Let’s Talk About TwitchCon 2018

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I had one of the most magical weekends of my life, just recently.

I was at TwitchCon from October 26th til the 28th, and I can’t even begin to tell you just how much the weekend meant to me. I’m going to try, but it’s going to feel like really expressive word vomit, because there’s just so much to say, and so many emotions that just want to push it all out.

I wouldn’t say I was nervous about attending this convention, but I was curious about whether or not I’d fall into some socially anxious moments. I had been to comic book conventions before, but that was with friends, and there wasn’t the added pressure of knowing I’d meet a ton of internet friends. Here, I knew I’d be meeting a ton of internet friends, as well as having the potential of people recognizing me from my Twitch channel. Sure, I’m not super well-known, but the potential was there, and my little introverted self wasn’t sure just how much social energy I could burn before my body decided it would be done.

When I arrived on Thursday to pick up my badge, I definitely needed a moment to process it all. So many people were hanging out in front of the convention center on Day 0 of TwitchCon, and a few people recognized me and came up to say hi, so all of it was a lot to take in. I’m not sure if it was the flight over here already making me a bit tired, which had already included me meeting two people I’ve gotten to know a bit through Twitch, plus a very popular Twitch streamer who makes a VERY comfortable living off of his channel (we’ll get to that, later), combined with the fact that I hadn’t eaten in quite a while, but seeing the sheer size of what this event would be left me shook. Don’t get me wrong, I was still excited, but I was nervous about whether or not I could keep up with the energy of it all.

Luckily, Thursday night kind of put it into perspective…when one of my favorite Twitch streamers shouted at me from a distance while I had chicken shawarma goop all over my face.

I hadn’t eaten for about 7 hours at that point, so I was in desperate need of some food. The person I was hanging out with originally was super tired from getting on an early flight to San Jose, so he opted to go to his hotel and rest while I went to go hang out with some fellow LGBTQIA+ streamers who invited me to dinner and drinks. I didn’t see them in the restaurant I was supposed to meet them at yet, so I went next door to a pretty cool market where they had several restaurants to get some food. Though I felt a tad strange about eating alone at an event where I felt like I had plenty of people to hang out with, I was starving, and I was going to be a useless shell of a human if I didn’t eat something soon.

I sat outside, eating this delicious chicken shawarma wrap, catching up on some social media, when I heard Negaoryx scream my name from the other end of the outdoor area we were in.

Though it wasn’t the first time I had been recognized that day, it was the first time someone recognized me in dim lighting from like, fifty feet away. I looked up to see that it was her, and thought “gurl you better wipe this chicken shawarma mess off your face right this very moment!” We hugged and I apologized for possibly having food on my face (which was probably unnoticeable, anyway), which I now realize is a dumb thing to apologize for, since chicken shawarma wraps tend to leave residue. But of course, she was sweet and fun and kind of the best, and meeting with her couldn’t have come at a better time.

I was terrified that the LGBTQIA+ streamers I was about to meet would think I’m much less cool than I seem on my Twitch channel, so my social anxiety was already on the rise. I think I brought up the fact that I had walked around in circles a few times because I didn’t see the group I was supposed to be meeting yet, so I settled for food by myself until I knew where they were, and I’m sure it became apparent to her that I was in my head about the event. She had to go meet a group as well, so she told me not to be afraid to approach her if I ever saw her around the convention, and I think something else about trying to let the social anxiety go, and then she glided off in her magical gown.

No seriously, it was magical:

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Me, hopefully with no more chicken shawarma goop on my face, and Negaoryx, real life fantastical sorceress

After feeling a bit renewed from eating and meeting someone I looked up to quite a bit, I made my way over to the restaurant where I met up with a bunch of streamers I admired…and another one of my favorites, a lovely drag queen named Deere. Like, the world just couldn’t give me a break from meeting amazing, talented people who give me inspiration? But that was the thing; that’s just what TwitchCon is. It’s meeting people you look up to time and time again, and though it’s always both exciting and a little bit anxiety-inducing, I think you just get accustomed to the anxiety part to the point where it doesn’t feel like it’s there, anymore (well, depending on who you are).

We had a great time, and though it took me a bit to open up, I was eventually able to interact with them in the same way I do with any other friends. I surprised myself with how naturally I was able to open up to them. It’s not necessarily that I have trouble opening up to people, it’s just that I have a hard time opening up to several people, in groups, multiple times per day. Introversion is fun, y’all! Though I do think our innate shared experiences of being queer gave us that base-level understanding with one another, so being able to open up to them really isn’t all that surprising, looking back on it.

