Voices of the Community – Game Devs on LGBTQ+ Representation in Games

Hey Blerdy Tribe! It’s Pride Month and that means every site and major company is decked out in all their rainbow colored branding and for one short month the LGBTQ+ community is on the front page of everyone’s newsfeed. It’s a time of celebration for how far the community has come over the years, but also for how wonderfully multifaceted the LGBTQ+ community is and continues to be.

Throughout the month, queer people and stories have been at the forefront of everyone’s consciousness, with companies using queer individuals to promote their products and brands. But, for many in the community they don’t have the luxury of being able to speak on their own behalf or the safety to be their true authentic selves. Or worse, people from outside of the community will do the talking for them…

While we’re making strides to create safe spaces for folks, there is still a ways to go especially in some nerd spaces and fandoms. The gaming sphere is especially notorious for being unkind to folks who aren’t white cishet men. So I’m glad that more folks are starting to branch out and create their own independent projects.

This Pride Month, I wanted to take a step back and create a space for folks from the LGBTQ+ community to speak their truth–because Blerdy Otome is and always will remain a safe space. So, I did a call for Queer game devs/folks working in the gaming industry to participate in an “interview” where they shared their thoughts and their experiences on being queer in the gaming community. The response was overwhelming and I want to thank everyone who lent their voices to this project–you all are the real MVPs! So, enough of me, let’s turn things over to the amazing folks!

To see individual responses, click the colored bar to reveal. You can click the colored bar again to close.

Q1. Thank you for taking the time to sit down and chat with me! I want to give my readers a chance to get to know you a bit better. What are your pronouns? Could you please tell me a bit about who you are and what you do within the gaming industry?

Serena – Dulcet Games (She/Her)

Hello! I’m Serena (she/her) and I’m the co-founder, COO and game manager of Dulcet Games. I’m also the main writer of Sweet Elite (https://www.dulcetgames.com/sweetelite/) , an otome-inspired visual novel with 10 love interests (5 guys, 5 girls) and a protagonist that can be customized to be male, female or non-binary. At Dulcet Games, I basically oversee the development of all of our games, as well as coach our writers to write the best story they can.

We’re a very small, independent gaming company. My team and I have developed a game engine that allows creators to create their own visual novel without any code! No Ren’Py, no Unity, nothing. We just take their stories and help bring them to life! We’re still a startup, with the aim of reaching mainstream one day and being an authority in interactive fiction. I’ve been writing for a little over 12 years now. Business-wise, I graduated with a double major in accounting and finance not long ago, and so, I founded the startup with virtually no experience, during my college years. We’ve been operational since 2016, and I am proud to say that working at Dulcet is now my day job!

My first ever game was Pokemon FireRed, and I’d say I’ve been into gaming ever since! I identify as bisexual.

Bean Borg – Blue Mammoth (They/Them)

Hello! I am Bean Borg, an autistic and queer game developer. I am agender and my pronouns are they/them. Professionally I work as a programmer at a Blue Mammoth, and by night I work on small games and procedural animations. I have 5 years of experience, most of which is just from game jams and personal projects. The first game that really sparked my creative juice was Tricky Truck, which had a pretty rudimentary level editing tool. It allowed you to extrude, merge, and subtract shapes, but with just that limited toolset combined with a robust physics engine you had enough to create beautiful and interesting maps. Working with these limitations is easier to learn, and a fun creative challenge! Fast forward to now, my engine of choice is PICO-8 because it shares many of those same qualities by providing several limitations as if you were working with an 8-bit computer.

Becky Cunningham – Velvet Cupcake Games (She/They)

Hi! My name is Becky Cunningham and my pronouns are she/they. I’m bi/pan and identify as a non-binary woman. I’m the owner and lead developer of Velvet Cupcake Games, a micro-indie studio developing our first otome, Made Marion. Prior to that, I was a freelance video game writer/reviewer for sites such as RPGamer.com and GamesRadar+. I’ve been a gamer since the early ’80s and have worked in the game industry since 2009.

I’ve been gaming for so long that I can’t remember exactly what first sparked my interest, but I’m pretty sure you had to type BRUN on my Apple IIc to start it. Some highlights of my early gaming years were Sierra’s The Dark Cauldron, Dungeon Master (one of the first gridders), and The Bard’s Tale (the original from waay back). The game that got me hooked on otomes was Hustle Cat! Custom pronouns, cute men and women to romance, and cats… what could be better?

Tangled Virus – (They/Them)

My pronouns are They/Them. I’m TangledVirus, I’m an indie visual novel dev from Brasil, I make games about weird LGBT people. I’ve been making visual novels for three years now. The game that sparked my interest in gaming? That would be the original Castlevania. I identify as an agender lesbian.

AFNarratives – (She/Her)

Hello! I’m AFNarratives, she/her, and I am a Black, Caribbean, and queer woman in games! My focus is games writing, but I also have published games research and am developing some of my own games in my spare time! I have less than a year of experience, and my interest in games started with the Sly Cooper series when I was a child.

D.E. Chaudron – Larian Studios (They/Them)

Hello! I’m D.E. Chaudron (they/them) and I’m a queer and nonbinary video game developer, primarily focused on writing and narrative design. I started out working in mobile games, made the jump to indie for a little while, and then took a job at Larian Studios where I’ve worked for the last two years. I’ve been in the industry for seven years in total. My interest in games was sparked by the original Baldur’s Gate, which is funny, because I work on Baldur’s Gate 3 now!

Jaime Scribbles – Jaime Scribbles (She/Her)

Hi! I’m Jaime Scribbles, she/her, disaster bisexual. I’ve been gaming since I was a wee one with games like King’s Quest and Mario. After discovering visual novels were a thing I decided to start making my own. That was about 5ish years or so ago, and I’m now working on my third commercial project: In Blood. I do the writing and programming and I dabble in UI design, as well as everything on the business side.

Maxi aka Sandra Molina – (They/He)

My name is Maxi or Sandra Molina, also known as SandraMJ on the internet. Pronouns are they/he!

I’m a 25-year-old Spanish trans-masc/non-binary pansexual Spanish Voice Director, Art Director, 2D Artist, translator, writer and generally a person wearing too many hats in the indie scene for 5 years now!

Before that, I used to be a comic book colorist working for major companies (DC comics, Blizzard, Dark Horse) for 8 years, but a bad wrist injury at 21 that forced me to retire extremely early made me realize that I didn’t enjoy life being a cog for companies, working on projects I didn’t enjoy. So I decided to set out on my own, and began working on The Hayseed Knight mostly on my own using all my skills to reinvent myself and start anew!

The game that first made me want to start making videogames was probably Spyro 2, but nothing obsessed me quite as much as Digimon World PS1 and Dog Sheep n’ Wolf. Those two made me realize the narrative and design possibilities games had, and made me dream of the future that awaited larger and more complex games!

Jane Titor – Part Time Storier – (Any Pronouns)

My name is Jane Titor. I’m bisexual and non-binary, and I’m okay with any pronouns. I develop indie games, mostly visual novels, sometimes by myself and sometimes with small teams. I released my first one about four years ago, after spending a few years before that just playing around with different engines and working on some projects that didn’t end up being completed. I first started playing video games on the PlayStation as a child in the 90s and early 2000s, and I especially loved Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot Warped, and Final Fantasy VII. I became interested in developing visual novels and other story-based games when I started exploring that genre more around 2012, with titles like Magical Diary: Horse Hall and Analogue: A Hate Story.

