iPhone Game Raises Awareness of Marriage Equality

A new iPhone game, Valet Hustler, aims to raise awareness about same-sex marriage.

The company is pitching the game (App Store link) as Tetris meets Diner Dash, offering 3D arcade puzzles around a virtual car valet business.

However, the two central characters – Ren and Akira – are both gay, with their sexuality central to the storyline as players progress through the game.

“We set out to not only create a game that is an absolute blast to play with incredible visuals and top notch audio, but we also wanted to make a social statement that gays and lesbians should have the same marital rights as heterosexuals,” says CEO Andrew Littlefield.

I think it is awesome to create a game to raise awareness for marriage equality. While the back story seems incidental and unimportant to the actual game play, this decision plays an important role in helping to show people that same-sex relationships are just as normal as opposite-sex relationships.

 

Two dark-haired men on a city street looking at each other. One man (race is not apparent; possibly Asian, inferred from characters' names) in a white shirt and glasses is sitting and facing away from the viewer, looking at a standing white man who swears a white long-sleeve shirt and black waist coat.

Two dark-haired men on a city street looking at each other. One man (race is not apparent; possibly Asian, inferred from characters' names) in a white shirt and glasses is sitting and facing away from the viewer, looking at a standing white man who swears a white long-sleeve shirt and black waist coat.

My criticism is that the studio’s CEO equates same-sex marriage with specifically gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians are not the only groups that need marriage equality. The language used in their description excludes bisexual, trans gender, pansexual, and genderqueer identities and orientations. By singling out gays and lesbians, the statement continues to support the assumption that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is defined by the sex of the person one is in a relationship with, and that’s just not the case. For example, a bisexual woman remains a bisexual woman whether her partner is male or female. No matter the sex of her partner, her sexual orientation is still bisexual.

One additional note is that a portion of the revenue generated by this game will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT advocacy organisation in the United States. It’s admirable that the developers want the game to have tangible, financial impact on LGBT rights, however, the HRC doesn’t have the best track record in terms of trans gender inclusivity or racial and ethnic diversity.

[CasualGaming.biz via Wonderland]

12 thoughts on “iPhone Game Raises Awareness of Marriage Equality”

  1. Hmmm, since the game have no other options then playing a homosexual person it cant say really anything about bisexual, trans gender, pansexual, and genderqueer identities and orientations at all.

    As much as i agree that it is very important to point out in the general discussion about marriage equality that there is much more the “just” homosexuality, i think it is a bit unfair to judge Littlefield, based at one sentence where he describes the social statement of the game.

    1. Hm, I wasn’t judging Littlefield. I don’t know Littlefield as a person, so I’m not really in a place to judge him. I was critiquing Littlefield’s language, which was not inclusive. These details do actually matter, because the language used serves to uphold incorrect assumptions about sexual orientation, gender identity, and same-sex relationships. In the battle for marriage equality, when advocates rally under the “gay marriage” banner, they effectively exclude those who need same-sex marriage rights, but who are not gay. And unfortunately, this makes the public continue to assume that one’s sexual orientation is based upon the sex of whom you sleep with.

      1. Of course the whole gender identity issue is a very important thing in the whole same-sex marriage rights discussion. And i think it is also very important to have a look at the language we use.

        But from a developers perspective its kind of confusing. Because there is a studio which is not afraid to touch homosexual marital rights as a background story, and has half of a sentence in a interview to make some kind of statement about it.
        And i think developers like this need our support.

        So what i meant it its a bit unfair to criticize non inclusiveness when he just describes what his game is about.

        1. And i think developers like this need our support.

          Seems to me like this post was written in support of the developer.

          So what i meant it its a bit unfair to criticize non inclusiveness when he just describes what his game is about.

          The portion of the statement that this post criticizes does not describe the content of his game but rather, the social statement that he wanted to make with it. And that statement, as phrased, is exclusive. You acknowledge that it’s important to look at the language we use, so why is it unfair to turn a critical eye on the way he chose to frame this issue of marriage equality in his statement?

        2. So… Not sure if you missed this part of my post:

          “I think it is awesome to create a game to raise awareness for marriage equality. While the back story seems incidental and unimportant to the actual game play, this decision plays an important role in helping to show people that same-sex relationships are just as normal as opposite-sex relationships.”

          It’s the part of my post where I write that I support the developer.

