For someone growing up gay, life can be a challenge. So the team behind A Closed World decided to turn it into one of gaming's most institutionalised ordeals: the Japanese role-playing game.
It's a great project, using the genre as a means to both parody games and use them as a productive tool to do something very few games have managed: represent gay characters in a way that wasn't forced, or over-the-top, or even offensive.
Take the game's battle system; built around representing people in a young gay person's life as bosses or enemies to overcome: you don't literally fight them. The aim isn't to kill them, or wound them. You fight them with logic, or compassion, because all you're really trying to do is find some space, to help them understand you. They're your loved ones, not the enemy.
It's a simple game (playable in a browser), but there's some great art on display in certain sections, and a nice little soundtrack as well. Built by the Singapore-MIT Gambit Lab, A Closed World's creators explain the game in this brief:
A Closed World was created to be a digital game with LGBTQ-friendly content, something that's very uncommon in games right now. Game designers and marketing professionals alike have cited a number of reasons for this, ranging from a perception of institutional homophobia in game culture to a genuine desire on the part of game designers to "get it right" and create games with compelling queer content, rather than feeling that the element is merely "tacked on" in the end.
The goal of this research was to present the design team with the challenge of creating a game that had this compelling queer content, and to observe the ideas and hardships they considered and encountered along the way, so that we could learn more about how to approach those challenges in other design contexts. The project left the ultimate message of the game open to the creators; what was important to discover were the challenges the team faced trying to include queer content in the game, and the strategies they used to tell the story they wanted to tell. The result is a game that asks us to carefully consider what we think of as 'normal,' and what is needed to live in the world and be true to one's self.
You can play A Closed World at the link below.
A Closed World [Gambit]