I wouldn’t say that TwitchCon turned me into an extrovert, but it definitely helped me realize just how far I can push myself, socially. Because during the rest of the event, I found it so easy to approach people I knew on the internet, but was just meeting for the first time. Maybe it was because there was some sense of familiarity there already, due to us watching each others’ live streams, but it was so nice to feel like I so easily got along with everyone I met.

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The event itself was just so incredible, too. It felt like a bustling, chaotic home away from home. There was so much on the expo floor that related to gaming, streaming, and interests adjacent to those. There was also an artist’s alley, much like there is at most conventions like this one, where artists (who are also Twitch streamers) displayed and sold their creations.

There were several booths on the expo floor where you could play demos for games that were already out, or that would soon be released. There were also so many panels for improving your stream quality, how to be a better Twitch community member, tips on how to be a good community leader, and just about anything that could appeal to your interests as someone on a live-streaming platform. My personal favorite panel was the one on mental health and streaming, which had so much good information on creating content while also being kind to yourself. My biggest take-aways from that panel were that comparing yourself to avoid comparing yourself to others, focus on the good things you’re doing with your own channel, and know when to take breaks. Twitch is definitely its own thing when it comes to being a content creator, but it definitely had some amazing take-aways for anyone who’s in the creative world.

The other two panels that I went to that were also amazing were The Gayest Panel at TwitchCon (I mean like, of course I went to that one) and one on the art of makeup on Twitch, which was super cool to see as someone who doesn’t necessarily participate in makeup (though the panel sparked some interest in possibly experimenting with it? Who knows!) The Gayest Panel was amazing to see as a fellow queer streamer, knowing that we’re all linked through these similar experiences on the platform. Hearing their ideas on how they think queer presence on the platform will grow and move forward was also inspiring, mostly to confirm that me being overwhelmingly gay on stream is a good choice.

The makeup panel was also great, as it was fascinating to hear insight from people who use the same platform that I do for a different kind of creative medium. I’ve always been fascinated with makeup as an art form, but never have I really heard that kind of insight from people who do it so regularly as their means of entertaining others.

Seriously, y’all. TwitchCon has it all, when it comes to what you can get out of it.

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Me lookin’ kinda sleepy, Tolthe, RawVox120, Dirty_Meeper

Though the events at the convention itself were great, my ultimate goal was to connect with the people. I’ve met so many amazing people through Twitch, and there was something so magical about getting to see them all in person. There was a level of bonding we were able to achieve that, sure, can be possible on the Internet, but the quality definitely improves faster with those face-to-face interactions. And oh geez, did I have so many of these quality-improving moments when I was there. There were so many people I was excited to see, so many people I formed deeper bonds with, and so many people I hugged! Seriously! I’ve never been hugged so much in my whole life, and it was magical.

The thing about TwitchCon is that most of us are already so familiar with one another. We watch people do their live streams, which yes, can sometimes be a bit fabricated, exaggerated, or rehearsed when it comes to personalities, but ultimately, shows us a mostly unfiltered view of who they are. The fact that you can interact with the streamer directly through chat offers that direct line of communication, which has given us the sense that we’ve already come to know these people that we’ll be seeing at the convention. This was something I was initially a little nervous about, knowing I would be meeting so many people I had already talked to several times before, and feeling like they may not feel as good about my face-to-face interactions with them. Luckily, pretty much every meeting felt like a reunion with an old friend, so I was instantly more at ease with each time it happened.

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DragTrashly, ChaniChico, Deere, Angelxoxo, Cornfllake, PoppusT, Kevin, Kisos_tho, me being really heckin’ happy with all these rad queer streamers

I also met so many new people at TwitchCon, which wasn’t necessarily something I anticipated, but definitely had in the back of my head as a possibility. Even on the plane over to San Jose, I ended up sitting next to a streamer named Timmac, who has over 75k and is making more than a comfortable living through his channel, according to the Charlotte Observer. To those who aren’t super aware of how Twitch works, that’s an incredible feat! Some people stream for years and never have that kind of income from it, or even gain the viewership that would be able to yield that kind of revenue. When I saw this article, I realized I was sitting next to someone who had just the right combination of hard work and talent. Though I wasn’t aware of him until that day, it was amazing to get to meet him, and get to know him without the Twitch lens. Sure, we talked about being a streamer here and there, but it was really cool just to see who we was as a person before even seeing his channel.