Laine aka korayiko – They/Them

Hi, my name is Laine aka ‘korayiko’, I go by they/them, and I’m a pixel developer and visual novel writer from Montreal, Quebec! I make small pixel games about stories of LGBTQ+ issues. I am an indie developer at the minute, but I am looking to find a full-time video game writing gig in my country; I have about 2 and a half years in writing, a whole year in full-on video game making. And I am non-binary!

Alanna Linayre – Team Toadhouse – She/Her

Hello! I’m Alanna Linayre and my pronouns are she/her. I’m the Founder and Creative Director at Team Toadhouse and indie studio Toadhouse Games. We make visual novels that aim to destigmatize mental illness and many of our characters are LGBT. I’ve personally been working professionally in the game industry for 5 years now.

Tabby – She/Her

I’m Tabby (she/her), a writer and indie visual novel developer! I’ve been lurking the EVN dev scene since around 2011 or so, and started making VNs properly in 2015. While I’m mostly a writer, as it often goes with EVN development, I end up handling directing and project management for my own stuff.

Of all the things that sparked my interest in visual novels, it was definitely the horror BL game Togainu no Chi*. I was thrilled as a baby lesbian fresh out of high school to see a game where you could be gay. During the 2000s, there was broadly just a real lack of LGBTQ+ media anywhere and I definitely ended up being someone that was delighted by the discovery of BL, which, while not perfect, offered me gay people existing and not being miserable because of their gayness, and existing as people beyond their sexuality. At the time, YA novels were what I had, and they were largely “Being LGBT is miserable and terrible” or “This character exists to be gay and come out and that’s IT.”

Like, not that Togainu no Chi is a happy story about gay people being gay, it is certainly an incredibly messy horror story, but damn I got to read about a dude having romance with other dudes and like, he wasn’t being subjected to hate crimes? Just other kinds of shitty violence? Rad. It’s certainly messed up in many ways, and I don’t know that I actively recommend it but… it was the kind of story I needed at the time, and it really resonated with me.

*I played the patch version from 2012, in the dark days before it got an official release.


Q2. The gaming industry has typically targeted the bulk of its attention towards white cis men, producing games and stories with them at the center. But, in truth gamers are much more diverse and while some studios have made efforts to create more inclusive games there is still a bit of a gap between the number of games available for gamers from underrepresented groups. How important is representation to you? How do you feel about queer and LGBTQ+ representation in the gaming industry today?

Serena – Dulcet Games (She/Her)

I’m so glad you asked that question. As I mentioned in my introduction, my background is different from that of the typical game dev: I’m not a coder. I’m not a professional writer. I’m not an artist (very far from it, though I’d say my stick figures aren’t bad!). I’m a businesswoman that happens to be passionate about storytelling. This has allowed to see things from a unique perspective in regard to representation: business research and analysis!

Alright bear with me before I bore you to death, haha! You mentioned that the industry has typically targeted the bulk of its attention towards white cis men. While founding my gaming startup, I had to do a lot of research on the market, on who gamers actually are. I expected my results to show something similar. I expected women and LGBTQ+ players to be a huge minority, for them to make up maybe only 1-2% of the gaming world. Turns out, I was completely wrong. Women made up more than 80% of the buying power of the industry (!!!) and LGBTQ+ women in particular were shown to be the most active in terms of fandom, sales, and spreading the word on games they enjoyed. It absolutely blew my mind, and I knew that there were demographics out there, hungry for content that made them feel seen. That made them feel included. These people were doing so much work, so much emotional labor, for developers and creators that wouldn’t even acknowledge them. It was absolutely crazy to me.

This, representation, to me, is the key to bridging the gap between what we think the gaming community is, and what it really is. It’s the key to giving marginalized people a voice. It’s a key to LGBTQ+ people getting their foot into all spheres of society. Gaming in itself is an interactive form of media: when you play, you are immersed. You often feel like you’re in that world, yourself. Therefore, at least in my opinion, representation in game carries a lot more weight than most other mediums. After all, seeing representation is great, but living it is even better.

Bean Borg – Blue Mammoth (They/Them)

Representation has become more important to me as I became more aware of my existence as a queer person in an uncaring world. Seeing that there are people like you is incredibly uplifting and empowering. Representation in mainstream gaming is still in a shoddy space, because of gamers, who tend to be a loud and ignorant crowd. To them there are two genders – male and political; two races, white and political, etc. There are big games who will go forward despite this though, and that can mean so much to so many people.

Becky Cunningham – Velvet Cupcake Games (She/They)

Representation is very important to me! In the late ’90s and early ’00s, I was often the only woman/LGBT person speaking up in conversations on gaming forums. I got a lot of flack for suggesting that games with romance options should provide LGBT options. I even had a BioWare developer tell me (back in the Baldur’s Gate II days) that there simply weren’t enough women and LGBT players to justify creating content for them.

Things are a fair bit better now, with an excellent up-and-coming LGBT-friendly indie VN scene and support from some mainstream companies like BioWare. We’ve still barely seen any canon queer protagonists from mainstream game companies, but I think we’ll get there.

I think the mainstream game industry, particularly in North America, needs to get over its weird Puritan views about sex and sexuality. Games can be rated for mature players just like movies are, and those games should be allowed to have sexual content without people freaking out over it. I’d rather have a respectful and consensual sex scene than a gory disembowelment scene in my game, personally. No shade to horror gamers; y’all are valid too, it just bugs me how much violence is seen as ok while people clutch their pearls over the slightest hint of sexuality – and this particularly disadvantages LGBT representation.

Tangled Virus – (They/Them)

To me, representation is only important when it’s about the people making the games. The AAA game industry will use in-game representation as a marketing tool, as a way to get people to say that the big companies that make these games are allies when in reality the people making the games are in its majority-white cishet people. We only get meaningful representation when the people behind games are from marginalized backgrounds, otherwise, it’s just marketing. To me, representation only matters when it’s marginalized people doing it.

Now, about queer and LGBT+ representation in gaming today… If it’s from a AAA studio, then it’s pure marketing, with no substance behind it. Now if it’s from an indie game, then you’ll see that some meaning behind it, it comes from a place of want or passion.

AFNarratives – (She/Her)

Representation is very important to me, because when I was younger, I never saw protagonists that looked like me, and even more when I realized that I was queer. Currently, games are more diverse both in the race and sexuality of their characters, but there is still a need for games content featuring queer people of color.

D.E. Chaudron – Larian Studios (They/Them)

Representation has been important to me from the very beginning. I’m lucky that my first producer was already out when she hired me, and defended my pronouns to a company that had very little experience with nonbinary people at all. We ended up releasing over half a dozen LGBTQ+ stories together on a mobile app, including Pride specials years before most studios had even considered the idea.

Representation now is complex. We’re certainly making progress on some fronts – there’s a lot more gender-neutral phrasing in body type selections in games, for example – and AAA titles like Apex Legends have a nonbinary character front and center. But in truth, the majority of good queer representation still comes from independent titles. There are many queer folks, especially trans women, who have been releasing incredible games on itch.io that don’t get the recognition or payment they deserve. Freya C (https://communistsister.itch.io/) is a great example there.

Jaime Scribbles – Jaime Scribbles (She/Her)

Representation is slowly getting better if you’re looking exclusively at the big AAA titles, but indie titles small and large are decades ahead in this. It’s what I find to be the best part about indie games. They’re free to tell their own stories, and it is where you will find a wealth of marginalized devs telling unique stories through the medium. In this aspect indie games win over AAA every time.

I always want to see myself reflected in media, so I understand that desire from other people. I think representation is important for making people feel seen and has the added benefit of normalizing marginalized identities in the eyes of everyone.

Maxi aka Sandra Molina – (They/He)

Representation is absolutely essential, to all of us. It lets us know there are other people like us out there, that we’re not broken. That we can be happy and successful too.

