June is a magical time of year. Outside, the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and the rainbow flags are fluttering gently in the breeze. Inside, the monitors are aglow and flooded with news from the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Best of all is when Pride month and video games happen to overlap. After all, when you don’t feel safe expressing a part of your identity in the real world, the digital world can be a lifeline to sanity.
Although some gaming communities sound about as fun as conversion torture, it’s not all teabagging and name calling. In fact, there was some promising news out of E3 this year for people who enjoy inclusiveness with their button mashing. No, I’m afraid the big developers haven’t announced an Anne Lister strategy game or fully automated luxury gay space console, but there are a few bright spots nonetheless.
At the top of the list is “The Sims 4” and its latest expansion pack, “Island Living,” which features the series’ first transgender character. The game also got a Pride month update that introduced LGBTQ+ content like a gender-neutral bathroom door.
That won’t surprise anyone who has played any of “The Sims” games. I fondly recall making an all-gay neighborhood 19 years ago in the first game, and the fan community has been pumping out their own rainbow-themed furniture and skins all that time. But it’s still nice to have official, intentional acknowledgment, especially when it’s born of partnerships with organizations like GLAAD and the It Gets Better Project.
We can also look forward to better character customization options in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” which will finally let players just choose their own hair and eye color instead of playing a loaded game of 20 questions (Rover: “You gonna move?” You: “Yup!” BAM, clown face). As far as I can tell, “Horizons” still makes players choose between boy and girl, but all the faces and hairstyles will now be available to either. And the best change is that players can finally chose a skin color, meaning you won’t have to maintain an in-game tan just to mimic your real-life melanin.
Details seem mixed when it comes to “Cyberpunk 2077.” The character creator displayed at E3 featured only male and female options, but the creators indicate a nonbinary option will be available when the game launches in April. They’ve also promised the ability to alter voice, face and body with whatever mix of masculine, feminine or androgynous traits you want. I hope that pans out, because that would allow players to create truly breathtaking characters.
Sony wasn’t at E3 this year, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a big, gay present for us. Remember “The Last of Us,” that cinematic masterpiece masquerading as a zombie shooter? Well, developer Naughty Dog is working on a sequel that may come out late this year or early next year. Go watch the Ellie and Dina trailer for some quality gay girl warm fuzzies.