Asexual Representation: Parvati Holcomb in The Outer Worlds

Parvati Holcomb is our favorite character in the The Outer Worlds. She is Asexual and as her captain/confidant, you can play as an AroAce. This is groundbreaking rep for Aces in video games (and we don't just say that because her potential girlfriend works at “The Groundbreaker”)

Transcript

Courtney: Hello everyone and welcome back to The Ace Couple. My name is Courtney and I’m here with my spouse, Royce. And we are coming at you with another Asexual representation episode. Now, most of these episodes that we have done have been about TV shows, movies, the occasional book here and there, because those are just the sorts of mainstream media where we occasionally find Asexual representation, for better or for worse. But today, we are going to talk about a very, very prominent Asexual character in a video game, because all forms of media are very important, and we love to diversify our Ace rep, don’t we? So without further ado, Royce, why don’t you go ahead and give us an introduction into the game The Outer Worlds.

Royce: So The Outer Worlds is a first-person RPG set in a futuristic hyper-capitalist society that takes place in a solar system outside of our own. Your character awakes after being cryogenically frozen for longer than you intended.

Courtney: Fun.

Royce: And you find yourself in the middle of a downtrodden world full of exploited workers, evil mega-corporations, comically bad adverts, and corporate messaging to employees that sometimes hits a little too close to home.

Courtney: Just like real life. [laughs]

Royce: Gameplay sprawls across a few alien worlds, spaceships, super-structures, and it’s a mix of first-person shooting, melee, RPG-style stat advancement skill trees, rotating party members, branching dialogue options – that sort of game, if you’re familiar.

Courtney: For the people who aren’t familiar, what would that be in layman terms, in noob terms? [laughs] You shoot things up.

Royce: Well, it’s… I guess you could say it’s kind of like playing the main character in a sci-fi TV show.

Courtney: Yeah, and you actually have options – like when you converse with people in this world, you’re not down one specific path. It gives you a variety of options that you can choose. So you can kind of decide if you’re the nice guy or if you’re a little rude or snippy, and sort of choose your own personality that way as you play.

Royce: Right. The central character is a stand-in and you have decisions to make to decide what kind of character you’re going to be. And so the central questline – there is a main plot throughout the game and then a variety of side quests, or other things that you can or cannot do, can choose to do if you want to, involving other characters and their own stories – but the central questline has a pretty wide fork. There are two distinct endings based off of the choices you make, along with variations within those, that are influenced by your interactions with other characters. And there’s often more than one way to complete a quest. And we particularly had fun investing in non-combat skills that allowed us to talk our way out of trouble and hack into everyone’s email.

Courtney: Yes. Yes, you can choose your own skills. [laughs] So you can choose to be more persuasive, to try to give yourself an upper end in negotiations. You can be more of an intimidating type, try to scare people into getting your way.

Royce: Or just downright violent and murderous.

Courtney: You can just go – to borrow a tabletop RPG term – you could just go full “murder hobo.” [laughs] You could just kill everyone. Don’t recommend it, but it’s a choice. This is your game!

Royce: Now the thing that stood out to us most in this game was actually the dialogue, which is probably a good reason to not go full “murder hobo” because then you cut off a lot of the dialogue when you eliminate the people.

Courtney: Yes. [laughs] As does tend to happen. Just like real life!

Royce: And within that, in particular, the reason we picked up the game in the first place, and the reason we’re sitting down to talk about it today, is the first potential companion you meet. The first out of six non-playable characters who can join you on your ship, The Unreliable, and help you out on your mission through the game is a woman named Parvati Holcomb.

Courtney: Parvati, my love!

Royce: Parvati is Biromantic Asexual.

Courtney: And isn’t she just the best? She’s very, very good.

Royce: She also appears to be of Indian descent, at least as far as we can tell, given a setting that is about 350 years in the future, far, far away from Earth. Her mother’s name at least appears to have Indian roots.

Courtney: Well, yes, and her name, Parvati, and just – she is clearly a woman of color in how she is depicted. She does have brown skin. But again, India doesn’t exist in this world. So do with that what you will. [laughs]

Royce: Well, Earth exists, but Earth has mostly been left, ’cause we kind of trashed the place.

Courtney: Just like real life! [laughs]

Royce: So Parvati’s character concept was originally created by Chris… [unsure how to pronounce] L’Etoile?

