Lesbian Matriarchs, Smokeleaf Dealing, and Doomed Pyromaniacs: The Diversity and Zaniness of Rimworld

I’m a fan of story games. Deep RPGs with a lot of character development or walking simulators with well done environmental storytelling tend to be the ones I look out for. I also, however, have a huge weakness for good sim/strategy games; particularly space-related ones like Galactic Civilizations. But even games like the Civilization franchise (ok, mainly Civ V) often keep me going well after bedtime. I also generally want games with good representation (which unfortunately often just means some representation). Rimworld, though still in early access, hits most of these notes and has proven a pleasant surprise thus far.

Rimworld-The Spot

The town mothers have a sweet pad. Though I’m not sure who decided the Muffalo could sleep inside. (Screenshot from Rimworld.)

As a colony sim that plays with the amount of control you have over AI-generated stories that develop between colonists, the potential for complex and diverse scenarios to emerge is similar to that of a game like The Sims and one that provides some interesting opportunity for social commentary, tackling serious issues but not taking itself too seriously in the process.

To give you an idea what exactly I mean, I’ll tell two of those stories: one about a quasi-utopian space-weed dealing colony run by lesbian matriarchs, and one that got burned down by a stressed out pyromaniac and devolved to cannibalism.

TW: Discussion of (non-graphic) extreme violence, drug use, and ableist/sexuality/gender stereotypes after the jump.

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Dear CRWBY, Let The Bee Buzz Already

After having a discussion with some people, one question has been plaguing my mind: is RWBY queerbaiting? Usually this would be a cut and dry answer—it’s typically not hard to point out media implying and using queer romantic tension to pull in the views, but not actually acting on it in canon. With the precedent set by the show already, it’s honestly difficult to tell as all couples appear to be equally teased by the creators. In my exploration, however, I believe the complications arise beyond the scope of the show. This is to say that the canon of RWBY may not be queerbaiting, but the meta from the creators definitely is.

RWBY Ruby Shrug

Pictured: me trying to explain myself. (via Dustiniz117 @ DeviantArt)

“But Rin,” you may say. “How are these things different from each other?” To which I’ll hem and haw because the difference between them is somewhat negligible—each of them is obviously going to have an impact on the other which is why this is so messy in the first place. In the end, though, I think it has to do with what has been shown on the show as opposed to what the creators imply from outside sources. In the case of LGBTQ+ representation, these are two very different things. So in the end, the question of whether or not the show is queerbaiting may be missing the larger issues at hand. I think the more pertinent question is “where are any queer people?” But we’ll start from the jumping-off point of potential queerbaiting.

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Sexualized Saturdays: “I’ll Make My Own Gender, With Blackjack… and Hookers!” – A Critical Look at Futurama’s Handling of Bender’s Gender Identity

Futurama is one of my all-time favorite shows. I have watched these episodes so many times I think I broke Netflix’s suggestion algorithms. While there are many aspects to the show that are brilliant and remarkably nuanced, one topic that they have addressed repeatedly, and one that their exploration has handled in widely disparate and often problematic ways, is gender and gender identity. While not a main theme of the show, various aspects of gender and sexuality are regularly explored and put under the lens of Futurama’s satirical distant future.

Futurama calendar pic

A genderbent recreation of the Barbarella poster with Fry and Leela. (Screenshot from Futurama.)

In examining how this is generally handled, the good and bad alike, there are some specific episodes scattered throughout the show’s run that specifically deal with these issues and demand specific attention; mostly through changes to the gender identity of one of its most widely known characters: Bender B Rodriguez.

TW: Discussion of transphobic and homophobic themes.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Malec and Age Gaps in Relationships

(image via eonline)

As I was writing about Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood of the Shadowhunters series, I was actually thinking about their relationship a lot as well. So it’s only fitting, having discussed these characters separately, to also discuss their relationship, especially since it is such an important part of both Magnus and Alec’s character development. As such, it’s interesting to look at their relationship through the lens of their age difference, as Magnus is hundreds of years old and Alec is barely out of his teenage years, as far as we can tell. If not handled well, this kind of age difference can (and often does) lead to an unfair and creepy power imbalance in the relationship, which most works of fiction conveniently ignore. However, Malec, as they’re known, is a pairing portrayed in such a way that both Magnus and Alec are on more or less equal footing despite their different experiences.

