5 Influential Queer People in the Video Game Industry
The video game industry is not exactly known for its welcoming or inclusive environment for queer people and others living on the margins of society. Luckily, there is a gradual change with more diverse people daring to speak up and establish themselves in the video game landscape. However, queer people have always been part of the video game industry. Whether they were out at the time or came out later in life, their contributions must not be underrated. In this blog we will shine a light on 5 influential queer people in the game industry. Both past and present.
Danielle Bunten Berry
Danielle Bunten Berry was a trans woman who pioneered in the game design and programming branches of the industry. She is most known for her development of the 80s game M.U.L.E. A game now considered one of the first successful multiplayer games on the Atari platform. Berry had always been a fan of games. She considered them a great way of socializing. Playing games started as a hobby with her creating text-based video games, turned into a job at a video game company a few decades later. In 1992 Berry had a sex reassignment surgery. Her transition sadly caused her relationships with her family to falter and also the video game industry began to shun her. Sadly, Berry would not have been the first trans woman experience such discrimination.
Rebecca Heineman is another famous trans video game veteran. She has founded multiple video game companies such as Interplay Productions and Logicware Inc. She has been involved in the making of several well-known games such as Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, Baldur’s Gate 2 and 2 Medal of Honor games, just to name a few. She transitioned back in 2003 and lived happily together with Jennell Jacquays, also a trans woman, until her death.
Anna Anthropy is a contemporary video game designer. She has an itch.io account where she publishes many games, including multiple interactive stories. One of her most known works is the vignette game dys4ia. It’s a very personal game journaling Anthropy’s life as a trans woman and her transition. Queers in Love at the End of the World is also a popular interactive game she is known for. It was made in Twine and published in 2016 where the player has only 10 seconds to be in love before the world ends. Another notable work of Anthropy is the book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters where she explores the medium of video games, their artistic potential, and their value as art.
Yang is an Asian video game developer, artist and writer whose work focuses on gay subcultures. Some of his works such as Rinse and Repeat, Stick Shift and Succulent rose to fame after famous YouTubers played these experimental games on their channel. While these games may be considered ridiculous by some, they offer the player an authentic look on gay subculture such as BDSM practices, cruising and certain codes and rules among gay men. Yang really utilizes the interactiveness of the game medium to give the player a conscious, active role in the homoerotic play of his games.
Ruberg is a professor and game studies scholar at the University of California, Irvine. One of their most prominent work is the book Video Games Have Always Been Queer. In this book they explore queer identity and mechanics at play in video games, all dating back to one of the first-ever video games Pong. What’s interesting in this book, is that it doesn’t focus on queer character representation in a sense you might assume. For example, one chapter is dedicated to the queerness in the game Octodad: Dadliest Catch. A game where you play as an octopus who has to pass as a human in his day-to-day life. Ruberg discusses the queer embodiment and the social phenomenon of ‘passing’. In queer culture ‘passing’ usually refers to appearing straight and/or cisgender to the outside world.
May these 5 influential queer people inspire and motivate you to claim your place in the video game industry as well. Be it as a developer, an artist, a writer, a scholar or even a gamer. Of course, there are so many more creators and people beyond those who made this list. Seek them out and support them where you can. The world needs more queerness and it could all start with you 😉