Courtney: L’Etoile.

Royce: She was written to be Asexual from the beginning, and she was loosely based off of Kaylee from the TV series Firefly.

Courtney: Which I still have not seen, no matter how many people across my entire life, over many, many years, have told me that it is an absolute must.

Royce: It’s been a long time for me. I was also peer-pressured into it. Firefly is one of those shows that, particularly about a decade ago, if you admitted that you hadn’t seen it, you kind of immediately lost nerd cred.

Courtney: Lost the nerd cred! Yes. If you’re friends with enough geeks, you will be peer-pressured into watching Firefly. [laughs]

Royce: But sexuality aside, both characters, Parvati and Kaylee, have some significant overlap. They’re both very kind, wholesome, genuine personalities, and they’re talented hard-working mechanics in futuristic settings, on spaceships.

Courtney: Yes. If I were to describe Parvati, I would call her “too precious for life.” This world is too cruel for someone as as pure and wonderful as Parvati. [laughs]

Royce: So the idea to write an Asexual character had been something that Chris was holding onto for a bit. They mentioned that while working at Wizards of the Coast, a team of writers started thinking about how to write a character’s backstory in Magic: The Gathering as Ace.

Courtney: Mmm. Oh, I haven’t played Magic in a decade.

Royce: And they also mentioned that part of their research, of course, led them to AVEN and also to a book called Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire.

Courtney: Oh! This is news to me! Every Heart a Doorway.

Royce: Seanan McGuire is a Pan Demisexual author and one of the characters, I believe the main character, in Every Heart A Doorway is Ace.

Courtney: Well, add that to the reading list. My ever-expanding reading list. [laughs]

Royce: This character idea in Magic: The Gathering was eventually dropped. But when Chris started working on The Outer Worlds, they wanted to actually fulfill this idea of an Asexual character. And Chris unexpectedly left Obsidian, the developer of the game, but had just pages and pages of notes on this character.

Courtney: I read about that – that his notes were, like, way more extensive on a single character than anyone anticipated.

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: And he was really, really, really fleshing her out, and that she was canon Ace right from the start. So, I think that’s just cool as heck.

Royce: Right. And she was picked up by a woman named Kate Dollarhyde, who is a Bi Ace woman herself. And so Kate kind of finished out the character.

Courtney: Which is also very, very cool. Because when I first read that the original writer who concepted Parvati left and it got picked up by someone who was herself Ace, I assumed that was intentional – like they knew there was someone Ace on the team and they said, “Well, clearly, she’s the best person to pick this character up.” But apparently, it was just a happy accident, and she wasn’t even out to most, if not all, of her co-workers. And so when she got this character and saw this massive book of notes [laughs] on Parvati, she felt really, really lucky because she herself is Bi and Ace. And apparently, in just talking about the character and how she finished writing Parvati, she kind of had to unintentionally come out when she was being interviewed. Because Parvati was a huge hit. And I don’t know how we can emphasize this enough, especially if there are any listeners who aren’t big gamers and maybe haven’t even heard of this game. Because Parvati is, like, unanimously the internet’s favorite character in this entire game. She is widely beloved. So, naturally, everyone wanted to talk about her, write articles about her, talk to the person who wrote her. [laughs] And I kind of don’t love that so many creative people kind of need to come out after creating queer characters, but at least from what she said – she said it felt kind of weird, but she didn’t necessarily say that put any great distress on her. So I really hope that that wasn’t sort of a peer pressure situation where she really didn’t want to come out but felt like she had to. But that does happen, too, and it’s unfortunate. But it really is just wild how that was pure coincidence [laughs] that this character landed in the hands of an Ace to finish off. Which – it really is just very special. And Dollarhyde has said herself that she was able to actually put real lines from her life into the story and actual things that have been said to her and actual fears and concerns that she has as a Bi Ace woman. So having a personal voice like that is just so cool and so important.

Royce: And before we jump into the game itself, I know that she was a big fan favorite. I also heard that she was a staff favorite as well. And to give everyone an idea of the impact: this game released in late 2019, and by March 2021, it had sold over three million copies.

