body’s natural response to stress by placing players in control of anxiety itself.

When we talk about video games as learning tools, Nicky’s wholesome, intuitive and thought-provoking games are up there with the best – whether you can relate directly to their subject matters or not, their scope to educate and inform is second to none. They are personable in nature, conversational and perfectly suited as browser games, to be enjoyed free of charge at the click of a mouse.

Here, we examine what makes each game tick and stand out from the crowd.


Coming Out Simulator

Coming Out Simulator claimed first prize at the NR8 Game Jam in 2014, under the theme “stepping outside your comfort zone”. Pulling from Case’s own lived experience, the game introduces its themes subtly at first – via dialogue prompts, players can choose how they broach the subject of coming out: either gingerly, matching their parents’ reprehension; or by doing so with vociferous defiance, rebelling against their parents’ outmoded outlook.

What unfolds is an often comical, sometimes sad, but always enlightening tale which shines a light on narrowmindedness, confidence and courage through the lens of sexuality, being yourself and being accepted for who you are.

As a straight male who grew up in Glasgow in the 1990s, my exposure to the LGBTQ+ scene was limited. Activities or actions which were perceived as different or other were often billed as “gay”, “bent” or “queer”, and while not intended as homophobic slurs, that’s exactly what they are. Games like Coming Out Simulator can help cement the rejection of casual homophobia.

I consider myself a rational-minded person, which means I’ve always appreciated the personal and social challenges coming out must present those who strive to do so. But Coming Out Simulator really helped me understand it – at least, as much as I could from a heterosexual standpoint. By putting me in the shoes of a gay character, I was in turn better able to empathise with the scenario. To this end, it’s no surprise Case has received tonnes of positive feedback from players who’ve found themselves in similar situations in real life.


Parables of the Polygons

Parables of the Polygons is a collaboration between Nicky Case and indie developer Vi Hart which is based on the work of game theorist and Nobel Prize winner Thomas Schelling. In his 1971 academic paper titled ‘Dynamic Models of Segregation’, Schelling outlined how a small preference to live next door to neighbours of the same colour could result in the complete segregation of entire communities – illustrated crudely by coins and graph paper.

In Parables of the Polygons, Case and Hart replicate Schelling’s work with a simple interface that asks players to move blue squares and yellow triangles around a grid in order to encourage diversity. Levels can only be completed when each shape is happy in their allotted space, spared from complete isolation in an area populated by their polygonal opposites. Ultimately, Parables of the Polygons strives to illustrate the so-called “tipping-point” in society and the challenges of achieving total equality. No one naturally wants to be an absolute minority, yet in a world where notions of segregation and pre-conceived stigma persist, even passive bias avoidance doesn’t work – active measures are all that can force change.

Parables of the Polygons was released in 2015, but is arguably more important than ever in today’s ever-divided world. The Black Lives Matter movement alone proves there’s a long way to go in race relations terms on a global scale; while the isolation wrought by the ongoing global pandemic underlines the need to unite and lean into what makes our multicultural societies so special.

At the time of writing, Case and Hart’s game has been translated into 11 languages, including Japanese and Arabic. Now, while I’m of the view games like this can help alter how we view segregation in the real world, I also believe seeing teams of blue squares and yellow triangles smiling together side-by-side will warm your heart in real life.


Adventures With Anxiety

Today, there are so many brilliant video games which explore anxiety through the eyes of their protagonist – Will O’Neill’s Actual Sunlight, Matt Gilgenbach’s Neverending Nightmares and Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest are but a few stellar examples which spring to mind.

But what if a game presented anxiety as the protagonist itself? Hardly orthodox but that’s exactly what Nicky Case’s Adventures With Anxiety does. Mind blown, right?

By asking the player: what is the function of fear? Adventures with Anxiety helps players understand what the function of anxiety actually is and, in turn, better positions them to deal with the disorder in daily life. In practice, the game is an intriguing mix of the puzzle, fighting and narrative adventure genres, and is the result of copious Google Scholar research into various methods of treating anxiety, including CBT, Psychodynamic and humanist therapy.