Though I got a solid hour and a half with him, every other time I met a streamer for the first time was just as meaningful, as it felt like it was the beginning of a blossoming friendship. I don’t like to say that getting to know a streamer through Twitch is a less genuine way of getting to know them, but with all of the bells and whistles of the platform getting in the way, it can be hard to get a deeper sense of someone’s sense of self. They can be as authentic as possible on a livestream, but it doesn’t beat the magic of getting to talk with them in person.

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Left to Right: Minh Vogue, Mollydoesathing, me with a heckin’ cute panda, Sevendash, BotoCollin, Supercaliy, SRI_Deca, JoeyMarie

I knew the convention itself would be fun, but it was always about the people, for me. It was always about getting to see the faces of people who have supported me, the people who I’ve gained inspiration from, and the people whom I have yet to be inspired by. Not only that, but it was a mixture of strange and rewarding to have people recognize me, want to chat with me for a bit, and take a selfie with me. I don’t think we often realize what kind of influence we have as creators, so having people be so excited to see me was so surreal. The space I take up on Twitch can sometimes feel so small, but it’s moments like those that I realize the impact can be much bigger. I think being around this excitement helped center my thoughts around what my channel is serving on the platform, rather than how it exists compared to others. It didn’t feel like there was room to compare myself when there was so much kindness and support in that convention center.

Because of how much this trip impacted me, I’ve decided it’s no longer a trip I can afford to miss. The amount of inspiration and kindness at this convention is something I can’t miss out on, now that I know it’s there. It’s already sad, thinking that I might not see the people I met there for another year, so I don’t want to extend that for an extra year by any means.

Though every single person I met and interacted with was absolutely exceptional, I especially want to thank all of the queer streamers I met for all of the fun memories. I had already felt such a connection by interacting with them via Twitch, but getting to meet so many that I admire was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had, to this day. I have never seen a group of people be more kind and loving toward each other, and I think as long as we stick together and lift each other up on this platform, we can do anything we set our minds to. Don’t @ me for sounding so cheesy. I know I sound like an after school special, but let me be in my feelings! I deserve to get sappy!

Thanks for the memories, TwitchCon. Thanks for the renewed spirit, for impacting my life in the most unique way, and for sending me home with a full heart. I’ll be back, and next time, it won’t be with the looming sense of anxiety, but with the confidence that it will be just as amazing, or even more so, than the year before.

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(Want to see even more photos from the event? Check out my Instagram!)

Queer Eye for the Self-Esteem

When I watched the first episode of Queer Eye, I loved it so much, I knew I’d want to gush about it in the form of a blog post. So of course, I proceeded to binge the rest of the first season, calling it “research.” A friend of mine who’s published two books said that it counts, so I’d say that 8-ish hours of binge-watching was justified. 

For those who aren’t aware of the show, or who haven’t seen its predecessor, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the show centers around five gay men called “The Fab Five,” and in each episode, they’re tasked with improving the image and lifestyle habits a different guy (who’s usually straight). Each of the fab five members specialize in different aspects of lifestyle, the categories being food and wine, home decor, fashion, culture, and grooming. They spend about a week with these guys, giving them tips and tools on how to make themselves look and feel better to improve aspects of their life that are making them feel stuck. It’s like a home improvement and make-over show all in one series. Neat!

Though I never watched a whole episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I found the title revamp to just Queer Eye was a great nod in the right direction, as far as showing progression. It already gave the impression that it was less about contrasting straight men and gay men, and more about simply offering their perspective in the guys’ worlds. The old title felt very much like “I have taste because I’m gay, and you don’t because you’re straight,” and I feel like that put both communities under an false, wide-spread generalization. It immediately gave the impression that the show was more about showing similarities, rather than pushing gay men into that “other” category.

The unifying themes don’t just stop at the title. Queer Eye has a general sense of accepting differences, and they even push the boundaries on topics about extreme differences, such as the police’s relationship with the black community, as well as Christianity’s relationship with the gay community. They handle these topics in a way that shows that it’s possible to talk about these things in a respectful manner, and it sheds light on the fact that a lot of our misunderstandings with these subjects are because of a lack of conversations between the two communities. The show also does well at showing that they aren’t easy conversations to have, but that having the openness to listen can go a long way. Of course, the show isn’t saying that we always have to agree with those who are on the other side (especially when it comes to issues of racism, sexism, and homophobia), but it suggests that we at least have these tougher conversations so we know how each side feels about any given issue. 