Courtney: So yeah, this wasn’t a teeny-tiny game by any means. In fact, the very year it released, 2019, it won the award for Best Original Game at the Game Critics Awards. In the following year, in 2020, it won several different awards from multiple different gaming academies, including the Outstanding Video Game award at the GLAAD Media Awards. So, that is an LGBT-specific award ceremony for Queer representation in media, and here a video game with a prominent Asexual character is winning that. And I think that’s huge! We often talk about how little representation we get, and comparatively speaking, to other orientations, absolutely we do. But when you actually get into all the different corners of media, there are some really good gems like this, in maybe just a place – if you aren’t a gamer yourself, I don’t blame you for not knowing about The Outer Worlds and the character Parvati. But there are people in different places who are really, really fighting for representation and doing it well enough that it is getting widespread recognition in their own niches. So let’s talk just a bit about the game itself and Parvati the character and how you have options to interact with her. Because I think you mentioned she is the first person you meet who can become a companion of yours, that stays with you for a prolonged period of time.

Royce: Right. Getting into the game, you get a little bit of backstory, of setting, and then you’re dropped on an alien planet and the first settlement that you get to is where Parvati lives. It’s a sort of run-down blue-collar corporate town that is barely being maintained.

Courtney: Saltuna! The Saltuna Cannery.

Royce: And Parvati is working as the town’s central mechanic, a job that she basically learned and inherited from her father, who has passed by this point in the story.

Courtney: Yes. And you meet her right away, first settlement. And you definitely know – like, it’s it’s eerie how corporate this place is, so it kind of just unsettles you. [laughs] Like, I know I didn’t trust this place.

Royce: I think the first visual you get coming into this town is actually walking through a graveyard right outside the town that is not staffed properly enough to handle the number of bodies from workers.

Courtney: Yeah. There are some, um… there’s some shady things going on here. Late-stage capitalism, what can I say? But I love that she’s the very first one that we meet. Because in a game like this, you have characters who will offer to come with you. And you can turn them down – you can totally just go solo and not have a friend – but you’re going to be making your life so much harder if you do that.

Royce: Right. I mentioned there were six possible companions, as they call them, to fill out your ship. And as you’re going about the game, you can have two of them with you at a time, actually out in the field, helping you out in combat, helping your –

Courtney: Espionage.

Royce: – helping your skills, if you need to, again, repair things, hack into things, get through dialogue options. But also just having them on your ship opens up their own personal questlines. And each of them has a story, a series of quests, on their own to complete to flesh out their characters and their motivations.

Courtney: Yes, absolutely. And since it’s so early in the game when you’re introduced to Parvati, I’m sure there are maybe a couple of people who missed her or decided to not ask her to come along, but she’s very hard to miss. And most players are probably not going to be inclined to just throw away their first ally in a huge game like this.

Royce: Right. And I think the only way that she would voluntarily leave is if you actually end this first series of missions by killing the antagonist instead of resolving it peacefully, because Parvati’s sort of the moral compass of the crew.

Courtney: Oh, she’s absolutely the moral compass. And that’s part of the reason why she’s so likable. And especially when you get into this first town – because there’s so many morally gray things, and clearly this factory is awful and doing horrible things. And there’s sort of just a group of people who have defected and left the factory town and just sort of have their own little enclave, [laughs] where they’re growing their own food. They’re totally removed from the rest of society. And it kind of seems at one point like you have a choice: do you side with the defectors who are living their own peaceful life in their own little settlement, or do you side with the evil corporate factory? [laughs] And of course, we were like, “Well, we don’t want to side with the evil factory. Screw them.” But then Parvati steps in and is like, “Uh, Captain, think of all the people who work for that factory and depend on the food and their pay, and you’re going to hurt a lot of people if you do this.” It’s like, “Ah, damn it, Parvati, voice of reason.” [laughs]

Royce: Yeah, what seemed a very obvious decision right away became muddied because of all of the civilians involved. And it seems like the best course of action is actually to reunite the two camps by essentially causing the mayor (or whatever his position was, the leader of the town) to step down – peacefully, ideally.

Courtney: [laughing] Peacefully, ideally, yes. We had to find a clever third option! [laughs] Which I don’t know if we would have without Parvati’s moral guidance. [laughs]

Royce: It does help, in a game like this, to have someone to sort of interject and tell you what the rules of the game are.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Because there are other games where peaceful resolution isn’t an option.