Though we have a long way to come, devs have been generally increasingly supportive even at an AAA level. We often encounter backlash at the consumer level, but their gatekeeping attempts won’t keep us out– we’ve always been here, and now that our voice is loud enough that they can no longer ignore us, we have to keep pushing for the space we deserve to take up.

Jane Titor – Part Time Storier – (Any Pronouns)

While there’s obviously still a long way to go in terms of representation in AAA games, I think the industry has taken some steps in the right direction recently, and I’m optimistic about the future. To use a couple of my favourite franchises as an example, The Sims 4 removed all the gender-based limitations on things like clothing and makeup for your Sims a few years ago, and Crusader Kings 3 added bisexual characters when the previous game only had the options of gay or straight. And in my experience, indie games have a fantastic community of LGBTQ+ developers representing a variety of identities in their work, like npckc’s A Year of Springs series, and Heather Flowers’s Extreme Meatpunks Forever, to name only a couple. I’d definitely recommend that anyone looking for more representation in games spend some time browsing itch.io, where you can find plenty of diverse and creative projects and support small creators telling their stories.

Laine aka korayiko – They/Them

Although the industry has been dominated by those groups, I can understand the frustration of seeing the same generic white cishet women or men for a main protagonist, and with the recent inclusion of more LGBTQ+ representation in developers and characters in games alike, I am really happy about what can be the future! Although some representation can be a tad too heavy-handed, it’s fairly appreciated among the LGBTQ+ gaming community (I presume.) Representation is extremely important in my opinion, mostly as a change of taste and a respectful way to sort-of showcase a video-game companies’ acceptance of the LGBTQ+ and other minority groups.

Alanna Linayre – Team Toadhouse – She/Her

I actively advocate for diversity, both in character casts in games and in the teams creating the games. I work with cultural consultants and sensitivity readers for all of our games, so that our Players will hopefully see themselves in our characters, written authentically and respectfully. I believe that more than anything, most humans want to be accepted, seen, and understood, as well as loved. I want our games to make our Players feel that. I also would love it if our games were an extension of self-expression for people. Sometimes people don’t have the right words to explain how they feel or what they are going through, but they can point to our games and show their loved ones a character, and then by playing that character, their loved ones can understand their situation more.

Furthermore, the statistics for anxiety, depression, and PTSD within the gaming industry are higher for queer game devs than the cishet male counterparts. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can help even the playing field. I believe that by having more diverse voices involved during game development, creates better games and improves the experience of creating games. If you aren’t the only queer person on the dev team, and someone says something bigoted or misgenders you for example, it hopefully won’t be up to just you to correct that person. We can support and advocate for each other, so the burden isn’t only on the person who was wronged.

Tabby – She/Her

Representation matters to me a lot! Like, I don’t need every game I play to allow for queerness, and previously I didn’t think I cared about the option much for myself so much as wanting other people to not have to grow up without being able to see themselves in games. However, when I played Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town for Switch a few months ago, the ability to play as a girl and marry a girl and have her call me her wife and all of that was genuinely euphoric! I was used to playing games as a boy if I wanted to romance girls, or playing as a girl to romance boys (I do like otome games quite a bit), but the opportunity to be gay and have the narrative not shy away from that was an absolute joy I hadn’t really felt before.

More recently, I’ve also been playing Gnosia! Which has a couple of textually nonbinary characters that’s pretty refreshing, with only one of them being an alien. This isn’t a romance game, but there is undeniable chemistry between the MC and some of the characters that doesn’t require you to set the MC as one gender or another in order to experience it.

I can’t talk about the horror game MAMIYA A Shared Illusion of the World’s End much without getting into spoilers, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the way one of the characters not being cis was handled. Whether they’re trans or nonbinary is up in the air, but they’re definitely not cis, and their story is handled with nothing but sincerity.

I’m delighted by the progress I’ve been able to perceive in my own lifetime, though at the same time it’s pretty slow going and I would like it to not take a million more years for queer characters to organically exist in games. Like, we celebrate the wins of queer characters existing in AAA games, and they are wins, but I’d like it to be so commonplace we don’t have to celebrate anymore.


Q3. As a developer, gamer, and/or person working in the industry, what does good LGBTQ+ representation look like to you? What does “bad” representation look like? Either from your own work or from other works?

Serena – Dulcet Games (She/Her)

Good representation to me is actually very simple: does the character feel like a real person? Did the author go the extra mile to make them a complex human being with their own dreams, desires, and agency? Are they allowed to be the hero of their own story or do they feel like they only exist to serve a purpose to straight white male character? Good representation must make it clear to the players, beyond any reasonable doubt, that this character is treated with the same amount of respect than any other by the development team.

Bad representation is basically the opposite of everything I listed above, haha! I mean, the whole “black person is the first one to die” and “gay best friend that adds nothing but ~quirkiness~ to the story” are hated and memed upon tropes for a reason: often, these characters don’t feel like real people. Bad representation tends to happen when a bunch of executives force the writers to resort to tokenism to half-ass their way into more profits. That or when the writers themselves get lazy or scared to take risks.

I am aware that my responses might seem overly simplistic, but I believe that’s the irony behind all of the discussion about this topic: representation shouldn’t, and isn’t, difficult. It’s not complicated. Does it require a lot of research? Yes. But I think that if it’s done from the heart and with genuine intent, you can’t really go wrong. People will obviously make mistakes, but I think the LBGTQ+ community is very forgiving when you show that you’ve put in the effort. The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to try your best.

In summary: good representation is just good writing.

I think examples of bad representation are so common in media that I don’t see the point of me giving them more of a platform that they already have. Instead, I’d like to spread a bit more positivity and point to my favorite example of good rep: Sex Education on Netflix! The queer rep in that show is absolutely chef’s kiss. As a writer, I actually took notes while watching! It’s not a game, but it’s the best example I can give.

Bean Borg – Blue Mammoth (They/Them)

I like a good “punch nazis” story cough cough Meatpunks, but I truly adore seeing positive vibes out in the wild. For me, the best LGBTQ content is where queer people can just exist in the world and it’s fine and normal. Wandersong is a game that pulls this off very well, with a nonbinary protagonist and several casually gay characters, but I’m discovering more and more indie games that do this! Bad representation would I think rely on either distasteful tropes or a character’s identity being used as the butt of a joke – no perpetrators are coming to mind though.

Becky Cunningham – Velvet Cupcake Games (She/They)

For me, good representation is when characters are people who are LBGT. This doesn’t mean that the character can’t be loud and proud if that’s who they are. It means they are full people who are both LGNT and many other things. They have interests, goals, and motivations beyond their sexual orientation. Of course, we are all influenced by our experiences of living in society as LGBT people, but nobody’s life is only about being LGBT. I personally try to give every LGBT character a development arc that’s not just about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Tangled Virus – (They/Them)

Good LGBT+ rep comes when the queer character in itself is simply a character and the fact that they are queer isn’t used to make them suffer or be humiliated. Or to be the butt of a joke(Usually an offensive one.). A bad LGBT rep is the opposite of that. A good example in my mind is Lev in the Last of Us 2, in a game where there’s a whole set of issues that he could have with his life the devs pick the fact that he’s trans to make it the source of cheap, uninspired drama. Again, AAA games will never be good about these things.

D.E. Chaudron – Larian Studios (They/Them)

Good LGBTQ+ representation is layered. It’s easy for a large company to stick a rainbow flag icon in a loot box and call that inclusive, but if they’re not making sure players that use that icon aren’t being abused and harassed, actual queer people are being harmed. It’s also important that LGBTQ+ developers – especially ones that aren’t white – get to work and thrive in the industry. If a studio or team is built from the ground up to be inclusive like this, good representation in a game is far easier to create.