Aside from all of the positive representation and political commentary in Queer Eye, the main content of the show itself is uplifting in a way that is very much needed, especially in reality TV. It’s not about changing these men to the point where they’re entirely new. Rather, it focuses on putting them on the right track to improve their lives. The Fab Five has their opinions about what they should do, but they ultimately give the guys they’re helping the agency to make these changes in a way that feels comfortable to them. This is a much more positive take on the concept of a make-over, showing that making changes in your life is less about becoming a new person, and more about simply brushing some dust off your shoulders. It portrays that all of us are already beautiful, wonderful people, but we just have to extend that beauty to how we treat ourselves. 

I think Queer Eye is so important, not just because of it’s positive LGBTQ+ representation, but also because of powerful messages about self-love. I feel that some people think taking the time to indulge on things that The Fab Five focus on can make us seem vain or self-centered, but I love that the show reminds us that it’s okay to do these things to promote positivity within ourselves. We don’t have to feel vain about using a face mask every once in a while, or making sure our hair looks good, or even just making sure our clothes show off our personal style, because how we love ourselves can say a lot about the love we put into others. The show is empowering in a way that is so modern, and so relevant to so many different communities, that no matter who you are, you’ll find yourself learning new ways to love who you are.

Queer Eye is currently available only on Netflix! Get in there, reserve some time for yourself to experience this delightful show, cry about how many feelings it gives you, and maybe fall for one of members of The Fab Five. Surely I won’t be the only one, right? Regardless, you’ll have no regrets.

Night in the Woods: An Adorably Emotional Roller Coaster

Every once in a while, I play a video game that delights me beyond words, while also gripping my heart so hard, that I can’t help but feel teary-eyed. It’s not that I don’t always enjoy the video games that I play, but not all of the ones I play give me an emotional experience that leaves such a lasting impression. Games like those are what really inspire me as a storyteller, so they often mean more to me than just an entertaining story that tugs at all of my emotions.

Recently, I played Night in the Woods, and it did just that, to me.

Don’t let the cute art and quirky characters fool you; this game has some intense moments that kick you right in the gut with no warning. The themes in the game were described by Paste, an entertainment magazine, as covering “mental illness, depression, the stagnancy of the middle and lower classes, and the slow death of small town America.” For those who don’t know what the game’s story entails, it follows the story of four friends in a town called Possum Springs, and how their lives have changed in the meantime after the protagonist, Mae Borowski, returns home after suddenly dropping out of college. Hoping to return to the days before Mae left for college, she shortly learns that her friends’ lives have little time to accommodate her, her parents are more distant and stressed due to financial strain, and the town just isn’t as thrilling as she remembered it to be. It’s a story full of hardship, learning about yourself, and trying to move past moments in our lives that keep us from growing. I want to say something like “thank goodness the art is adorable,” but I don’t really know if that helped lighten the mood, or made me feel worse for these cute critters getting their hearts crushed by reality. 

Also, two of the central characters (Gregg and Angus, the fox and the bear) are in a same-sex relationship! And it isn’t made out to be something out of the ordinary! You better believe my bleeding gay heart was ecstatic about that.

The high moments in this game were high, in the sense that I couldn’t help but let out a laugh at so many of the the things these ridiculous characters do and say. Every time Gregg wiggled his arms, I I felt my soul inflate with joy. Every time Mae’s dad made a dumb pun, I rolled my eyes, but in the most loving way. There were also several low moments, and those low points gave a conscious effort at ripping your heart out. With each back-story that we learn about, I feel my heart hurt for the experiences of these characters, wishing I could somehow jump into Possum Springs and tell them that everything’s going to be okay, and give them the biggest hug. 

The game focuses on exploring the town and interacting with the friends Mae had in Possum Springs, and it works in a way that lets you choose which character you would like to spend time with on each day. This allows you to choose the character’s story that you may be more interested in, or try to balance the time between both, but balancing the two would mean missing scenes from the other character’s story (the developers sure knew how to get that replay value in). The game prioritizes narrative, spending most of its time observing dialogue between characters, but also offering some fun mini games on occasion. It caters to many different gaming styles, but those who are looking for a rich story with complex, dynamic characters will be the ones who enjoy this game the most.

This is easily one of my favorite games that I’ve played in such a long time, because of how well this story is told, how relatable these characters are, and the range of emotions it captures. You find yourself thinking you feel one way about a character, only to realize that that character is more than what they’ve been letting on, and your feelings go from sky-rocketing to taking a nose-dive with very little warning. The situations in it are raw, not glorifying or dramatizing any of the real hardships faced by these characters. The dialogue is so smooth, so individual to each character, and the banter will easily be the thing that makes you fall in love with everyone in the game. The story is one of a kind, and no matter what kind of stories you enjoy, I think you’ll find yourself enjoying this one from start to finish.