Courtney: Yes. But yeah, and as you’re going about, there’s clearly a guy that Parvati knows. And I think they’re around the same age, probably grew up together. And he very clearly seems to have a crush on her. And she makes a couple of comments, or a little –like, some uncomfortable noises. So it’s very clear that he is interested in her, but she is not interested in him. But they don’t really explore that immediately in this first sort of chapter that we get with her. Nice little bit of foreshadowing, though. And then, what are the actual circumstances that we – after we have resolved this planet and sort of fly off, what are the circumstances in which we meet Junlei? Junlei is another mechanic working for a different operation.

Royce: Well, to back up a little bit, as you’re sort of resolving things in this first town, as you get your new ship, The Unreliable, up and running –

Courtney: [laughs] Great name for a ship, by the way.

Royce: – Parvati very excitedly asks to join your crew as the mechanic.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: Because the ship needs some work.

Courtney: Yes, it earned the name The Unreliable. [laughs]

Royce: But after that point, there are many times when you can stop and talk to Parvati on the ship or while you’re out doing missions and learn a little bit more about her as a person, her backstory, her family life, that sort of thing. The next place you go is an orbital station called Groundbreaker, which is –

Courtney: Mmm, yes, that’s right.

Royce: – which has a prominent role in this area of space around these planets. And Junlei is the mechanic captain of The Groundbreaker.

Courtney: Yes. And Parvati is flustered. [laughs] She’s already a little shy and socially awkward at times, but it ramps up to, like, eleven when we meet Junlei for the first time and get to talking. [laughs]

Royce: Yeah, it’s pretty obvious. I think one of the other techs in Junlei’s crew says something to you as an aside that’s like, “Oh, Parvati is exactly Junlei’s type.”

Courtney: Hint hint, wink, wink, nudge. [laughs]

Royce: But that is sort of the start of Parvati’s personal questline.

Courtney: Mmm. MLM: mechanics loving mechanics. [laughs]

Royce: Unlike many other games in this genre – which sometimes have sort of B- or C-plots where they kind of turn into minor dating sims in and of their own right – in this game, the player doesn’t have any sort of romance options. But you do have the option to play wingman.

Courtney: Yes! And my gosh, Parvati is so sweet and precious and Asexual, and she is just so twitterpated by one miss Junlei. [laughs] And I would move heaven and earth to make Parvati happy. [laughs] And if being happy means she romances Junlei, then goddamn it, she’s gonna romance Junlei. [laughs] It’s actually not too long after we initially meet Junlei that we actually start learning about how Parvati is Asexual. They do not use that word, but it is obvious. [laughs] It is explicit. She’s sort of talking, like, “You know, I’ve been talking to Junlei,” and she says, “I don’t know where it’s leading yet, or if I’m misinterpreting. I’m not much interested in physical stuff, never have been – leastways, not like other folks seem to be. It’s not that I can’t. I just don’t care for it. It’s been a problem in the past. The folks who wanted to be with me back in the Vale… they didn’t – they said I was cold. That’s – well – it’s tripped folk up in the past, folks I thought cared about me. What if she’s not okay with that? What if she is, but then later she’s not?” And it’s like, oh, sweet, sweet Parvati. Also, I should add, this is a conversation that happens because Parvati, who famously does not drink – like, she has made it clear that she does not drink – she’s just like, “Captain, can we go to the bar? [laughs] I want to have a drink.” Is it Purpleberry? Purpleberry was a thing in this game. I feel like it was purpleberry wine she wanted to drink, maybe.

Royce: There were purpleberry a lot of things.

Courtney: Purpleberry everything.

Royce: Major company. I can’t remember exactly what her reason was for not drinking, but she was at least banned from the general store in the town she grew up in because when she was 12, she hacked a vending machine and spilled a bunch of bottles all over the floor.

Courtney: [laughs] Oooh, no!

Royce: Picked a lock, not hacked. But same difference. Very inopportune bottle spillage.

Courtney: Yes. She has bottle trauma. But yeah, and so… [laughs] I think you can choose. I think you can say, like, “No, we’re staying on our mission,” but…

Royce: Yeah, the writers did want to give people an out, people who didn’t want to – every side quest is optional.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: If you want to just focus on the combat and the main storyline, you have that ability.

