The Hunt for the Gay Planet

A piece of e-literature made in 2013 by Anna Anthropy, it first and foremost sought to address the issue of limiting the inclusion of homosexual characters to single planet in Knights of the Old Republic with a DLC paywall in front, but also the general frustration when it comes to finding queer representation in video games in general. It is a twine game that you navigate as you would in a piece of hypertext by clicking on one of the links on each page. It’s fairly similar in style to another twine game that I previously covered, Quings Quest VII, and as such I will be drawing some comparisons between them.

To me The Hunt for The Gay Planet falls short when it comes to its narrative, both due to its linearity and the message it tries to convey. While the overall story is linear in outcome there are sometimes multiple options to choose from, though almost all of them lead to a dead end with the game essentially telling you in a variety of ways “Wrong way, you have to go back”, and very few of these came across as funny to me. At one point you have as many as eight different options to choose from, yet every single one of them leads to the same outcome. This gives you the illusion of there being more choices than there really are, and if you replay the game it becomes more obvious how linear the narration is with few variations. Quings Quest too is fairly linear with its story-telling, but there was also some form for customization and freedom of movement, particularly early on in the piece that added to the piece. There was also two different endings, and a fair amount of additional backstory you could discover while exploring the game.

Skjermbilde 2017-10-01 kl. 20.14.32
Eight choices, yet only one outcome.

When it comes to its message the creator was but one of no doubt many who was disappointed by Bioware’s decision to include queer characters by limiting them to one area that you had to pay to access. The lack of representation for LGBT+ people is a very real issue, both in gaming and otherwise, so what could’ve been a great opportunity to make the fans happy to be included left them instead with a sour feeling that they are being regarded as consumers first rather than as regular people. In my opinion queer characters, if included at all, really should’ve been present throughout the game’s locations rather than only one, and people shouldn’t have to pay extra just to experience that. When it comes to other games it is rare to see any queer representation at all, or if there is any the characters are rarely treated with respect, instead reducing them to a joke that exaggerates gay stereotypes and the like. Of course there are exceptions, but as is the point of the game, it isn’t easy to find something that happens to fit you, let alone in a positive and meaningful way.

Therefore it is strange then that the game falls into some of those same stereotypical showcases of gay people. Overall the game has this particular humor to it that falls a bit short for the most part, and that I think could have done a better portrayal of queer characters rather than making them seem like yet another joke. It’s also odd that the game divides gay men to one planet and gay women to another, when dividing groups of people at all was part of the problem the creator supposedly had with Knights of the Old Republic. To me it comes across as a bit problematic, because even within the LGBT+ community, gatekeeping is a very real issue where some individuals refuse to consider some people as queer unless they fit with their own arbitrary list of criteria. To then not only divide between gay men and women strikes me as both making a similar mistake as Bioware and as ignorant of the many other groups of people that also belong to the queer community. I do not believe this was the intent at all, rather that the narrative doesn’t effectively challenge the issues and also falls for some of the same traps along the way which is unfortunate. It is nevertheless important to acknowledge this while thinking of how it could perhaps be done in a better manner. I found that Quings Quest did a better job here both when it came to sticking to its message and in portraying it in a meaningful and fairly amusing manner. While that game too had its flaws it felt like it had an actual background and some depth to it that The Hunt for the Gay Planet simply ended up lacking in the end.

From a technical standpoint the game does deliver however, as twine is easier said than done to work with. The creator could’ve gone with just making it a piece of hypertext fiction, but instead she chose a more complex tool for creation which is commendable. While visually it only entails text on a black background, it is still impressive that it works well from a technical standpoint. Quings Quest does have some audio in the form of music and sound effects that adds to the piece, which this game does not, but the descriptions worked well enough for me as I went through it.

While it is a fairly flawed and flat piece of e-literature it is important to recognize that it at least tries to address what is a complex and deep-rooted issue in the form of queer representation. This is of course not limited to the games industry, but it is a very relevant one when it comes to electronic literature as video games can be considered pieces of e-literature themselves. One little twine game isn’t going to unravel or solve the problem, far from it in fact, but I also think that with some work the issue could have been presented in a better manner than this.

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