If you just can’t wait to play this game, it’s currently available for download on Steam or the Playstation store! For those with neither of those, it will be available for the Nintendo Switch on February 1st. 

If you’ve already experienced this delightfully emotional creation, let me know how you felt about it in the comments! I could talk about this game for hours and hours. For real.

Discovering your Sexuality “In a Heartbeat”

Imagine being a child in a world where you’re only exposed to opposite-gender attraction. You’d then have to go to school with that bias while meeting new people, making new friends, and starting to develop a sense of what you’re interested in and who you like. Imagine that person being someone of the same gender, what it would be like to know and feel that it’s wrong to have these feelings for them. Those attractions would be so inherently uncontrollable that everyone would see it, casting judging glances that cripple your heart with doubt. Imagine how it would feel to have that doubt instantly alleviated when the person you’re attracted to just so happens to like you back.

If you’re an LGBTQ+ individual, and/or if you’ve seen the short film In a Heartbeat, you definitely have an understanding of how this feels.

I absolutely loved this short film from the moment it started to the moment it ended. It showcased the wide emotional spectrum of what it’s like to grow up while discovering thoughts in your head that no one prepared you for. It told such a complex, relatable story that has you smiling in one moment, crying in the next, and saying “awww” more often than not. In my opinion, it’s just the thing that kids, as well as the adults who are raising those kids, need to see so they can understand that same-gender attractions exist, and feel like they’re not alone in the process of discovering them. It’s so great to see these kinds of stories put out into the world, especially since it touched on such important issues targeted at a younger audience. 

The most important aspect of In a Heartbeat is the fact that it centers around two middle school students. We’ve seen stories about boys who like other boys, where they’re discouraged by society to act in alignment with their identity because it’s not the norm. However, we rarely see stories where this is happening to someone who is so young. This aspect of the short film changes the commentary so much, because then it becomes focused on the struggles of discovering your sexuality during the earlier stages of growing up.

When you’re a kid who’s discovering that you might be attracted to the same gender, you find yourself in such a vulnerable position. You were basically told from birth that you’d get married to the opposite gender some day, so coming face-to-face with a situation that hurls those instilled views out the window is quite jarring. We see this in In a Heartbeat by seeing just how panicked the main character is as he tries to pull his blissful heart away from the love interest. Yes, we could easily point this to the typical “OMG I don’t want him to know that I like him,” but considering the judgmental glances he received when the students at school saw who he was attracted to, I think he feared some sort of consequence for his feelings. Kids can be so harsh when it comes to something they think is out of the norm, and seeing that scene in the film felt as if the creators were reminding us that these attractions, even innocent ones between two young students, are still treated with disgust. I thought this bit of realism clashing with the amount of fluff in the story was a genius way to draw out sympathy for people who may be in the main character’s situation.

The portrayal of the attraction as this happy, impulsive, excitable little heart was beyond perfect. Though I don’t feel that it spoke directly to same-gender attractions, I thought showing it as such an innocent character was a good way to remind people that being attracted to the same gender feels very similar to being attracted to the opposite. You get giddy, and all you want to do is talk to the person, but you have this dumb brain that sometimes delves into some grossly negative logic, holding you back from a rejection that might not even be there. It spoke to the power behind romantic love, and the blissful determination of the heart pursuing the love interest insinuates that our attractions are too powerful to stop. Whether it was intentional or not, it was such a subtle way to normalize attraction to the same gender.

If you read this whole post and somehow still haven’t watched In a Heartbeat, please do so. After you’re done, watch it again. After that, show a friend. Show your family. Show a neighbor. Show your pets. Seriously, show this video to all of your acquaintances. This short film is so good for anyone of any community to see. Straight parents of LGBTQ+ kids could benefit from it by seeing what they may go through among their peers. Straight people in general could benefit from it by understanding just how hard it is to come to these realizations about your sexuality. LGBTQ+ kids could have a protagonist to relate to, and see that they’re not the only ones who struggle with these attractions. I think it’s so important to have media like this for younger audiences, and if children’s films and TV shows continue down this route, we just may see a world where same-gender attractions are normalized, and maybe sooner than we originally thought.

Dream Daddy? More Like Dream LGBTQ+ Representation!

The ever anticipated Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator finally made its release after having to leap over several dad-sized hurdles, and let me tell you, I am beyond impressed with the game. What I originally thought would be just a silly dating sim filled with dad puns and jokes about “daddies” as a sexual fetish evolved into something so much more impactful. There’s such a level of LGBTQ+ representation that most games haven’t come close to displaying, and along with that, the story writing itself is well beyond what I expected it would be. My little gay heart was beating with so much joy, and it might not stop as long as this game continues to exist (even if my favorite dad rejected me. It’s fine and I swear I’m not secretly sobbing, right now.)