While keen not to spoil the plot here – you should experience that for yourself – the game ultimately sees players controlling anxiety and the human they look after concurrently, so as to maintain a rounded learning approach.

As someone who has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder, Adventures of Anxiety has made me reconsider how I view anxiety myself, and also how it can affect others different to how it impacts on me. Since its release in 2018, Case has been wowed by players who’ve reported their own therapists to have recommended Adventures With Anxiety, which tells you everything you need to know about its standing in the modern mental health discourse.


Nicky Case’s full repertoire of games is absolutely worth checking out in, however each browser game explored here can be played free-of-charge here:

Coming Out Simulator
Parables of the Polygons
Adventures of Anxiety


Joe Donnelly
Joe Donnelly is a Glaswegian writer, video games enthusiast and mental health advocate. He has written about both subjects for The Guardian, VICE, his narrative non-fiction book Checkpoint, and believes the interactive nature of games makes them uniquely placed to educate and inform.

Skills utilised:
News

Safe In Our World & Ukie Discuss Imposter Syndrome In Games – 29th April

Safe In Our World have teamed up with Ukie to deliver a mental health panel on the 29th April, 16:00 BST.

We’ll be discussing the issues surrounding imposter syndrome within the industry, and how identity and diversity might play into the presence of imposter syndrome, as well as a general mental health discussion within the realm of video games.

Have we got your interest? You can sign up to attend this event free of charge now, just click this link!

As for now, why don’t we introduce you to our wonderful panel of speakers?


Shahid Ahmad

Shahid has been named one of Games Industry International’s Top 10 Persons of the Year and 100 Top Influencers in the British Games Industry, Develop’s 25 People that Changed Games, one of MCV’s Brit List 100 and received Develop’s Publishing Hero award for his team’s role in opening PlayStation up to developers and for commissioning over 100 titles, including No Man’s Sky, Hellblade, The Persistence and Velocity 2X.

Now in his 40th year in the video games industry, Shahid does A&R for Team 17, makes games (Virtue Reality), ports games, helps others make games (Floor 13: Deep State), coaches developers for PlayStation Talents, writes the weekly “Dancing Monkeys” newsletter, podcasts on “Remaster” for Relay FM and is on the advisory board of the BGI. He is the author of “Papa Can I Be” — a short book of verse for children illustrated by Faryal Ahmad. In his spare time, Shahid likes to make music.


Dr. Amiad Fredman

Dr. Amiad Fredman is a medical doctor, and lifelong gamer, dedicated to utilizing the power of games to improve the health and wellness of others.. He is the founder of games for health podcast and content channel, Digital Doc Games, where he explores the intersection of games and medicine. Amiad consults with medical and gaming companies to guide them in the development of innovative and medically accurate games for therapy, education, engagement, or entertainment. He is a proud advocate for mental health awareness, and he is proud to sit on the board of multiple mental health non-for-profits in the gaming industry.

Antonela Pounder

Antonela has been working in the games industry since 2012 and is a Director of Global Community at 505 Games. She’s worked on a number of titles over the years and is now spending most of her days working on Death Stranding, Control and Assetto Corsa. For Antonela, video games have always been a form of escapism and actively wants to highlight the positivity they can bring to people’s lives. When not gaming, Antonela enjoys travelling, Formula 1 and photography. As someone who uses social media on a daily basis, Antonela wants to help change how mental health is seen in the wider world and encourage others to not be afraid to speak out.


Suneet Sharma

Suneet is a legal professional with experience working with the Associated Press, BBC and, currently, SEGA Europe in Legal & Business Affairs. Suneet hopes to bring his lived experience of mental health matters and passion for LGBTQ+ issues to assist Safe In Our World. Suneet loves how videogames can bridge experiences.


