Thanks to my mom I’m a casual Trekkie, and I have fond memories of watching a handful of episodes with her during marathons when I was younger. I’ve even gone on to watch through the original series on Netflix and Next Generation whenever I can catch a marathon. There is just something about exploring new worlds and interacting with alien life and learning about their cultures that I find fascinating. And Star Trek was one of the first sci-fi series (that I know of) to embrace diversity in a time where seeing folks from different racial and ethnic backgrounds just wasn’t a thing. Nichelle Nichols’s portrayal of Uhura on the original series was and still is one of the most culturally significant Black roles ever! Fast-forward today and it’s not uncommon to see a few characters of color woven in to most mainstream series. Just look at Star Trek: Discovery, Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Michael Burnham, the first Black female lead in Star Trek series—which is absolutely monumental!
So, when I came across the 2017 NaNoRenO title, PAIRS—a sci-fi romance that not only embraces diversity, but also had not one but TWO Black female leads… I knew I had add it to my game library. PAIRS follows two unique couples—Carmelita and Ricardo, two heroes in training and James, Kitten Pink (Noiya), a human baker and an alien warrior princess— in the midst of an ongoing alien war between Earth and the invading Naian people.
The game gives players a chance to walk a mile in the shoes of each couple and experience the ups and downs of each relationship from the perspectives of both partners, which is something you don’t see often in romance games. But, it is the game’s unique premise that I love, how many sci-fi romance games have you played lately? It’s a welcome change from the slice-of-life romance games I see popping up every other week.
But, what initially drew me to PAIRS was the inclusion of the game’s two Black-coded female characters—Kitten Pink and Carmelita. I actually had the chance to sit down with the developer Jessinia and she revealed that she created these characters in response to the overabundance of “white or east-Asian coded” characters traditionally found in sci-fi media. Which is why it was so important to her to create games with a diverse blend of characters—the fact that Kitten Pink, despite being Naian (the alien race in the game) and having bluish-green skin and pink hair, has distinctly Black features. While Carmelita is more visually “Black” with her rich chocolate complexion and dark curly hair. Each character is extremely well written, and you really get a sense of them as characters and people first and foremost—and not as trope characters.
I could seriously go on and on about PAIRS, so if you wanna know more read the full review I wrote or go play the game for yourself! PAIRS offers a unique sci-fi fantasy experience with a compelling premise and fun characters. Jessinia is currently working on another visual novel, Ocean Pearls, which features a Black heroine who finds herself drawn into the underwater world of merpeople. So definitely keep your eyes peeled for that!!