I jumped into the dating sim thinking I’d just be a gay dad who goes on dates with other gay dads, you know, because I guess I just assumed the developers might not think past the G in the LGBTQ+ spectrum. That changed immediately after I started making my custom Dad character, when I saw that they included the option to make him trans! That’s huge! I have a trans friend who actually cannot stop talking about this aspect of the game because it means just that much to him. It’s already tough to get any good representation for gay, lesbian, or bi people, and to see that they made an option to be inclusive of trans identities is beyond progressive, compared to other games. Even Damien, one of the dateable dads, is trans! That’s more possible trans representation than even some of the most progressive TV shows!

Something else I’ve found pretty game-changing about Dream Daddy is that none of the sexual orientations of the dads are explicitly mentioned. This could seem non-progressive, because it might seem like they’re avoiding representing specific identities, but in my opinion, it’s quite the opposite. Many of the dads talk about previous wives, relationships, and even current wives (oh, Joseph) and the protagonist of the game doesn’t bat an eye at it, whatsoever. The fact that they may be something other than gay doesn’t have any importance to whether the main character wants to pursue them, which is so much more progressive than most people are in the real life LGBTQ+ community. I’ve seen so many gay people not want to date someone who identifies as bi because they could “fall for someone of the opposite sex,” or because they think being bi is synonymous to being questioning (which is false), when that’s something that should have no bearing on whether or not we choose to pursue them. It was so uplifting to see that the game focused so little on whether the dad was gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or anything else under the spectrum, and more on the fact that there are very apparent feelings between the main character and the dad of choice.

The thing that impressed me most is just how seriously the game takes itself, despite how silly it can get. We all expected to put a dent in our heads from face-palming at just how many dad jokes/puns there would be; that was a given. What I didn’t expect was just how serious the writers of this game took the story, and how the idea of men dating men was never the butt of the joke. Though TV shows, movies, and video games have gotten way better with how they represent same-sex relationships, they still manage to slip in something that makes their sexuality the subject of humor, which to me, is counter-productive for normalizing LGBT identities. I can’t even begin to tell you just how gosh darn pleased I am that this game is the actual best representation of LGBT people in a video game that I have ever seen.

It was also so refreshing to see LGBTQ+ men as parents in this game without zeroing in on the fact that they’re not straight. Society seems to have this idea that being a non-straight parent is wildly different than being a straight one, and it ends up being reflected in a lot of media that we consume. Sure, a child may be raised differently by LGBTQ+ parents in the sense that same-sex attractions would be normalized for them, since they’d be learning by example, and there might also be a higher chance that they’d encourage more freedom when it comes to gender expression. Other than that, the actual parenting experience isn’t all that different. They change diapers, they get emotional about sending their kid off on their first day of school, and they pull their hair out about their teenager getting angsty, all in a similar fashion to how a straight person would. Dream Daddy did a perfect job of representing parents in the community, as it never calls to attention that these dads’ parenting styles have any relation to their sexual orientation. Even their kids treat it like it’s just a typical thing, knowing that their dad is into guys. They just treat it with the nonchalant attitude that it should be treated with, because it’s not a thing that needs to be treated like it’s anything out of the ordinary.

Aside from the positive LGBTQ+ representation, the story, dialogue, and characters are all so well-thought out, that it was just the icing on this dream of a cake. The characters are multifaceted and complex, the story takes twist and turns that I never expected, and some parts even get you right in the heart-strings. It felt so validating to play a game with such well-rounded LGBTQ+ characters that also had quality story writing, because more often than not, the quality of representation ends up taking a back seat to the quality of the content, itself. I’m so pleased to see that this game has great representation condensed into an entertaining story, because it’s really showing that you can have a successful video game that also normalizes same-sex relationships. It seems bizarre to me that you’d even have to prove that such a thing was possible, but regardless, It feels great to see that Dream Daddy made this impression in the gaming world.

Without trying to sound to hoaky or overly sentimental, this game is honestly a gift. I truly appreciate the work Game Grumps, Vernon Shaw, Leighton Gray, and the whole crew put into making this game with the kind of refreshing representation that it has. The way the game features the LGBTQ+ community is honestly one in a million, and it shows a great deal of consideration to us to show us in a way that doesn’t make us seem so different from the rest of society. With the overwhelming success that this game has gotten, I’m hoping that it can inspire other developers and gaming companies to put our community in the same kind of light.