Chair: Gina Jackson OBE 

Dr. Gina Jackson OBE is a Video Games Industry pioneer. She was awarded an OBE in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to diversity and education in the Video Games industry, has recently received the MCV/Develop Women in Games award for her outstanding contribution and has a fellowship from Norwich University of the Arts for her contribution to the UK Video Games Industry. Gina started in games development in 1992 and has worked for developers, publishers, and distributors covering console, PC, and mobile games. She is passionate about diversity, games education and mental health with a particular focus on games development and production management and process. She is a trustee of GamesAid, sits on the board at NextGen Skills Academy, is Visiting Professor in Games Industry and Business at the Norwich University of the Arts and is an advisor to several games developers.


 

Skills utilised:
News

A Look at LGBTQ+ Mental Health in the Games Industry by Suneet Sharma

The Ukie UK Games Industry Census from 2020 recently shone a spotlight on many areas of mental health. The focus of this article will be the representation of LGBTQ+ mental health and highlighting some of the key resources that may help those who identify as, or wish to support someone who is, LGBTQ+.

The 2020 survey was the “most comprehensive and detailed assessment of diversity within the UK games industry workforce ever conducted” with over 3,200 games workers providing responses. It found that 21% respondents identified as LGBTQ+, a significantly higher proportion than the national average which sat at between 3-7%. As Safe In Our World states “the videogames industry creates incredible worlds where a huge number of vulnerable people find refuge.”

What is concerning is that the prevalence of depression and anxiety within the LGBTQ+ group was in some cases double the number of cases within the heterosexual community. This was particularly the case with those who identified as bisexual.

Unfortunately, these findings are not surprising. As the survey points out, higher rates of anxiety and depression among LGBTQ+ people are commonplace in society. Feelings of difference and being subject to harassment, persecution and having a lack of role models can all contribute to feelings of isolation. As a gay man who has been diagnosed with depression myself, I can say firsthand that at times I felt isolated and different from my peers, something which contributes to negative thought cycles and patterns. In some cases, people I know have been subject to homelessness as a result of their parents not accepting their LGBTQ+ status. The Albert Kennedy Trust helps young people who face these issues.

Turn your focus to the trans community and you find even more concerning statistics with the census finding that rates of anxiety and depression are almost triple the national average:

Again, these findings were consistent with long term research into long term mental health conditions within the trans community as compared to the cis community.

It is unacceptable that these figures are commonplace. They reflect the different struggles these minorities face in acceptance. However, this does not have to be the narrative in relation to LGBTQ+ people and mental health. Much can be done to help assimilate change and support those who are feel marginalised. Charities such as Mermaids provide excellent support to trans children and their parents with matters such as gender reassignment and mental health.

Out Making Games

OMG is a gaming industry wide LGBTQ+ group that supports its members in their path through the industry. OMG runs events, provides networking opportunities and establishes support for LGBTQ+ people throughout the industry. The Group also publishes guidance for games studios on increasing equality and diversity throughout recruitment and talent retention. Groups like OMG are key to help tackle the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people within the industry and support wellbeing.

We spoke to Michael Othen from Out Making Games (OMG) who said:

“The games industry is becoming a far more diverse and inclusive space, but mental health issues are still disproportionately high. Our goal with Out Making Games is to build a network that supports its members and amplifies their voices, so that we can help make the industry more welcoming, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Resources for LGBTQ+ Mental Health

There are some amazing charities and support groups at the forefront of the difficulties between the intersection of mental health and LGBTQ+ status. These groups acknowledge and focus on the unique challenges faced by these groups, providing bespoke LGBTQ+ services. Here is a short, and by no means exhaustive, list of LGBTQ+ resources that may help you and those you care about in finding support for mental wellbeing. All the services below are free of charge.

A note for allies and parents

It may be that you are an ally or a parent who is concerned about another’s wellbeing. Whilst there is no one size fits all support its important you find a process and outlet that works for the concerned party. Be sensitive to their own journey in respect to both their sexuality and their mental health. Perhaps take steps to educate yourself by contacting one of these groups first so you can provide considered, meaningful support where appropriate. Always remember to respect the privacy of those involved.