Courtney: If you want to make Parvati sad. If you want to let her down! The sweet precious creature! [laughs] So we take her to the bar, and she just starts spilling all of this. But my favorite part: after she spilled all of that to us, it gives you five different options for what you can respond when she says, “You know, what if Junlei is not okay with the fact that I’m not interested in physical stuff?” You can say, “Then you go your separate ways.” You can say, “Are you afraid of being rejected for who you are?” You can say, “So you’re afraid of disappointing her?” Or you can say, “You can’t control how people react to you, even people you care about.” Or! You can say, “We have that in common, you know! I’m not interested in physical affection either.” And our Ace asses clicked that option so fast. There we have it: two canon Ace characters. You get to play one of them.

Courtney: But when you say that, her eyes get so wide with joy and wonder and surprise. And she’s just like. “You’re… you’re not? You’re like me?” And here you can either just say, “Sure am!” Or you can say, “Well, I’m cooler, but yeah,” and kind of tease her a little bit. Or you can go full Aro Ace and say, “I don’t get much use for romance neither.” Love it. Beautiful. And I did read that the writer was very, very intentional to make sure that you didn’t have a bigoted option. The game designers could have said, like, “That’s weird. You’re a freak,” and given you the option to say that if you wanted. But they’re like, “No, you don’t get to be a bigot. You have options, you can say different things, but you don’t get to be cruel.” And that’s just great. I do really like that.

Courtney: But yeah, Parvati’s so happy. She’s like, “So we’re kin-like! That makes me, well, unaccountably happy. Captain, it’s a lonely thing, being different like this.” And she’s just so happy! Because now – I mean, she already liked you. She wanted to go to the bar and drink with you. She was confiding all these things. And so to be like, “Wow, I’m not the only one” – like, I’m getting “You’re the first Ace person I’ve ever met other than myself and I thought I was alone” vibes. So that was just so sweet! And I liked that a lot.

Royce: So I just remembered the impetus to go to the bar and drink and talk about all of this is because Parvati is really anxious about a poem she got.

Courtney: That’s right! Junlei wrote her a poem.

Royce: And she’s having trouble telling what the meaning or motivations are or if she’s misunderstanding something.

Courtney: True, true, true. But she definitely already has feelings for Junlei also. So she is interested in romance, but she’s also concerned about both “Am I misinterpreting?” but also, “If I’m not, what if she’s not okay that I’m Ace?” There are multiple bad outcomes here. And she’s trying to work through that. And yeah, I just like also – aside from this main Parvati questline where we can sort of help her in her quest to romance Junlei – I just like having her as a partner when we’re out talking to other people, because she’ll also speak up and have interactions with people. And she’s just clearly the best companion. Because some people are quieter. Some people are just really gruff kind of Outlander Scofflaw types, and they’re fun in their own right. But Parvati had never been outside of her sort of home factory town in her home planet. So while we’re experiencing the world for the first time, she’s also experiencing a bunch of new places. And she definitely just has this wide-eyed wonder with a lot of things. And she’s very cute.

Courtney: And having that moral center is very fun, too. There is one moment where we meet somebody who buys and sells things, and all of a sudden, she’s like, “Oh, a little of this, a little of that, I buy and sell items that require discretion to dispose of: knickknacks, curios. I also knit throw pillows stuffed with the hair of famous tossball players, but that’s more of a passion project.” And if Parvati is on your team [laughs] when you meet this person, Parvati will pipe up and be like, “I’m not sure that’s entirely legal,” and this NPC – her name is Gladys – will just be like, “That’s half the reason I make them, my dear.” That has almost nothing to do with Parvati, but I loved that. [laughs] I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the weird hair-pillow lady. Also, just saying “tossball” – that’s the sport of choice in this galaxy, and I can’t get enough of that word.

Royce: Right, that’s –

Courtney: It feels good in my mouth. Tossball!

Royce: That’s future “sportsball”: tossball.

Courtney: Tossball! [laughs]

Royce: So yeah, Parvati is definitely the best side character. But I mentioned that you can have two companions at the same time. And of course they interact. They interact with each other; they interact with the world and with the other non-playable characters you speak to. The best player combination is you, Parvati, and SAM.

Courtney: SAM!

Royce: SAM is an autonomous cleaning robot who has been retrofitted with weaponry to be a combat cleaning robot.

Courtney: SAM is the best. And Parvati works with machinery as a mechanic, of course, but she also just anthropomorphizes machines –

Royce: Her –

Courtney: – and gives them names. [laughs]

Royce: The way she talks to SAM is like some combination of a little brother and a puppy.

