Over at Gamasutra is an interesting interview with Todd Harper from the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab about A Closed World, a JRPG-style game that was created to address issues of sexuality and identity. The research statement reads:
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.
In the interview, Harper talks about the various inspirations for the game, which include Earthbound. He says that the goal was to design a game that gave a sense of an experience many queer people have of managing their own identity so closely in order to not be outed, without being too heavy-handed. He believes the team met those goals and hopes that the greater video game industry can learn from what they have accomplished:
“If the industry is willing to look at our process, and look at the difficulties and challenges we had and how we thought them through, it might be something they can adapt for their process, where they have a whole different set of challenges.”
“Eventually, someone is going to have to say, ‘look, we want to tell this story and it’s a risk we’re going to take if we want to tell it.’”
You can play A Closed World here.