There should be room for messy, imperfect LGBTQ+ characters that get to make the same mistakes and endure the same trials as any video game protagonist, but also survive and achieve victory at the end. Hades probably has one of my favorite examples there in Zagreus.

Jaime Scribbles – Jaime Scribbles (She/Her)

I personally try to be forgiving when it comes to representation, if it is by a marginalized developer. I think as long as someone tries their best to do research and not talk over voices that aren’t theirs then it can’t be properly “bad”.

Bad representation to me would be fetishizing, ignorant portrayals from developers who aren’t part of the community, and who have no respect for the people they’re portraying. They’ll often use obvious bad language, slurs, and outdated stereotypes to define the character, or even fetish language. Whether it is framed as a joke (from someone outside of that community), or just unintentional ignorance you can tell when someone doesn’t do their due diligence and it speaks to a dangerous lack of respect.

Maxi aka Sandra Molina – (They/He)

Good representation, in my opinion, is the one that exists in the game’s world openly. It’s a matter of fact, another part of life for a character. It’s something that characters aren’t afraid of talking about and living, or even in stories more focused on queer trauma, hatred and the fear in coming out, it’s something that characters still explore. Personally, I really think that as long as the culture of your game stories addresses sexuality and gender openly, you don’t need to say it every time– the way I see it, you don’t have to go out of your way to have a character say they’re trans, or show a character flirting with different genders for them to be bisexual, for them to be– but some people definitely disagree there and prefer to be shown.

Bad representation is that which attempts to justify its own existence. It’s that which is only mocked and that exists for a character to suffer and die. It’s a footnote for a character that appears two seconds on screen. It’s any headline Disney could write.

Jane Titor – Part Time Storier – (Any Pronouns)

I think it’s difficult to make a blanket statement about what’s good representation and what’s bad. Something that appears to conform to negative stereotypes or be otherwise potentially harmful to one person might also be what another person really relates to and feels speaks to their experience in some way. I think that what’s more important than trying to define good or bad representation is simply encouraging a wider variety of representation of different kinds of characters in different works, as well as normalizing content warnings so people can easily avoid the kinds of representation they might have issues with.

For instance, I read a visual novel a while ago in which one character came out as bisexual, and another character reacted negatively and dismissively, essentially telling them that they were confused and needed to make up their mind about whether they were gay or straight. I don’t think it’s wrong to depict that kind of thing happening—a lot of bisexual people (and pansexual people, and anyone else who’s attracted to more than one gender) have probably had unfortunate experiences like that, and might appreciate seeing that reality reflected in media. But it wasn’t something I wanted to read about, and I would have liked a content warning for biphobia so that I could have avoided it or at least been more emotionally prepared.

On the other hand, some representation I did really enjoy recently was in the visual novel Psycholonials, which centers around some complex queer characters struggling with a variety of both mundane and surreal issues. But I’ve also heard some negative reactions from other players who felt that some of the jokes the characters made came across as biphobic—whereas I saw the exact same dialogue as a funny and relatable representation of the kind of banter some queer people like me and my friends make amongst themselves. It just goes to show that not all representation can be for everyone, because the world is full of totally different queer people with different experiences who want different things from the media they consume.

Laine aka korayiko – They/Them

I’d say “good” LGBTQ+ representation would be like, having a main character or a main relationship being LGBTQ+ based, lightly handled but extremely important when need be, and can be an easy way to make plot points and plot twists.

I’d say “bad” LGBTQ+ representation would either be, it is way too heavy-handed, as in it may be referenced or even used every few sentences of dialogue; when there is supposed to be a main story or plot, but completely ignored. Which is jarring if the only personality trait your main character has is a sexuality, and it comes off disrespectful, and it mostly turns me off of the game, thinking the game is trying to pander off the minds of youth or adults that want a relaxing game, only to be annoyed by the lack of plot.

Alanna Linayre – Team Toadhouse – She/Her

Bad representation pushes negative and harmful stereotypes. Good representation makes those being represented feel proud and want to share that game with their friends. I believe our games have good representation. I think indie visual novels are thriving with great LGBT representation. For years, visual novels have been a way for LGBT people to express themselves and tell their stories.

Tabby – She/Her

To start with, I have some complex feelings around good vs bad rep. There’s absolutely instances of representation that I cannot stand, that I don’t feel like is good, but I know other people definitely glom onto as what they need. Obviously, it’s not good representation when a character is based off of stereotypes, whether they’re outright bigoted or more pernicious, but I can’t say I never latched onto poorly written queer characters because seeing them at all is what I needed at the time. Like, we don’t need MORE of them, but I think part of good vs bad representation is very individualistic.

With that said, for me the kind of representation that I don’t like is things broadly under the “wholesome” umbrella. It’s not as though I’ve never written this kind of thing (A Wave of Lights is certainly in this vein of stories), and it’s not as though I think there’s no place for it, OR that I’ve never enjoyed this kind of storytelling, but to me, it’s the majority, and there’s such an emphasis on not writing “bad” rep that characters come out flat and lifeless. Cute, certainly, but they don’t compel me and they don’t feel like people. Like, I’d rather play a game with some queer characters that aren’t perfect, maybe the writer definitely leaned on some unpleasant stereotypes, but get to experience characters that grow and feel like people rather than a dating sim where the writers seem so afraid of fucking up that there’s no conflict or character growth.

As for good representation… I really just want to see queer characters that exist and are allowed to be as flawed and layered as cishet characters are allowed to be? Like I’ve certainly known plenty of queer people that are assholes as much as I’ve met queer people that are kind and good, because, you know, goodness and your orientation and gender have nothing to do with each other. Why shouldn’t games reflect that? I want to see queer characters that compel me to learn more about them, queer characters that inspire joy and frustration–I really just want to experience queer characters that feel like people.


Q4. One person does not represent their entire group and even within the LGBTQ+ community, your experiences are wholly your own. What are some challenges that you have faced being LGBTQ+ in the gaming industry? What are some successes?

Serena – Dulcet Games (She/Her)

I think the biggest struggle I’ve personally experienced is related to my bisexuality. I’m very happy that more and more queer stories are being told in the mainstream. However, I’ve found that biphobia will still be very rampant, even in stories that feel LGBT friendly. You’ll have a bisexual character enter a same-sex relationship and everyone cheers. But then, that same character could experience attraction for the opposite sex and suddenly, people are all up in arms.

There’s also the whole weird fetishizing thing that happens in the gaming community, being reduced to your sexuality. In my case my bisexuality. When did playing games together suddenly turn into a discount dating service? Like, what is up with “gamer” guys wanting a hot bisexual gamer girlfriend who’s down for threesomes? And the gatekeeping of certain communities of gamers? Or how some gamers will claim that having one (1) gay character in the game is pandering? Give me a break. I just want to play some games and make friends, man.

That being said, I think one of our biggest triumphs as LGBTQ+ gamers have been to normalize our experiences. I’ve been going to conventions (circa COVID-19, of course) for years now, and the diversity, even just within 5 years, has radically increased. Ten years ago, people would’ve complained left and right about needing to play as a woman/POC/queer character. That’s been significantly reduced nowadays: gamers, for the most part, just want good games.

Of course, bigots still exist within the community, but I’ll take any progress I can get and then push for more!

Bean Borg -Blue Mammoth (They/Them)

I’m very thankful that so far my personal experience has been pretty tame, as far as the intersection of game development and queerness. I’m a part of a couple dev communities and they’ve all been great to me! And although I’m always trying to get more followers, being terminally indie has the upside that I’m not really getting harassed by any strangers, since I’m just not big enough for them to find me. The successes of these communities is a comforting sense of belonging, as well as helpful resources.

