There hasn’t been much to look forward to in terms of short-term releases in the hideously underwhelming selection of launch titles for the Xbox One and PS4. However, the future just keeps getting brighter and brighter, and not just for graphics and processor capabilities. This new video gaming era seems to also be a new era of inclusiveness within the medium itself.
Back in December, developers at Studio Fawn met the goal for their Kickstarter to fund their game Bloom: Memories, a fantasy adventure RPG taking its cues from games like Fable and The Legend of Zelda. Additionally, the game managed to get Greenlit on Steam as well, already ensuring the game’s exposure to a wide PC gaming audience. But what drew people to this game so readily and excitedly?
Well, for one thing, even in preliminary screenshots the graphics are gorgeous. Imagine, if you will, the world of Skyrim, but with a more mystical, fantastical air to it—a far cry from the brown, dulled color palettes of many games in the not-so-distant past. Bloom also boasts an immersive environment where one’s decisions will ultimately affect the entire budding world around them. Many of us have been burned with promises of player characters truly influencing the path of a game by
Mass Effect’s underwhelming finale, so these kinds of promises leave a bitter taste on my tongue. Yet, if they can truly pull off a game where the world shifts to match your vindictive or pacifist nature, it will be incredible.
While that’s all well and good, what I’m really interested in is Bloom’s story and characters. According to an article from Advocate.com, Bloom is a game “…that carries players through an epic journey following the theme of the “purest love”—that between a mother and her child.” Video games are crammed to the brim with stories about males and male relationships, whether it be the bond between war comrades in games like Call of Duty or the bond of actual familial bonds as portrayed in games like Brothers. And even when relationships between males and females are explored, it’s usually only in the context where some badass dude is saving his love interest from a demon/enemy/Nazi/ninja… the list goes on. Personally, I would love it if Bloom delved deeper into the oft-ignored relationship between mother and daughter a la Pixar’s Brave: the medium is seriously in a drought of female-centric or even female-inspired stories. However, no matter the gender of this child, it’s so, so very important that Bloom’s driving relationship isn’t derived from a romantic level. It’s also a very risky move—it takes a lot of work for players to establish that sort of familial bond with characters.
Even more exciting than this, though, is a breakthrough in cast diversity. Bloom may, in fact, be the first game to feature a trans character in more than whispers. One of Studio Fawn’s four creative heads, Dani Landers, says of the character, Ilana:
In Bloom, players are introduced to Ilana after she has transitioned and is still struggling to find her identity. While players will be unaware of the character’s conflict at first, Ilana’s story will slowly unfold throughout the game as she grows and comes to terms with herself.
This is so, so important. I can’t even begin to say how important this is. Despite some leaps being made in adding gender and sexual diversity in video games over the past decade, we are still far from where we should be. Trans representation in games is just something that doesn’t happen, at least not in any degree that would leave an impact on the genre as a whole. Even as I sit here thinking about it, I can only think of one other trans character: Serendipity in Dragon Age 2. And even then, she’s a very minor character and used as a prop to cast the perpetually stick-in-ass Seneschal Bran in a somewhat negative light. The necessity for proper representation is a need that isn’t being met by any big name developers, probably for fear of being boycotted. Those fears are not unfounded, as Landers herself has said that people have told her they won’t support her due to Bloom’s trans-inclusive statements.
I think what will make Ilana particularly impactful is that she’s based from Landers’s own experience. She explains:
“The idea for Bloom actually started shortly before I began transitioning,” says Landers. “As my life was changing and I was dealing with transition, I guess I naturally started to express those experiences through the character and game designs of Bloom. Since I was transitioning, Ilana was one of the first characters and stories I had created in the Bloom world.”
So not only are we gaining an important trans character, we are also gaining a character who has been crafted from the struggles and joys of someone who has actually gone through them in real life.
Needless to say, I have very high hopes for Bloom’s future. It’s a story that begs to be told through characters that have much to offer to both the in-game world and the culture of gaming itself. If this game manages to break the ice, I would love to see more games incorporating outwardly trans characters in more than just background scenes, and considering how readily Studio Fawn’s Kickstar goal was met, I’d say a large portion of gamers have the same wish.