 

The Love/Hate Relationship with Being LGBTQ+

I’m gay. Whether or not I, or anyone wants to believe it, it’s an important part of me. I love being gay, but I hate being gay. Well, “hate” might be a strong word. It makes it sound like being gay is a truly miserable experience. I love it more than I hate it, but society doesn’t make it easy to love being gay. But if you don’t love being gay, people will try to change you. By default, if you want your life to be easier, more fulfilled, and less impaired by your own, downward spiraling thoughts, you almost have to love being gay. Of course, I don’t feel forced to love being gay. That just happened due to a small desire to spite everyone who thought that I would hate myself after coming out, but a side effect from it was actually being comfortable in my own skin. I have to live with it every minute of every damn day of my life, so anyone who tries to make me feel like shit about it would have a more productive time forcing their words down a garbage disposal.

I wouldn’t ever tell someone that I don’t love being gay, because first of all, it’s not true. I love it way more than I hate it, because this community I’ve ended up in is the most loving, accepting, and powerful community I’ve ever been a part of. It’s put me in a community that truly understands me without feeling like they have to infiltrate my personal life. They understand me without me even having to ask if they understand me. They make me feel comfortable, safe, and accepted just for existing, whereas straight people create the feeling of crippling uncertainty. I’m not necessarily crippled by how uncertain I become, but the uncertainty itself is so crippled, it takes a good amount of hobbling before it can see itself out. 

The community isn’t all beautiful rainbows and unicorns, though, that’s for damn sure. I love being gay, and I love the gay community, but sometimes, I kind of hate being in it. Sometimes I wish the community would get itself a moral face lift, because we can’t tuck away those racist, masculine-worshiping, misogynistic, elitist attitudes unless we’re all willing to tactfully pull that skin back. A procedure like that requires the power of choice, and lord knows only a fraction of us have used that power. Of course, if we really want to eradicate that kind of behavior, it would take more than a face life. But, you know, baby steps. Regardless, you’d think a community that’s known for being vain would hate having that kind of a blemish. 

I hate being in it because it can be just as isolating as it is welcoming. We separate ourselves into twinks, jocks, bears, otters, tops, bottoms, and so many other random, arguably unnecessary categories. We have to find our place in a community where we already feel like we have one, and if we don’t struggle to find a place among a group where we should feel welcomed, we basically become a blank page in a coloring book with no direction on which hue goes where. They’ll color us incorrectly, or think that one color is actually another, filling in our identity with a shade of their choosing, and putting us into a box of their creation. You’re probably thinking “Jeff, straight people do this, too. Why is it a gay thing?” You’re right, of course. However, this “gay thing” shouldn’t be a thing when being gay, or any other part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, is already it’s own thing that people can’t color correctly. I don’t want to have to define myself again in a community that has to define itself constantly.

I hate that we celebrate “pride,” but don’t take pride in the diversity within a community that’s already considered diverse in society. We come together and celebrate how our identities make us stronger, and how we’re all beautiful, complex, and inspirational in different ways, but only if you’re beautiful, complex, and inspirational according to some mysterious gay doctrine. I wish I could describe the gay doctrine for a better impact, but I’m pretty sure it just has something to do with “being gay enough.” I hate that I can walk into a Pride festival and immediately revert to isolation when I see bodybuilders in underwear talking only to other bodybuilders in their underwear, when I had felt the most warm, welcoming vibes just moments before. Am I not allowed to celebrate by covering my lack of abs with a Trixie Mattel t-shirt, with some denim shorts that go just above the knee? Does the doctrine say that this is “gay enough?” I should probably read it before I attend another Pride event.

I hate that gay boys with abs will post pictures on Instagram with only their other gay friends who have abs; did the average-to-plus-sized friends shoved to the side right before they took the photo? I hate that our bodies are fetishized or ridiculed. I hate that even our racial identities are treated pretty much the same way. I hate that so many of us say they “don’t really want to date, right now” when they really just don’t want to date you, or I, or somebody with a beautiful personality who just wants an honest answer. I hate that we argue about monogamy and polyamory when it’s nobody’s business but your own as to whether or not you should participate in it. I hate that if you’re not “masc,” then you’re femme, and if you’re femme, then you’re “basically a girl,” but if you’re neither, then you might as well just be femme. I hate that we put so much importance on being “femme” or “masc” when being either, both, or neither of those things is only a small fraction of what makes someone attractive. I hate that many of us think the LG is more important than the BTQ+. I hate that we appear to hate each other in times when we need to love each other.