Becky Cunningham – Velvet Cupcake Games (She/They)

During the ’90s and early ’00s it was hard enough being somebody read as “female” in the game industry before we even got to my sexual orientation. I met a lot of great people, particularly in the Canadian game industry, but I also had incidents like some PR people from Rockstar who assumed that my silent cameraman was the journalist when I had walked right up to them with my notebook and started speaking to them.

Most of my experiences of prejudice were of exclusion, denial, and general microaggressions rather than straight-out bigotry. Those experiences can be even harder to deal with, because they’re easy for people to deny. On the upside, I’ve also found some wonderful and inclusive gaming communities like the staff at RPGamer and several smaller otome communities. Made Marion’s backers are, as a group, fantastically diverse and open to people of all identities and backgrounds. I love them very much.

Tangled Virus – (They/Them)

I mostly work on my own, I do work with others sometimes so there was never an issue with the fact that I’m agender, so there’s that.

AFNarratives – (She/Her)

My biggest success being LGBTQ+ in the game industry was finding community with other queer game developers of color. For a long time, I believed that I would never be able to find a space where I would find an intersection between my race, my sexuality, and my love of games, but now I have and can see all the cool projects that I wish I could have seen when I was younger.

D.E. Chaudron – Larian Studios (They/Them)

The challenge has always been getting higher-ups to see LGBTQ+ characters as important in their own right, and that they need to go to bat for diversity. As mentioned above, I’ve been fairly lucky in that regard, but it’s still intimidating being one of the only (possibly the only?) people in a 300+ employee company who openly uses they/them pronouns. I do deeply appreciate my coworkers in other countries who have spoken to me about adjusting pronouns in languages that don’t do gender neutrality in the same way as English.

The bigger the project, often the harder you have to push for inclusive content, because at the end of the day, many game studios consider our existence to be optional. And in the spaces – like say, visual novels – where LGBTQ+ representation is quite common, the entire genre is often written off as garbage by the broader industry, which is another problem.

Jaime Scribbles – Jaime Scribbles (She/Her)

My biggest wake up call was when I released As We Know It. I was barred from promoting the game on the otome subreddit (it had too many female romance options), and I was hit by a few offensive messages as well as low sales. I wish I could say it didn’t affect me, but it did. I dropped a female love interest from In Blood that I’d been starting to concept out because I knew it would limit my marketing abilities. I also had pushback on the amount of diversity AWKI had, and saw a clear difference in which characters people gravitated towards.

I felt like I didn’t belong in the otome “crowd” as well as not fitting into the LGBTQ+ crowd. This is just how the bisexual experience often is, straddling two groups where I am either “too gay” or “too straight” to properly fit in anywhere.

In the years I’ve been making In Blood I’ve seen a shift though, and have started to feel more welcomed in the LGBTQ+ crowd as well as the less “purist” otome crowd. As We Know It has slowly picked up and I’ve seen more and more very diverse games come out and be popular. I feel safer now as a dev pushing my boundaries on future projects when it comes to women and genderqueer romance options as well as showcasing POC characters.

Maxi aka Sandra Molina – (They/He)

Life was definitely easier before I came out as trans masc, as I was commonly invited to panels for cis women and had a strong support network. Where am I supposed to go now as trans masc? Do I bite the bullet and go to “women +” spaces? Do I let people just presume I suddenly have the privilege of a cis man? How many devs just roll their eyes every time I have to stand up against them to insist my pronouns are to be respected? These are things that stay at the back of my mind, I know all the cases where I’ve been pushed out for being me, but the thought there may be more I don’t know about hurts.

I’ve found great support and guidance in the community, however. I’ve learned so much from so many kind people who took the time to welcome me, and it’s all I wish to do as well– make sure that no queer person finds themselves alone and lost in the industry.

Jane Titor – Part Time Storier – (Any Pronouns)

Since I’ve only worked on small indie games, and really more as a hobby than as a career so far, I haven’t had much experience with the larger industry and haven’t had to face any of the discrimination there that other LGBTQ+ people have. I’ve been fortunate to find a really welcoming community of LGBTQ+ indie developers and allies—in visual novels especially—so it’s been a very positive experience for me.

Laine aka korayiko – They/Them

My only challenge so far in this industry is the blatant either homophobia or enbyphobia that some people may possess, and although many people may have those opinions, however motivated they may be; I’ve gotten removed from 2 indie developer teams for ‘using several instances of ‘LGBTQ+’’ in my example writings. (Yes, that is literally the full answer they gave me.)

Although, some successes I’ve had is having a very supporting team in production, as well as the criticism I receive by peer-reviews being constructive and manageable. I’ve had the opportunity to have made several friends through the development of certain games, and I cherish them very much!

Alanna Linayre – Team Toadhouse – She/Her

I don’t look LGBT and I am not very public with what exactly puts me in that group. So my queer experience is somewhat, for lack of a better term, closeted. I want the characters I write to feel good about themselves and I’m not sure if I could write a character who is celebrating themselves AND also in the closet about their identity. So, it’s challenging that I couldn’t really successfully write a character who is like me. I don’t see anything wrong with how I handle things but I think it is more important to showcase those who are out and happy and proud, considering how dangerous and scary it can be, being so open about such things. That said, I can understand the experience and write it well, having lived it. So that goes back to people seeing themselves in our games, which is always a success in my eyes.

Tabby – She/Her

Honestly, since I’m indie, I really haven’t had to deal with any homophobia in a direct way? I fund my own games these days, and almost always only collaborate with people that I already know are friendly to queer people. I’m in a fairly privileged position as a game dev and a lesbian: I don’t have to rely on freelance work to pay the bills, I so far haven’t had to struggle with funding or worrying about marketing either. Teams I’ve collaborated with in the past have been very cool with me wanting to write VN protagonists that are, at the very least, implied to be queer if not explicitly stated. I was also able to have Out of Sync published with the lovely and very queer friendly (though sadly defunct) Sparkler Monthly.


Q5. As a content creator what are some things that you are doing in your own work to promote the representation you want to see in games? What strides do you take to ensure that the stories and characters you create/represent embody the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community?

Serena – Dulcet Games (She/Her)

That’s a question I’ve been asked multiple times, actually! Our players have often told us that they admire how much thought and effort we put into ensuring that our rep is top notch, and some have asked us how we pull it off. The answer, for me, as a writer, is actually very simple: I create the character’s core personality and objectives first. I give them a proper role in the story. I do that before I even consider their gender, race and orientation. That allows me to stay objective and eliminate any kind of personal bias I might have: the character is a person before they are anything else. I believe that’s the approach that many writers at Dulcet Games take as well!

Then, it’s just a question of doing a lot of research. I’m a bisexual woman of color, and while that counts for something, it’s not everything. For example, I’m cisgender, which means that if I’m writing about a trans character, I’ll go above and beyond to research as much as I can about the trans experience. I’ll read articles, watch videos, read studies, and even talk to actual, trans people. No representation is perfect, but I feel that it is my responsibility, both professionally and as a person, to do my due diligence.

While the hard part is done during the actual development of the games, I also go the extra mile after the game has been published by listening to my LGBTQ+ audience. I take in the information about what I did right, and what I did wrong. I learn from my mistakes, and I do so very quickly. That’s actually something we’re very proud of at Dulcet Games: our ability to constantly, rapidly and radically improve. This 100% applies to our LGBTQ+ rep.

