Queerly Represent Me: Art and Video Games by Joshua Wilde
Alayna Cole is a writer, game designer and academic on the Sunshine Coast. She is currently studying a Doctorate, focussing on queer representations in the narrative, specifically unsettling the patriarchal, heteronormative elements traditionally found in fairy tales. Alayna has always been passionate about storytelling in any form, including interactive. Among her many achievements, she is the founder of Queerly Represent Me. A pet project of Alayna, Queerly Represent Me is a database of video games, journal articles, and research concerning the representation of diverse sexuality, gender, and relationships. QRM is about collecting various positive representations in one spot for researchers, gamers and anyone to find. The idea for the site came to Alayna while researching for her Doctorate.She discovered many articles, ideas, and games representing the various communities. Originally, the database was a means of keeping track of her research for her own study. She briefly considered writing some articles about her findings but soon decided that once published, an article is ‘fixed’ in place. Also, with all the information gained Alayna simply had too much for an article. In a field, which is fluid, changing and evolving constantly, an article could soon become outdated. Discussing the conception of QRM, Alayna says, ‘The database is a way of sharing more information than some articles could have, and in a format that can be constantly updated.’ With over 700 games currently catalogued on the site, a database appears to have been the right choice.
What constitutes a video game is like explaining what constitutes a novel. The medium is so varied and different games have a different purpose. Gamers vary, as do the games they play. When asked about the potential of video games, Alaynaanswered:
‘Interactive narratives take creative writing and enhance the way we can experience a written story, walking simulators take paintings and allow you to wander around inside them, and action games throw you into a movie and ask you to participate.’
She further explained this is a simplified explanation of gaming. That, like most art forms, games borrow from a variety of mediums to create something unique and distinguished. As games expand in scope and ambition, the storytelling is becoming more inventive, complex, sophisticated and personal.Games allow you to take walk in someone else’s shoes. Some people who visit QRM may find the pair of shoes they’ve been seeking.
The interactive aspect of games creates a unique relationship with between player and character. As Alayna explains:
‘Interactivity has the potential to strengthen the bond between a player and a character, and to increase the empathy a player experiences for the plight of others. This identification and understanding is particularly relevant when increasing representation of minority groups in games, as it can lead to more positive societal outcomes.’
The best games are an immersive experience, drawing the player into a world. This interactivity has potential to connect with those who identify with the characters, but also could help those who are questioning their sexuality and/or are forming their self-identity.
Alayna is hopeful games and the arts in general will continue to broaden its horizons. While mainstream games are beginning to feature more representations of minorities, they still have a long way to go to catch up with independent developers. Even in the indie scene, it is difficult to find representations of asexual persons and those who identify as transgender or as non-binary gender. However, the response to Queerly Represent Me has been overwhelmingly positive, an encouraging sign indeed. Art which brings attention to one minority group not only connects with members of the group, but will hopefully encourage the representation of other marginalised groups. Bringing attention to these games encourage pride in one’s self, acceptance and further creativity.
Art reflects society but society is constantly changing. Alayna wants Queerly Represent Me to constantly evolve and the artistic community should always aim to do the same. The database is not just for academics, gamers or those who identify as part of the queer community. It’s for anyone who wants to explore other perspectives, broaden their horizons and understand others. There are so many voices out there waiting to be heard. Why not visit Queerly Represent Me, stay a while and listen?
See Alayna’s amazing database at: queerlyrepresent.me