I hate that we can’t be more functional, but I guess that just wouldn’t be realistic. 

Families always have some form of dysfunction. They don’t always love everything about each other, but that doesn’t mean they stop loving each other. Though I hate our dysfunction, I’m far from hating us. I love being in this community, because it’s humbling to know that I have this community to make me feel more accepted. I love being in this community because though we have moments of tearing each other down, and moments of judgment, the amount of love we have to give is bigger than I’ve ever seen come out of any other community. I love being in this community because I have never felt more accepted, more in-place, and more free to be who I am. Sure, we often don’t accept each other over the most trivial things, but in the end, we all love each other in the face of having one aspect of ourselves that society may not ever fully accept. I’ll deal with all of the shortcomings if it means that this one thing keeps us knitted tighter than any community out there. 

Possible LGBTQ+ Representation in Life is Strange: Before the Storm?

We’ve just now finished the biggest event in gaming culture, the E3 Conference, and I’ve got to say, I’m pretty hyped for a lot of the games that will be coming out (also yes, “hype” and versions of that word have appeared in my vocabulary more often now that I am on Twitch quite often.) There’s going to be a new Kirby game (one of my FAVORITES), a very innovative Super Mario game (Super Mario Odyssey) and even the Metroid series is getting an exciting new addition! However, when they announced that Life is Strange would be getting a prequel, I just about flipped my lid, for more reasons than it just being an amazing series. 

It means we may see a same-sex relationship as a main plot point in a VERY popular video game! Of COURSE I’m gonna be hyped for this! 

If you didn’t get a chance to play Life is Strange, I’ll give you a relatively spoiler-free summary of the game, just in case you still do want to play it. The game is about Maxine Caufiled, a geeky, mildly-hipster teen who gets the power to turn back time. She uses it to save a girl who gets killed in the bathroom at her school, Blackwell Academy. This girl ends up being Chloe Price, her best friend before Max left for Seattle for five years. The game covers the two of them re-connecting in the midst of their hectic lives, and working together to help uncover the mystery behind a missing student, Rachel Amber (whom the game hints to be a love interest of Chloe’s). The game revolves around the decisions you make while playing it, and those decisions greatly affect the way the story plays out. 

Before I move on to the reason why I’m so hyped for this next game, check out the trailer for the prequel, eh?

Because of the nature of how Life is Strange ends, it doesn’t leave room for a sequel. The game has a lot of back story that was never explicitly shown, so I imagine that the prequel will heavily feature exactly how Chloe became so jaded, as well as the relationship between Chloe and Rachel. Of course, I lost ALL of my celebratory marbles about this, just because of the lack of same-sex couples (female/female couples, at that) that we see in video games. Not only did it feel natural to add a prequel to this wildly popular series, but I think it will be a much-needed drop of sunshine in the darkness that is LGBTQ+ representation in games. 

Of course, I’m just theorizing, here. Because we were never given that explicit explanation into Chloe and Rachel’s relationship, the prequel could really include anything, when it comes to the two of them. However, I’m gunning for them truly being a couple (or at least them being very into each other) because of the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in video games. The ambiguity behind the true nature of their relationship leaves quite the open door for the writers to make it happen, and I know there are a lot of fans out there who would celebrate it. Not only that, but I know we would feel extra connected to their story because we can actually see ourselves in that position. While that’s also possible with an opposite-sex couple, I’ll find myself emotionally connecting to same-sex couples more than I do with opposite-sex, just because I actually exist in their community. That kind of connection can really impact the way fans would enjoy the game, and I know that LGBTQ+ community members and allies alike would appreciate seeing this happen.

Whether it ends up happening or not, the Life is Strange series has still touched on serious issues such as mental health, corruption in schools and authority figures, and the weight our decisions have on others. If LGBTQ+ representation isn’t something they decide to include, then it’s not like they failed in trying to create conversation about other important topics. However, in a community where there is still a lot of homophobic attitudes (i.e. using “gay” as a degrading slur in online games, calling people “fag,” and people getting upset about games where there’s same-sex dating options) there definitely needs to be more representation. The more we normalize these identities through representing them, the more people will realize that it’s not something to keep out of video games, and we’ll be able to move onto a deeper sense of equality. Honestly, with the way it brings such an intense realism to the way it approaches its respective topics, I couldn’t think of a better series than Life is Strange to offer a beautiful glimpse into LGBTQ+ relationships.

The first episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm will be released August 31st, 2017! Will you be playing it?