In short, I research, adapt and learn quickly. But most importantly: I talk to real people about their experiences and strive to give life to and honor them in my stories. Characters might just be pixels on a screen, but I do not underestimate their ability to touch people’s hearts and make marginalized communities feel seen and included.

Bean Borg – Blue Mammoth (They/Them)

As a content creator, I always worry about how I can do this – my best skills are programming, and design – but that doesn’t always lend itself well to create fully-realized queer characters or writing good dialogue. So, I’ve tried to find other ways to be inclusive, and I have two good examples.

First, is in Pushamo – it’s a tetris-like game, so I played with creating different color palettes for the blocks. In the end I had 16 palettes, half which were pride colors! I think it’s a sweet touch when you find little things like this in games. Second, is building an inherently queer game without focusing on dialogue to get its queerness across! In Flags for Friends, you are an artist designing custom pride flags for different characters who give you silly prompts like “an asexual pirate flag.” I tried to embody as many different LGBTQ+ experiences by creating a cast of six characters with different identities and personalities, and that did include carefully-written dialogue for each of them, sure, but the queerness goes deeper than that and is built into the very premise!

Becky Cunningham – Velvet Cupcake Games (She/They)

Although my game is labeled “otome” and primarily features heterosexual couples, I knew I wanted to have diversity in terms of sexual orientation from the start. One of our love interests, Meissa, is non-binary, and another, Alanna, is a woman who prefers to have relationships with other women. As I was promoting our game, I also noticed that we had a lot of followers who are on the asexual spectrum. I thought it’d be nice to have some ace representation, and I realized that one of our characters, Geoffrey, was actually a perfect fit for being demisexual. I think he was demi all along, in fact – I just hadn’t put a name to it yet!

When writing my LGBT characters, I try to work their identities into their story in a natural fashion. Our non-binary character’s identity is a bit more front and center, because they come from a society in which gender is seen as fluid, but they’re currently living in a society that sees gender as a binary. On the other hand, our female love interest’s big concerns are more about her class identity than her sexual orientation. I am making sure, however, that our lesbian love scenes are just as sexy as the straight ones. There’s nothing more disappointing to a Sapphic reader than seeing a hot and heavy love scene between a straight couple and then a fade-to-black when it comes to two women in love.

As somebody who has been involved in LGBT activism for over twenty years and has a large network of friends in every color of the rainbow, I’m actually least concerned about my LGBT portrayals. I’m hiring sensitivity readers for other areas of identity such as race and disability, but I already have access to my own experiences and to a ton of feedback on my LGBT portrayals.

Tangled Virus – (They/Them)

What I’m doing to promote the representation I want? Well, all of my games are that. I want more stories about trans people that don’t turn around into the sensitivities of cis people or their (meaningless) opinion on trans people. I want stories where trans people fall in love, allow themselves to be sad and angry, but end in a happy and hopeful tone. Cis made media always makes a point of showing trans lives as being sad, this is irritating.

Now about the characters embody the experience of the LGBT+ community, well… Everyone’s experience is different and I try to make that clear with my characters, but it’s a silly and even dangerous idea to think that the whole community has had the same experience.

AFNarratives – (She/Her)

As a content creator, I try to focus on writing queer characters of color. One example would be the untitled RPG that I’m working on where all of the main party members are queer people of color. I’ve written all of them around the experiences of myself and my close friends, even though there are different conflicts they face instead of racism and homophobia.

D.E. Chaudron – Larian Studios (They/Them)

If I see any opportunity for representation when a new character is being created, I jump on it, and I’m more than happy to be a bit of a bulldog if someone pushes back and says their identity isn’t necessary. Queer people don’t need a reason to exist – we simply are. I’ve had the privilege of introducing more LGBTQ+ characters into the world than I can count, and I’m going to keep doing it. And if I can help another queer developer get hired? That’s even better.

Jaime Scribbles – Jaime Scribbles (She/Her)

I’ve tried to challenge myself in making less “default” characters. Since I’m white my default tends to be white, and then traditional roles tend to go to “traditional” people. For instance, when I started writing As We Know It, Sam the bartender was a guy because my default bartender was a cranky old guy. I then changed Sam into the badass we all know and love today. Eris from In Blood changed a lot during early development as I drew inspiration from and wanted to represent my very best friend and work partner Elan for the birb.

I am constantly trying to challenge myself into fighting against that default while also educating myself about potential harmful stereotypes to avoid by listening to the communities I include and my friends who are more knowledgeable about it than me. With every game I learn and grow and manage to push things even further.

The more diverse games people see, the more diverse games we’ll get. I can add to that by pushing myself to be more inclusive, and representing my own identity.

Maxi aka Sandra Molina – (They/He)

Being the creator of a game with no strings attached, and working management for several companies, I always stand up and insist on hiring queer people to tell queer stories. Most of my characters are queer, and as I write them I speak from my own experiences navigating my identity, I write what I wish I could see more of in the world. I give them space to explore their own sexualities and gender — they’re people who happen to be queer, and though being queer is important to them, they’re fully fledged characters that grow and find new things about themselves as the story advances.

Even in older settings of mine where homophobia was part of the culture because I couldn’t imagine a different setting other than my own life, I always wrote the characters fighting to change the world, shape it into a better one that would accept them, rather than just take it silently.

Jane Titor – Part Time Storier – (Any Pronouns)

I wouldn’t necessarily say that representing the experiences of the whole community is something I’m trying to accomplish, because a lot my writing is very personal. Of course, representation is important to me, and my stories include a lot of queer characters—but that’s mostly because I’m drawing on my own experiences as a queer person with many friends and loved ones who are also LGBTQ+. I do hope that some other people who discover my work might find that it’s the kind of representation that makes them feel seen, but that’s more like a potential positive side effect than the goal. I write for myself, and for the people I love, much more than for anyone else. And I think some of the best representation can arise organically from writers who are just telling their own stories and creating the kinds of queer characters that they want to see, rather than trying too hard to appeal to any specific audience.

Laine aka korayiko – They/Them

I give my characters a feeling of relatability, but not so far as it becomes preachy. I speak with some people to get their stories, and I try to inject important elements of their stories into my characters, and mostly it’s swing and miss with play-testers, so I touch up the writing with a few fictional bits on story and world building and I’m on my way!

Alanna Linayre – Team Toadhouse – She/Her

We had to add straight characters to Call Me Cera for diversity reasons. We didn’t have any. Everyone was queer. Most of the people working at my studio are LGBT. We write what we know. And we hire sensitivity readers for everything, so that we have a multitude of voices ensuring the experiences that the characters go through are relatable to a large group, since no label is a monolith.

Tabby – She/Her

So generally, the kind of fiction I like to consume and create is high drama romance, so like, fighting demons with your crush, kissing after a near death battle, holding hands with your lover that might’ve just turned into a monster but you love them anyway, that kind of stuff. None of which at first glance sounds like representation of anything, just fun drama. But as a teen, all I wanted was these kinds of stories but with the characters being queer instead of straight–like this was the kind of representation I desired. So in some ways, I still want to fulfill those goals of my younger self.

But also, with years of experience and maturity between then and now, I know how to explore themes like compulsory heterosexuality or alienation within these kinds of high drama adventure stories! Not that everything I create will complex in those ways, but I do want to explore some of the feelings I’ve experienced in a way that resonates with the player but doesn’t get bogged down in queer misery. Like alright, you’re dealing with some inner demons, but you have some literal demons to fight too!


Q6. What are some aspects of the LGBTQ+ experience that you feel are often overlooked when creators are crafting Queer stories and characters? Why do you think these experiences are often excluded?

