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But Gray sees something very different in the passionate response from fans: an audience that has gone dismally underserved by an industry that has failed to either see it or acknowledge it, and one that is ready to show up in force when offered a full-course meal rather than just scraps.
She points to game franchises like , both of which have amassed huge followings in part because of the in-depth (and gender-inclusive) romances they offer in between their battles.
“I know so many people who play those games not because they’re interested in the combat but because they want the romance and the relationships,” she says.
“Younger women, women who are queer like me, and younger people in general are interested in more complex narrative experience from a videogame.”Nor does putting queer characters and experiences center stage mean that a general audience can’t embrace them as well.
Spend a little more time with them, however, and these facades dissolve, revealing complicated men whose passions, secrets and struggles cannot be neatly contained in cookie-cutter character types.
Yes, the Goth Dad enjoys cloaks and long walks in graveyards, and the Jock Dad loves getting in his reps at the gym—but they both struggle to cope with rebellious children, shattered marriages, and the parts of their lives that they are ashamed to share with the world.
“Dads are such a universal, emotional thing for people, whether you have a good or bad relationship with your father, or no father in your life,” Gray says.
Some of the dads have had relationships with women before, some with men, but there's no agonizing about their sexual orientation and no more mention of it than there would be in a traditionally heterosexual romance.
Gray notes that while queer people—along with women and people of color—have long been expected to sympathize with straight, white cis characters, the mainstream games industry remains reluctant to ask the reverse.
And yet, this presumed lack of empathy or imagination hasn’t stopped lots of people outside the LGBT community from playing and helping make it a hit.“This is a very queer game, but it has legs longer than what a lot of people might have considered niche,” Gray says.
You meet six other dads who just happen to live in the same suburban cul-de-sac, and with a little help from a Facebook analogue called Dadbook, the dating begins.
The result is something as sincere and funny as it is heart-rending, a self-aware, deeply humanistic game whose witty script makes even the most groan-worthy dad puns seem to sparkle.