 

RESOURCES:

Albert Kennedy Trust

The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are homeless or living in a hostile environment.

LGBT Foundation

The LGBT Foundation provides advice, support and information for LGBT people via their helpline, 0345 3 30 30 30.

London Friend

A great support group for LGBT mental health and wellbeing. They offer specific trans and intersex support.

MindOut

A LGBTQ+ dedicated mental health service. You can call them on 01273 234839 or contact them online for support.

TransUnite

TransUnite is a great resource which can help you find your nearest trans support group.

Trevor Project

A charity providing dedicated support to LGBTQ+ under 25’s.

Stonewall’s Information

Service Stonewall is a leading LGBTQ+ charity which provides a helpline for any LGBTQ+ person seeking support. You can contact their LGBT Switchboard between 10:00am – 10:00pm on 0300 330 0630.

 

Whilst these great organisations and the census itself is a great positive step in the right direction, these figures serve to highlight that the difficulties faced by the LGBTQ+ community are serious and there is always more that can be done. To this end, please follow the links provided if you wish to support these organisations or donate.


*Please note Suneet Sharma is not a mental health professional and this article is based upon opinion and is not a substitute for professional advice.

**A copy of the full Ukie Report can be found here.

Skills utilised:
News

Celebrating Pride Month and supporting LGBTQ+ mental health

June sees Pride Month celebrated all around the globe, and the games industry certainly has a lot to celebrate when it comes to progress in LGBTQ+ representation.

As an example, June will fittingly see the launch of one of the most anticipated games of this year and has an LGBTQ+ lead: The Last of Us Part: II. The team at Naughty Dog haven’t shied away from showing that Ellie is a gay woman, and it appears as if this will be a very present theme in the series’ second game. In an interview with Eurogamer, Vice President of Naughty Dog, Neil Druckmann, rightly says that the game aims to “normalize what is normal”. From The Last of Us to Life is Strange, Mass Effect to Stardew Valley there’s an ever growing list of games that positively feature LGBTQ characters. Conveniently, there’s even a Wikipedia article dedicated to tracking LGBTQ representation in games if you want to find something new to play.

And it’s not just the games themselves that are becoming more diverse. A recent UKIE Games Industry Census found that a staggering 21% of UK games industry employees identified as LGBTQ+. For comparison, estimates for the percentage of the national population that identifies as LGBTQ+ range between just 3% and 7%. Even conservatively, this suggests that the UK games industry is 3 times more diverse in this context.

The same census, however, highlighted that LGBTQ+ employees over indexed in reporting problems with mental health, particularly anxiety and depression. In fact, bisexuals and non-binary/’other’ reported the highest levels of anxiety and depression by quite a significant margin. Unfortunately, it is a universal statistic that LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to suffer from poor mental health at some point in their lives, and game makers are not exempt from this sad reality. This is why we need to continue to strive for improvements in mental health in this industry, both in terms of content created, discussions held and support made available.

Importantly, we need to recognise a need for intersectionality in mental health offerings. This is true of most, if not all, social/political identities. We need to understand that our ability to access mental health resources can be affected by elements of our identity, whether that be LGBTQ+, BAME, disability, and so on. By creating specific mental health resources for particular groups, we can lower the bar of accessing help. As an example, Stonewall found in 2018 that 1 in 7 LGBT people avoid seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination. Whilst we have extensive resources available on our website, we have work to do on ensuring that we source information and help highlight organisations that represent this intersectionality.

For International Pride month, we have expanded our LGBTQ+ Mental Health Resources page to include links to dedicated LGBTQ+ Mental Health organisations. If you have any favourite resources you think we should know about, please reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Equally, we always want to hear about your favourite LGBTQ+ games, so send your suggestions our way.

Happy #Pride gamers, and here’s to another year of celebrating the wonderful contributions of the LGBTQ+ community to our industry.

Skills utilised:
News

no layouts found