Spoilers for the Shadowhunters series below. Trigger warnings for mentions of pedophilia and statutory rape.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Fionna and the Ice King—Toxic Masculinity in Adventure Time

It seems in recent years as though a dam has broken and the notion of what is “acceptable content” for a kids or YA show thankfully now has an ever-increasing flow of support. While themes of inclusivity and equality have been a staple of the genre since the early days of Children’s Television Workshop, recent examples like Steven Universe have dealt with gender identity and sexuality in ways that would likely have been vetoed by the networks even a decade ago. One show that, in many ways at least, was at the forefront of that charge is Adventure Time. While by no means perfect, it gives us numerous examples of gender equality and represents a fairly wide range of gender, sexual, and romantic identities that fall outside the heteronormative narratives that many of the genre’s examples, even the best ones, have traditionally retold ad nauseum.

Fiona and Cake Fist Bump

Grab your friends, we’re going to very distant lands. (screengrab from Adventure Time)

While Adventure Time does this in numerous ways and through numerous characters, there is one example that is among the most direct and the most enduringly popular: Fionna and Cake. In looking not only at these characters specifically, but also more broadly at what they show us about the Ice King and toxic masculinity, we can see one of the best examples of these themes being presented in subtle and complex ways that are accessible to the target age group and, ultimately, further that tradition of inclusiveness.

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Throwback Thursdays: Cat-person Lesbians, Homicidal Robots, and Captain Janeway; Representation in KOTOR

I’ve played quite a few video games in my day, often coming back to the really good ones repeatedly over the years. But only a select few have crossed over into “I set my Steam profile to private so my friends don’t know how much I play this game” territory. Of all those titles, perhaps the most enduring are the Bioware Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games from 2003/2004.

There’s something about KOTOR that gives it a staying power very few story-driven games, even the truly great ones, have ever achieved. The two games combine a massive narrative depth with a mature treatment of the Star Wars universe that sets a gold standard for the franchise, at least in the realm of gaming. They have proved so enduring in their popularity, in fact, that KOTOR was re-released for mobile and KOTOR II was recently patched (after over a decade) to support modern PCs, add Steam Workshop support, fix bugs, and officially support the Restored Content Mod. For those who are not familiar, KOTOR II was rushed to make a physical release date, and as a result, a great deal of content was cut. Rather than removing it, however, the devs left it there for modders to find. Over the years, that resulted in a near complete restoration of that content. The game has remained popular enough to justify a complex, years-long project involving dozens of coders and artists, and it has continued to sell well enough to justify an updated Steam release with official support for that mod.

KOTOR-Darth Traya

Back where it all began… Malachor. (Screenshot from KOTOR II)

Falling thousands of years before the events of the Star Wars prequels, KOTOR showed us a universe where the galaxy is plunged into massive and bloody conflict with the Mandalorian Wars and then almost immediately into the universally disastrous Jedi Civil War, in which Jedi are not trusted, are hated by many, and are ultimately hunted to near extinction. It’s dark and chock full of moral ambiguity and some of the best Star Wars content out there. While these games are technically no longer canon, the general framework and many of the characters from this period, KOTOR games included, did “make the cut.”

The KOTOR franchise also serves as a clear spiritual predecessor to the best of both the Mass Effect franchise and Fallout: New Vegas. Many of the same people worked on many of those titles, and there are themes that almost seemed to carry over directly. While far from perfect, these games dealt with complex racial, ethical, and sexuality/gender identity issues in ways that were often groundbreaking, if occasionally facepalm worthy.

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Rin Plays: Mass Effect: Andromeda

After what feels like 600 actual years, I’ve finally reached the end of the newest installment in the Mass Effect series, Mass Effect: Andromeda. The previous trilogy left us with Commander Shepard defeating the harbingers of an oncoming galaxy-wide purging of intelligent life and everyone looking forward to a very bright future. But in Andromeda, that life, those problems, and their resolution are all thousands of light-years away and several hundred regular years in the past. Playing as Ryder alongside my fellow space frontierspeople, I found that exploring humanity’s and all the Milky Way races’ newest home was a journey that often left me feeling conflicted, especially because Bioware never seemed to fully grasp the implications of Ryder’s and the Andromeda Initiative’s actions or feel brave enough to go beyond the hackneyed sci-fi plots of yore. To get it out of the way, yes: the graphics are janky at times and some of the voice acting feels like the actors/actresses had no direction for the context of their lines, but these factors alone do not a bad game make. And I wouldn’t say that Andromeda is even bad; honestly. Andromeda’s problems are due to its undeserved high opinion of itself, and by taking on too much, the game doesn’t give its audience enough of anything.

Spoilers below!

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