Courtney: Yes! [laughs] It’s very good! SAM will say something that is, like, both somehow threatening from a combats point of view, but also an advertisement for SAM units and very corporate. [laughs] And Parvati will just be like, “Aw, good boy, SAM!” [laughs] There was one line that Parvati said that definitely felt like an Ace Easter egg and definitely gave me the “Yep, this was written by an Ace person” vibes. Because we talk to just some other character on a different quest and on a different world, and after hearing how this girl talks about another guy, Parvati just says, “I reckon she’s got a little bit of a squish on this fella.” And man, squish! That is – almost feels like an antiquated Ace term at this point. I haven’t heard a lot of people use it recently. But like a decade ago, it was all over the place as, like, you know, “Regular people have crushes. Aces have squishes.” Or some people would use it as, “A crush is a romantic interest, but a squish is like a friend-crush.” And I just thought that was cute. A little nod to Ace lingo. Also, cake.

Royce: Cake.

Courtney: Cake. When we tell Parvati, you know, “We’ll help you set up a perfect date with Junlei and we’ll do everything we can for you,” Parvati says, “Junlei’ll like a casserole, right? Everyone likes a casserole. I mean, I don’t really, but I don’t count. Now cakes – cakes I like. Gosh, I hope she likes them too.” [laughs]

Royce: And thus the major quest in Parvati’s questline is to get her a fancy casserole and a fancy cake and a nice set of clothes and some perfume, I believe.

Courtney: Yeah, some perfume or soap to smell nice. But she asks you your advice and, like, what smell do you think Junlei will like. And I think we went with something really silly, like “new machine smell” [laughs] or something, when other options are more like “rose.”

Royce: Oh, the soap options were rose, apple, and scrub.

Courtney: Scrub. [laughs] Then was there an extra perfume or a shampoo or something? Because I distinctly remember picking something vaguely mechanical, like new engine smell or something.

Royce: That sounds about right. In hindsight, we probably should have recorded more of this playthrough for reference.

Courtney: [laughs] Yes.

Royce: I was hoping that this game would be easier to search after the fact due to how big it was. But it isn’t as well documented as a lot of other games we’ve played.

Courtney: Yeah, and it’s a big enough game that it’ll take you some time to get through. But yeah, after you get all these different things, like the soap, the perfume, the new clothes, the casserole, the cake [laughs]... And of course, most of these aren’t just like “Go to the shop and buy it.” It’s like, you have to fight your way through a desecrated town to get to the one person who has this casserole recipe. [laughs]

Royce: Many of these items are on different planets or different settlements on the same planet.

Courtney: Yes, different planets.

Royce: So it becomes an expansive late-game quest as you are unlocking the areas you need to go to to actually meet the people you need.

Courtney: Yes, absolutely. And once you finally do kind of have all of them, you realize through proper dialogue that Parvati’s kind of been stalling because she’s just really nervous. [laughs] So I recall definitely being like, “It is time. We have done everything. You have to invite her over now.” And then the date, which of course we went to snoop on. Parvati invites Junlei to the ship. They set up in the ship’s kitchen-slash-dining room-ish area with the casserole and the cake, and there’s a vase of flowers. And they’re just talking and they’re really hitting it off and it’s very sweet. And if you walk in, you get to hear some really cute little pieces where you can just sort of really understand how much Junlei cares for Parvati [laughs]. Which is nice, because, of course, we’ve been talking to Parvati this whole time, so we know she’s head over heels. But Junlei says, you know, talking about Parvati’s father, that she wishes she could have met him, and says, “Anyone who helped shape you must have been a special person.” And it’s like, “Awww!” But yeah. And then, if you hang around for too long, Parvati will kind of be like, [whispering and frustrated] “Captain!” just acting embarrassed, kind of trying to shoo us away. So it’s very cute. And we were like, “Well, I guess that’s all we get to see of the date.” And we kind of just bopped around for a little bit and we were like, “Let’s try going to bed and waking up in 8 hours,” and we did and they were still there talking! It was like, “Oh man. This date’s going really well!”

Royce: Yeah, that’s one thing the devs [laughs] must not have handled. Because you actually have to exit the ship and come back.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Passage of time is meaningless.

