Rainbow Arcade Kickstarter launched alongside museum exhibit

'20gayteen' in games: Kelly South takes a look at LGBT game archive in Germany

Kelly South
10th October 2018
Image Credit: Schwules Museum

On 18th September a Berlin museum launched a month-long Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the production and international shipment of 1,000 copies of Rainbow Arcade: Queer Gaming History 1985-2018.

This will be a companion book to an exhibit hosted at the Schwules Museum, Berlin, which is the oldest and largest LGBT related museum in the world. The exhibition will run for 6 months, from 13th December 2018 to 13th May 2019. 

This proposed catalogue has been described as “the first comprehensive introduction to queer gaming history”, a topic often overlooked by the mainstream gaming press.

The games industry is unfortunately notorious for its hostile attitude towards women, LGBT individuals, and people of colour

The Schwules Museum describes Rainbow Arcade as “an appraisal and a contribution to our ongoing conversations on diversity, representation, discrimination and politics in popular culture”. The museum exhibit, which is the world’s first on the history of queer video games, will include playable titles, concept drawings, fan-made mods and documents pertaining to online gaming communities.

The Rainbow Arcade catalogue will provide information on these, as well as containing additional essays by and interviews with various game developers, artists and researchers. As an added incentive, readers can’t find this content anywhere else.

Like most Kickstarter campaigns there are tiers of rewards: these range from digital copies of the catalogue itself to free museum tickets, copies of the crowdfunded board game Constentacle, and private group tours with the curators. Curators include museum staff and Dr Adrienne Shaw from Temple University, Pennsylvania - the founder of the LGBTQ Video Game Archive.

Dr Adrienne Shaw said “Most historical games exhibits focus on the major milestones of the mainstream games industry, this will be the first time queer games history will be front and center."

The digital nature of this medium and fan communities means that a lot of recent history has either been lost or is hard to find. Web domains close down and over time software is no longer compatible with new hardware.”

This will be the first time queer games history will be front and center

In recent years the representation of marginalised people in media, politics and everyday life has been heavily discussed and increasingly debated. The games industry is unfortunately notorious for its hostile attitude towards women, LGBT individuals, and people of colour.

Thankfully there are a growing number of companies, developers, artists, critics, and archivists dedicated to highlighting the crucial role these groups have had in the industry since its inception. LGBT creators have had to fight oppression perpetuated by fans and colleagues, this is not solely historical but still sadly occuring today.

Gaming communities can be rife with toxic masculinity, unconscious bias and outright bigotry: it’s not uncommon to see homophobic slurs, rape jokes, and transphobic terms casually used in online gaming chats. The Schwules Museum exhibit intends to challenge this behaviour and encourage an open dialogue on how all gamers can feel welcome, safe and respected in the community.

From the decision to allow same-sex partnerships in the Sims franchise to indie hit Gone Home focusing on a lesbian romance, it is critical to not overlook the importance of LGBT representation in games.

Personally, the presence of queer relationships in media quietly reassured me that my sexuality wasn’t unnatural or immoral - such self-acceptance is a revolutionary act in a heteronormative world.

Including LGBT characters and narratives in video games, and indeed all forms of media, normalises their lives and relationships, in a society which is still rife with homophobia and transphobia. It’s tremendously exciting that Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us Part II focuses on a young lesbian character, as LGBT people have been relatively ignored by AAA games.

The first comprehensive introduction to queer gaming history

Museum exhibits that cover these aspects of entertainment help to ensure that the importance of such work is recognised appropriately. You can find out more about the Rainbow Arcade catalogue Kickstarter at http://kck.st/2NKCdoT and follow the LGBTQ Game Archive at https://www.facebook.com/lgbtqgamearchive/

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