          Just because someone does something good, doesn’t mean that they are immune from criticism. It is okay to critique things we like and things that are, for the most part, good–apart from a detail or two. This blog wouldn’t exist otherwise. Remember: we are all passionate gamers here, and yet we take a closer look at games and issues surrounding games, and analyse them because we see those flaws that could be improved. We’re not being “unfair”. We’re just critiquing. And those criticisms actually are legitimate.

          I’m not being unfair. What is unfair is Littlefield’s use of exclusionary language that taints his otherwise great statement about what seems like a great game that promotes marriage equality (see again how I just made a statement in support of the game and its development?). Do you know what is really unfair? It’s unfortunate and unfair that same-sex marriage is equated with just gays and lesbians, to the point that most people call it “gay marriage” and it’s unfair that because it’s more widely known as gay marriage, that this continues to reinforce the notion that one’s sexual orientation is determined by whoever you sleep with.

          I am sure Littlefield meant well, however meaning well and having good intentions doesn’t give people a free pass when they do things that marginalise others. At the end of the day, well meaning or not, his statement is still out there.

  2. The statement “that gays and lesbians should have the same marital rights as heterosexuals” is just that. It doesn’t specifically exclude trans people; that’s just not an issue this particular game addresses. There are also plenty of trans people who DO identify as “straight” or “gay.” We shouldn’t dictate for others that these terms are inaccurate. Different people prefer different labels.

    I don’t believe a game needs to get /everything/ right to be celebrated for getting something right. A game that has a great representation of African Americans shouldn’t get finger-wagged because it neglected to represent Asian Americans and Latinos as well. Similarly, a game that has a good representation of gays shouldn’t be punished for not also including every other conceivable gender expression.

    1. I don’t believe a game needs to get /everything/ right to be celebrated for getting something right.

      This statement confuses me as the OP starts the post by explicitly stating that she thinks it’s awesome that this game exists. Does celebration require a strict withholding of criticism?

      Besides, the OP was criticizing the exclusive language used by the game’s creator, not the content of the game itself.

      1. I see what you’re saying but I don’t agree that the language is exclusive just because it isn’t explicitly inclusive. Saying, “gays deserve equal rights” doesn’t imply that trans people don’t. If I say, “I support equal rights for African Americans,” that doesn’t mean I have an exclusive attitude towards Asians or Latinos.

        I think it would have been misleading if Littlefield’s language implied this game represented trans and other gender-related issues because it doesn’t necessarily. These particular two characters are gay and their relationship is legitimized; that’s all.

        1. I agree with you that saying “gays deserve equal rights” does not necessarily imply that trans folks don’t. And I also agree with the point you made previously about trans people identifying as gay and lesbian, so I definitely do not take issue with that.

          However, Littlefield’s statement was a bit more complex than what you’re describing. He said that he “wanted to make a social statement that gays and lesbians should have the same marital rights as heterosexuals,” and I don’t think it’s wrong or unfair to consider that statement in light of the history it carries. There is a longstanding issue of biphobia within the greater queer community and in particular, bi-exclusion within the marriage equality movement. Framing the issue of marriage equality as being about gays and lesbians gaining the same rights as heterosexuals perpetuates the the problem of erasure that bisexual folks have to cope with.

          I think this is all a bit tangential to the game itself. Like, I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem if the game doesn’t represent bi-folks because looking at the description, it doesn’t appear that that there’s lesbians in the game either: just the two main characters that are gay men. The issue is just his statement and the language he used to discuss marriage equality, not the content of his game.

  3. Anyone want to start a pool about how long it will be before the game gets locked into the “adult games” ghetto they’re putting all the jiggle boob games in?

  4. Good on Littlefield and his company for tackling the issue. That’s wonderful.

    Also thank you for pointing out how his framing of the issue excludes bi folks. I think this is something a lot of people who aren’t bi don’t realize, and it’s important to point out and get more people aware of the problem. Inclusive language is so important, as we know since it is one of the rules of the blog.

  5. Thank you for this post.

    The game itself looks interesting, and I’m glad that it challenges the privileged assumption of heterosexual as default, but it still has a way to go.

    Given the statement about “gays and lesbians” (a phrase I find to be male normative), the donations to the HRC despite its intersectionality fails, as well as the apparent lack of lesbians that oliemoon noted, it seems that the developers hearts are in the right place but could use a better understanding of intersectionality in general.

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