Courtney: So that was just a little funny thing. [laughs] But once you do actually leave the ship and come back, then Parvati does say, like, “Okay, Captain, she’s gone, and I feel like running laps around the cargo bay.” And it gives you dialogue options. And of course one of the options is like, “Tell me everything. How did it go?” [laughs] And based on the prompts that we had picked – helping her pick out the, you know, the soap and helping set up this lovely evening – Parvati goes on to describe it. And she says, “So she got here, and after a few minutes she said, ‘Hey, do you have some new parts?’ And I was like, ‘Nah, I used a new soap.’ Then she just sorta touched my arm real gentle-like and called the cut of my outfit ‘elegant.’ I couldn’t hear the rest on account of my heart was beating so hard. Then I led her into the kitchen. I think she about cried when she saw the spread. She stood stockstill and just said, ‘Oh,’ real soft. And let me tell you, I was sweating. Then she blinked and said, ‘Is that dustback casserole?’ I told her how we got it for Mr. Raymond to bake it for us. So it was double authentic, made by a real live monarchian? Monarchist? Monarch person?” [laughs] I honestly don’t even remember what all was up with that kind of casserole.

Royce: Monarch is a planet in the system that we’re in. Not the planet Parvati is from.

Courtney: And we were like, not only are we going to get this casserole, but this casserole will be authentic. We are going to the planet this casserole hails from [laughs] and having a local make it.

Royce: A professional chef, even.

Courtney: So yeah. And she goes on describing the date. And it’s really cute, because they’re talking about how they’re exchanging messages about just mechanicing and how they’ve taught each other so much already. And she says, “When I brung out the sweetheart cakes, Jun, she got a little teary. Said she had a thing she needed to say, but I stopped her because I wanted to say it first. I never felt so bold, Captain! I told her about how she made me feel bold, like I acted strong, smarter and kinder than I am on my lonesome. I listed all the things I liked about her. Then she pulled out a paper and read a speech. She, she talked about the things she admired about me, like my cleverness and my humor and how it made her want to be more open. And anyhow, when she wrapped up, I asked her to be my girlfriend, and Captain, she said yes!” Ahh!

Courtney: But after she says that, only if you’re perceptive enough – not everybody gets this dialogue option, but you can either just be like, “That’s really sweet. Congratulations.” You can be like, “Well, at least we’re done with those silly errands.” [laughs] But if you are perceptive enough, you can ask her, “What about your disinterest in physical affection?” Which, of course we did because we want to know how that all panned out. We are very interested in the Aceness of this storyline. And so Parvati says, “We talked about it some. I told her I wasn’t sure how it’d work, how I’ve had a bad time of it in the past. She said we’ll take it as it comes. Fix things together. Share meals. Talk. Maybe she could rub my shoulders when they’re sore. I said I might like that.” And it’s very cute! She tells us how we changed her life and how she never would have met Junlei if she didn’t get to leave her home planet, and all that. [laughs] But when she excuses herself, she’s just so cute. I love this character. She says, “So if you don’t mind, I’m gonna go head to my cabin and happy-scream into my pillow for like an hour.” Ahh! [laughs] She is too precious! And then… we stopped playing because we’d had enough of the game. [laughs] We didn’t finish it.

Royce: Yeah, pretty much. At that point, the combat was getting tired. Some of the mechanics were getting tired. We were at the late stage where character advancement was basically done, so, there wasn’t even much interesting – like, sometimes I like character progression.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: But once we get to a certain point where you’ve basically figured out how the whole thing works, it gets a little boring.

Courtney: Yeah. This genre of game has never been my favorite.

Royce: I like a lot of RPGs. I don’t tend to like shooters.

Courtney: Yeah. Yup.

Royce: And these shooting mechanics kind of take the center role.

Courtney: Yeah, so it definitely got to a point where – I can enjoy shooting mechanics in a new game, but if it goes on too long, then I just kind of get bored of it. And that’s kind of what happened here in that regard. And of all the six companions we got, Parvati by far had the most developed storyline with the most notes to hit, and obviously, we cared about the Ace rep, so we wanted to see her story through. But by the time we saw her story through, it’s like, “I think that’s all we needed of this game.”

Royce: I will say we got sidetracked by Elden Ring and kind of dropped the game, then picked it back up.