Serena – Dulcet Games (She/Her)

I want to see all aspects of the LGBTQ+ experience. I feel like so many queer stories are centered around the character’s struggles: their coming out, their struggle to feel accepted by their peers and family, their self-hatred, etc. While there is certainly a lot of value in showcasing these aspects of the queer experience, I, personally, think we can do the LGBTQ+ community a lot better.

I’m tired of seeing queer people suffer for the sake of a poignant story, or for the sake of sending a message. I want them to be happy too.

I want the highs just as much as I want the lows. I want to see a queer character fall in love and experience the bliss of that love being reciprocated. I want to see them explore their sexuality, I want to see their family and friends be 100% accepting of them. I want them to build solid relationships, friendships, and succeed in life. I want to see them have a career that makes them happy and drives purpose in their life. I want to see them wield incredible amounts of power. I want them to be a pillar in their community.

I think these experiences are often excluded because, historically, society has denied us these experiences. We’ve made incredible progress, but the journey in being recognized as people in all spheres of society is far from over. It’s “trendy” nowadays to support gay rights in public, but not everyone backs up what they put forward.

Bean Borg – Blue Mammoth (They/Them)

This one is tough, I think my answer is that commonly we see queer characters who have everything figured out and aware of their identity. There’s not much representation of people still figuring things out, or presenting fluidly with respect to their identity. I think these stories are excluded because they’re harder to execute, and maybe harder to understand too. Queer folks usually have to paint their experiences in more black and white to get their points across, e.g. telling people “I always knew I was a girl” even if that’s not the case.

Becky Cunningham – Velvet Cupcake Games (She/They)

I’m seeing a lot of creators struggle with non-binary/genderqueer representation right now, especially in romantic visual novels. I’ve seen routes with non-binary love interests that are afraid to go into as much detail in love scenes as they go into with cisgender love interests. I think there’s a fear that telling readers that the non-binary LI has a specific set of genitals will negate their identity. But we’ve all got bits, folks, and I want non-binary characters and readers to have access to just as much sexy fun as everybody else gets.

It’s also ok to have a non-binary character who doesn’t look androgynous. I did go with a more androgynous look for Meissa, but I think that in my next game I’m going to have an AFAB non-binary character with larger breasts (basically, one who looks like me!). Having a body that other people easily assign a specific gender to does not mean that you can’t be non-binary!

I think that many writers are simply still learning about the non-binary experience. Media everywhere is still working on learning about who we are and what it means to identify as non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, multi-gender, agender, etc. We’re an extremely diverse group and gender identity is complex and personal. I believe we’ll naturally see more diversity and more understanding as time goes on.

Tangled Virus – (They/Them)

Well… There’s still a lot of white-only queer stories. I think we need to hear more about the stories of queer people of colour, disabled queer people, queer people that are neuro-atypical, that have mental health issues, and queer people from the global south. There’s still too much focus on a white, able-bodied, neurotypical queer experience that comes from the global north.

They are often excluded because… Well… Because people don’t like to see these sorts of people and also because I feel that sometimes even indie queer games try to make it palatable to a (usually north American) white cishet audience. Which I think it’s wrong. Queer games should NOT be palatable to cishet people in general.

D.E. Chaudron – Larian Studios (They/Them)

Trans and nonbinary characters, absolutely. This applies ten times over to trans and nonbinary characters of color and anyone with a disability. And to be clear, I mean in AA and AAA – many indie games pull a hundred times their weight in this sense, with solo developers sometimes surrendering years of their life to make characters and stories that reflect their personal reality.

These experiences can be excluded for any number of reasons, ranging from open hostility to ignorance. This same hostility and ignorance is being reflected in the world right now, so it adds insult to injury when a space that could be used to relax and escape from that sort of threat decides to mirror it instead.

Jaime Scribbles – Jaime Scribbles (She/Her)

I personally want more bisexual content which is why I like to make so many of my characters bisexual. When I made Pinewood Island I didn’t think I could really include female romance options and I think a lot of people are just worried ‘no one wants this content’, or they are afraid of potential harassment. Having more and more content coming out with more diverse representation will create a safer environment for anyone to make content that speaks to them.

Maxi aka Sandra Molina – (They/He)

I really think that as a community we don’t have the patience to let characters figure themselves out enough. Queer players and fans of LGBTQ+ games often want clear cut identities and numbers, and sometimes that’s just not possible — sometimes characters know what they are from the start, and others they need time to discover, learn, and figure their identities out.

Another important thing I’ve found when publishing my own creations is that, no matter how many queer protagonists your story has and how well developed they are, if it’s not centered on a mlm or wlw romance it will be discarded as “not queer” or, charitably, not queer enough. Coming back to my previous point in 3, characters are rarely allowed to be. A bi woman dating a man is still bi. A trans character doesn’t have to look, act or talk a certain way for them to be trans.

I understand the intense wish to see ourselves, and see queer romance clearly in media, but the desire for romance sometimes ends up throwing stories where that’s not the focus under the bus.

Jane Titor – Part Time Storier – (Any Pronouns)

I think some creators might be a little bit afraid to represent parts of the queer experience that can be messy and confusing and difficult to define and understand, because they’re worried about straying too close to harmful stereotypes, upsetting other queer people in their audience, or otherwise coming across as negative. There’s still so much discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the world, and so many issues with what little representation we get in mainstream media, that some creators feel pressured to write only the most safe and sanitized queer stories, and leave out anything too complex or difficult. I understand that fear very well, because I feel the same way sometimes. But I hope that a greater variety of representation in the future can open the door for more queer creators to take risks and push boundaries with their work.

Laine aka korayiko – They/Them

Backstory. Me, as a writer, get fairly annoyed when a character isn’t explained through, or doesn’t have enough story to pass off as a believable character, it comes off very rushed, and not very thought through enough. And although some games do a fantastic job at making the character ‘feel real,’ I really hope some developers become more and more aware that sufficient backstory to a queer character is required (at least in my opinion.)

Alanna Linayre – Team Toadhouse – She/Her

I feel like often LGBT stories are traumatic. I would love to see more thriving, happy LGBT stories, where the obstacles they face have nothing to do with their identity.

Tabby – She/Her

Particularly when a developer themselves isn’t queer themselves, I find that homophobia is handled in a heavy handed way, with characters being overtly bigoted rather than any subtle, insidious things. Like frequently, my biggest discomfort hasn’t been dealing with homophobes being actively horrible to me, it’s been a million tiny things that serve as a reminder that being a lesbian is the Other. That there are people who don’t think I’m normal, and that they would think differently of me if I were out to them.

Generally I think this isn’t included because you don’t necessarily get to see inside a queer character’s head, or the setting is bigotry free and the drama comes from other things. I think also though, it’s not often in narrative heavy media because it’s a quiet thing. It’s not even something I necessarily consciously think about beyond “ugh” and “oh well better keep my orientation to myself around this tool.” You get really, really used to it, and it’s just this ambient background noise that reminds you to keep things to yourself.


Q7. Where do you see the state of LGBTQ+ representation in the gaming industry going in the future? What are your hopes the next gen of Queer positive games?

Serena – Dulcet Games (She/Her)

The world has changed drastically in the last ten years. Back when I was a teenager, gaming was about waiting for the next Call of Duty to release, and then preordering your copy at the local GameStop, where employees and customers would give you the side-eye if you didn’t fit the mold of what their usual clientele is. Gaming was for men. Gaming was for straight men. Game development was a career that could only be achieved by working for a big, established company. Women gamers were branded as “fake” or “attention-seeking”. LGBTQ+ gamers weren’t even on the radar. It’s like we were invisible.

