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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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ERROR 404: Representation Not Found by Ruby Modica

ERROR 404: Representation Not Found – The Arduous History of LGBTQ+ Representation in Video Games by Ruby Modica

During Pride Month, tolerant and loving people are doing their best to support a colourful yet marginalised community. Awareness posts, beautiful art and donating to charities are just some examples of how people do their bit. But one of the biggest ways change can happen for the better is representation in social climates, such as media and news. This, naturally, includes video games. But even in 2021, despite all the notable progress in the last fifty years, the representation of LGBTQ+ characters in games has been notably lacking.

There have been quite a few notable LGBTQ+ characters first into the breach of modern gaming, and even in the most famous ones of their respective time periods. Grand Theft Auto V has Trevor, Vamp and Volgin from Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 respectively, and the first of their kind were trans women all the way back in 1988, with the advent of characters like Poison on the arcade fighting game Final Fight. However, while this can technically be classed as representation, anyone with an acute knowledge of video games can see another correlation between these: all of them are villains. Over the years, despite the extended diversification of characters in video games, there seemed to be an unwritten rule where the majority of LGBTQ+ characters would be an antagonist in the story. MatPat of Game Theory fame even met this topic with a video questioning if video games were “anti-gay”.

Unlike the more progressive current climate, having any LGBTQ+ character in a game during the 80s could have been seen as a novelty, since games were still in their comparative infancy. It’s easy to forget sometimes that gaming wasn’t a mainstream hobby or business, so there was a lot less concern about what was being developed and put onto a public platform. The first video game content rating system was proposed in 1994, so during these murky early days the rules weren’t clear yet, for both LGBTQ+ representation and video game content.

Unfortunately, when these same rating systems came into place, there wasn’t much progress either. In fact, a lot of backwards steps were taken, with the few LGBTQ+ characters being “straightwashed” in updated/international re-releases. Only characters with small enough representation managed to slip through the cracks. This is because a lot of minorities being represented in games used to be predominantly based on stereotypes, along with unflattering connotations. Another element of this is censorship where studios redact and/or remove LGBTQ+ characters despite the developer’s intention to include them as they are. Final Fight 3/Streets of Rage 3 did this with both homosexual and transgender characters (also designated villains).

Another famous example of this is Birdo, a side character that appears in Super Mario 2. Released in 1988, the game booklet describes Birdo as “male who believes that he is a female” and would rather be called “Birdetta”. This makes her the first transgender character in gaming history. However, in recent times Nintendo seems to have missed an opportunity to celebrate this milestone by announcing her “indeterminate” gender in Super Smash Bros Brawl 20 years later, and subsequently removing all mention of her transgender nature to portray her as a cis woman. As the most noteworthy game development company on the planet, Nintendo’s reluctance to represent a spectrum of gender identity is a shame.

We still have a long way to go to erase the stigma around fair and equal representation in video games, but it isn’t a hopeless case. There have been some stellar examples of increasing representation across the board both past and present, and shows no sign of slowing down. The ever-growing indie market of gaming has allowed small developer teams to put out their own stories, designs, characters, morals and more besides to fill in this deep pit of stigma.

Prime examples of this are ‘Night in the Woods’ and ‘Aerannis’, both of which are indie titles that have inclusivity and representation as factors in ways that aren’t preachy. Unlike the popular game ‘Gone Home’ which is described as a “walking simulator” and gives the player a more passive role in the story, these artistic indie games are full of adventure and action.

Night in the Woods sees Mae returning home after dropping out of college and witnessing the changes both physically and socially. While it is also a story-heavy exploration, the majority of the cast appear somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, with Mae herself being pansexual. There is also Jackie, a transgender girl and several other characters who are gay/bisexual.

These topics are mentioned in very respectful and idealistic ways, so there are no “gay trauma” cliches or stereotypes present making for a unique and inclusive experience. Aerannis is more subtle in its execution, given that you play a transgender hitwoman in a striking retro aesthetic stealth action shooter. The focus is more on gameplay and exciting 2D based battles, but the way indie games are breathing through the tired norm of “cis white straight man” as a protagonist is something to keep an eye on.

It could be said that the indie scene has promoted larger developers to do the same in various games, a major example being gender representation in Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War with a non-binary character option. While character gender choice has been around for a long time in series’ like Fable or Mass Effect, they’ve often been limited to the gender binary. Non-binary people are also gradually increasing in their appearances throughout gaming culture, from protagonists in indie games like Undertale to upcoming triple-A game releases like Goodbye Volcano High coming to the PS5.

In spite of hateful mindsets determined to divide us as people and as a gaming community, positive progress is still clearly being made. To any readers battling with themselves and/or people they know, remember that your sexual/gender identity is valid, and supporting these decisions in games is one of the best ways you can personally raise awareness for LGBTQ+ representation on a global scale.

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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.    

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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.

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