(The below article was originally written for Trade-Media, now InGames, for QueerlyRepresentMe )
In the game world platform is everything; it’s how you’re seen, the marketing you have at your disposal, the kind of income you can expect from your creations.
So what happens when the biggest platforms refuse to acknowledge your existence? You find somewhere that will!
As of the beginning of 2019 Steam, still the largest online distributor of games for the PC, did not have a tag for LGBTQIA+ games, nor any variant of that tag (this changed around October 2019). Want a game with “Intentionally Awkward Controls”, “Inventory Management”, or “Villain Protagonist”? They’ve got you covered. But a game made by or with queer representation? Welp you better enjoy digging through the thirty-two thousand plus indie entries till you find what you want.
For this reason and many others queer game creators have flocked to Itch.Io; a platform that not only lets the developer tag their games as they see fit but allow them to set their own price point; from set prices to paying what you can afford at the time, even if your pockets are bare. Where if you want to find games by the queer community (currently broadly tagged LGBT) that’s there. Want to be more specific and find games with transgender, lesbian or gay content or creators? They are right there in the tag list. And with nearly a thousand LGBT tagged games as of the time of this article it’s easy to see why it’s the hot choice.
Has this been an entirely positive migration of platforms? That’s difficult to say at this time.
Valve’s monopoly on gaming remains a source of income for many developers, often outselling games available on other platforms by several factors. But it’s that monopoly that has buried thousands of deserving indie games in an ongoing quest for the biggest sellers. Of all the platforms the most supportive of the queer community is Itch, but those developers have to eat and pay the rent and support themselves.
So what’s the solution here?
How do we support the developers that need some of the most recognition?
Getting that LGBTQIA+/Queer tag on Steam would be a start. Then games like Ladykiller in a Bind, Life is Strange and Escape from Pleasure Planet could be found with a casual search instead of a grinding ordeal.
As for Itch.Io? What we need is recognition. We need the community to point towards the platform and loudly exclaim in public “This is what we want. This is how you give us the space to make our voices heard”, we need organisations to put their money where their supportive mouth is and provide grants for games on the platform to market themselves properly. To give devs the funding they need to make their dream projects. Because rarely will those projects end up on the Steam front page.
There is hope. There is a home where queer games can be loud and proud. Without the kind of restrictions they find elsewhere.
Now we just need to make it the best damn home around.