The explosion of indie gaming and indie devs in the 2010s has shown us that we’re never going back to that status quo. It has shown the gaming world that if big companies don’t want to deliver, then the LGBTQ+ community will take it upon itself to do it. We’ll make our own stories. We’ll make our own representation, and we’ll make our games so popular and so good that the mainstream will have no choice but to adapt to the new standard.

So, yeah, I think the industry is currently leaning towards learning from indie LGBTQ+ devs. I think that gamers want diversity more than ever, and I don’t think that’s ever going down. Representation has such a profound effect on people when it’s done right… And what is the point of creating if you can’t touch people’s hearts? If you can’t spread joy through your games?

My hope for the future is that the next gen has the opportunity to feel seen and understood by their creators. To have their experiences validated and showcased through games. I want every single player out there to experience that.

Bean Borg – Blue Mammoth (They/Them)

I see it getting better, more common, and gamers will still complain about it. I also expect AAA titles will still tend to be reserved about it, though, as long as their bottom long is making a sellable product for mass consumption. So I fully expect smaller indie games to push it way forward. Still, though, I’m excited for both parts! I’m pretty biased towards indie content (and it definitely shows in this) but I definitely recognize the importance of positive appearances in AAA games, both because it’s visibility and reminds cishetallo folks that we exist, and it’s super important for LGBTQ+ folks to see themselves represented

Becky Cunningham – Velvet Cupcake Games (She/They)

I have different hopes for the mainstream game industry than I do for the indie romantic visual novel scene.

For the mainstream game industry, I’d like to see more major characters who are canon queer, and more queer experiences reflected in game stories. I’d like to see major game industry writers learn about and avoid common harmful tropes like “bury your gays” and “gay man as flamboyant comic relief.” (I love and support gender non-conforming gay male characters, but I want them to be full characters, not just there for comic relief!)

I like to hope that we’re a bit ahead of all that in the indie VN scene, so those of us who are already experienced at creating games with LGBT characters can go a bit further and broaden the diversity and depth of our representation. I think there’s room both for games with chooseable pronouns where you simply have the choice to romance characters regardless of gender and for games with canon queer characters that go more in-depth into queer issues. Both kinds of games are good for representation in different ways.

I’d also like to see fan communities become more open minded and educate themselves on LGBT issues as experienced by actual LGBT people. I want to see games with LGBT love interests welcomed by the broader otome community, and an end to the gatekeeping that says otome games must be 100% straight.

In addition, sometimes inaccurate anime tropes work their way into fan conversations. I’ve seen people insist that a character who cross-dresses must be trans (not true!) or that actual gay relationships resemble the relationships in Boy’s Love stories that have been written for hetero women. Even well-meaning straight allies can alienate LGBT folks with assumptions like this, so I recommend spending time in different communities with real-life LGBT people of different ages and experiences!

Tangled Virus – (They/Them)

I think it’ll stay the same in the AAA sphere, just another source of marketing. BUT, I do think with engines such as Ren’py, Unity, Godot and Twine we’ll see even more indie games from marginalized people, and that includes queer people. We are already seeing that in action, and it’ll only get bigger as time goes on.

Now, my hopes for the next-gen of queer-positive games? I have none. The fewer hopes you have, the better.

AFNarratives – (She/Her)

I believe that the state of LGBTQ+ representation is going to good places in the next generation, and I hope that we get to see more stories of queer people of color in the future!

D.E. Chaudron – Larian Studios (They/Them)

My hope is that we’ll see more studios form like Supergiant Games, that put out inclusive work while also respecting the labor of the developers making it. We can create games that are both diverse and sustainable without crushing game devs to the breaking point. I hope more of us unionize so LGBTQ+ developers can trust their jobs won’t be swept out from under them, and that they can make great games that reflect the people making them.

Jaime Scribbles – Jaime Scribbles (She/Her)

I am hopeful for the future, and have seen indie LGBTQ+ games and content grow in popularity in my few years as a dev and I think that trend will continue. I would especially like to see visual novels gain legitimacy as a genre and grow in popularity.

Maxi aka Sandra Molina – (They/He)

As more queer creators join the industry, as our voices grow and we reach higher positions within it, I really hope we’re headed towards an era of complete naturalization of queer themes, where we stop facing constant backlash for wanting to tell our own stories and we can simply create as easily as cis het people do. Where fans will enjoy our games without having to say “this isn’t for me”, just like we grew up with stories that weren’t made for us, but that we loved and saw ourselves reflected on all the same.

Jane Titor – Part Time Storier – (Any Pronouns)

Over the past few years, I’ve seen more and more indie developers making fantastic games that are focused on LGBTQ+ identities, telling the stories of queer people figuring out who they are and what kind of relationships they want, and I’m really happy about that. Alongside that, one thing I’d like to see more of in the future is representation across multiple game and story genres that isn’t necessarily always the focus of the plot. Like a mystery story in which the detective mentions that they’re trans, or the saga of a dashing action hero whose various love interests aren’t all the same gender. I want to see more queer characters who are just there as a normal part of the story without it always being a big deal. I’d also love to see more positive representation of polyamorous characters in the future, especially in visual novels—if you’re already writing multiple different romance routes and giving the player the choice of whom to date, why not let them choose more than one at the same time? I hope to include some representation along those lines in my own work in the future, and I hope that some other people might too. But most importantly, I hope that queer developers continue creating whatever games are most meaningful and fulfilling to them, and I hope they find an audience that appreciates it.

Laine aka korayiko – They/Them

My hopes are that developers realize that you don’t have to be heavy-handed with topics like these, and I’ve seen improvement, so I think that the future is bright. With the ongoing rise in character development being more focused on LGBTQ+ to the more diverse groups of people in game studios, I have high hopes for the LGBTQ+ video game scene for the next few years.

Alanna Linayre – Team Toadhouse – She/Her

I think things are improving overall. I’m personally working toward a certain type of game future with our games at Toadhouse Games. I’d love to see more of the kinds of games that we’re making.

Tabby – She/Her

I’m expecting (and hoping) that within the next few years more AAA devs decide that, perhaps, it is in fact worth considering LGBT+ people as an audience that will give you money, and giving people options there. But more importantly, hiring LGBT+ people to create these games so they don’t suck. Not that I think representation in AAA games is the end-all-be-all, but while the commercialization of queerness sucks, it is a good sign in some ways, and more queer characters means more people who can see themselves in games, and may go on to make their own things with better written queer characters.

On the indie side of things, I’d just like to see a wider spread of genres with queer characters! I do think that we’re on the way there though, even just glancing over the submissions for things like yuri jam and yaoi jam each year. I’m just a bit greedy and impatient!

Where To Find Everyone!

Serena
Tangled Virus
Jaime Scribbles
Laine aka Korayiko
Bean Borg
AF Narratives
Maxi
Alanna Linayre

Becky
D.E. Chaudron
Jane Titor
Tabby

Thank you for reading and supporting Blerdy Otome!

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4 Comments on “Voices of the Community – Game Devs on LGBTQ+ Representation in Games

  1. This is incredible and very informative, thank you so much for putting this together! I will definitely be checking out these games ^-^

  2. Thank you so much for putting this together, it was very informative and interesting! I’ll definitely be checking out these games ^-^

  3. everyone was so good with their answers!!! i never heard of dulcet games or sweet elite before I’ll check it out 😊i liked her answers

  4. Thank you, thank you for this interview!!
    So many interesting people and great points being made. Definitely bookmarking this and taking note of the studios and persons I’m not already following. I wish everyone the best for any releases still to come. <3 Thank you for being out there. Even if general perceptions and gaming landscapes tend to move slowly as a whole, I'm on the opinion that just one singular piece of media can make a world of difference at an individual level, and your work is incredibly meaningful in that aspect alone.

Gush about cute otome boys~

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