Courtney: But Elden Ring is so good!

Royce: But then we picked back up, we basically were doing the final couple of steps in Parvati’s quest, and we talked about whether or not we should just slog through to the end of the game, and just weren’t interested in the central storyline past what we had already seen.

Courtney: Yeah, pretty much. It’s… because I often play video games because of the story. And there was an interesting story here, but for me, the actual story points and plot progression were way too spaced out. It was like: You have to fly to a totally different planet. You have to fight your way through a whole bunch of enemies, shooting them, find a part, go to another planet before you can talk to a person who may or may not actually progress the main [laughs] story plot. And so, it needed to be a little shorter and a little more condensed for my personal taste, I think.

Royce: That is a problem with practically every game I played in this genre that tends to be sort of open world –

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: – is that it’s very common to lose sight of the central quest due to all of the side quests.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Plus a lot of the humor came from the just dystopian, hyper-capitalist future setting. And it’s funny, but after a while you’ve run out of jokes.

Courtney: Mhm. Yeah. So I am glad that we played as much as we did. I don’t necessarily foresee us going back to completely finish it up, because honestly, I was more invested in Parvati then finding out what happened to everyone in our civilization, back when we got cryogenically frozen. [laughs] Because all of the little hints and progression toward learning anything about that just came way too far apart for me that it just wasn’t sitting quite right. But I did want to make sure that our beloved Parvati was going to live happily forever after with Junlei. So we we did kind of just search what the ending options were if you are to finish the game. And not even thinking about this – because what kind of monster?! – but in a game like this, you have all kinds of choices, but we found what she says if you just decide to murder Junlei for, I don’t know, kicks and giggles? [laughs] I would never! But it’s very sad that people would do this to Parvati. But if you murdered Junlei, Parvati will tell you off and be like, “You murdered my love, the brightest light in my sky.” It’s like, ugh! Tear my heart out.

Royce: That’s also how we learned that, aside from just flat out saying “No, don’t come with me on my ship,” the only other things that would cause her to potentially leave of her own volition were violence towards people she knew, like the mayor in her hometown.

Courtney: Yep, and she will up and leave if you kill Junlei.

Royce: But the main thing we looked at the endings for, aside from just seeing if we missed anything, closing out the knowledge of the lore of this world, was that in the good ending, if you’ve done the questline and got the ideal story, she ends up moving in with Junlei.

Courtney: Yes, Junlei actually invites her to come working with her on The Groundbreaker. If you played the heroic route and did everything you were supposed to for the good ending, then Parvati kind of becomes a little bit of a celebrity, like everyone kind of knows who she is and that she was a part of this very famous, important crew. And yeah, she becomes a very important part of The Groundbreaker’s mechanical ecosystem, and it ends with, “She and Junlei were never far apart,” which is very sweet. Apparently, there’s another option, where things don’t get resolved very well. And it kind of seems like Parvati ends up getting PTSD from the adventure not ending well. Because she does move in with Junlei into shared quarters on The Groundbreaker, but she becomes plagued with night terrors about freezing to death. And apparently with her mental state, she’s just not able to continue keeping their relationship afloat, so it gets really strained. And she ends up moving into the crew quarters, and she just like still works there, but miserably.

Royce: Yeah. So I mentioned that the main storyline has a major fork in it. You can basically choose to play the good side and try to rescue everyone on your colony ship that has also been cryogenically frozen for too long, or you can side with the evil mega-corporations that don’t want their mistake to be known. And if you go the bad route and side with the corporations, they continue to sort of run the place, increase in power. They start to roll out a lifetime employment program that involves cryogenically freezing employees.

Courtney: Mmm. Lifetime employment program. Is that like, if you try to leave they’ll freeze you, or is that just like a misnomer [laughs] and that’s the code word for the fact that they’re just killing people?

Royce: It was a means of freezing employees who would potentially die under other circumstances so that they could unthaw them later to, when they had a means to, cure what was wrong with them –

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: – to keep them alive and working for longer and then freeze them again. And it was a sort of life extension, “you are permanently working for the corporation” sort of thing.

Courtney: Uuuuuuugh, corporatized transhumanism. No, thank you. [laughs] I don’t like it! I don’t like it! But what I do like is how widely beloved Parvati, in particular, became. Because the reason why representation in media is so important is because storytelling and fiction can help foster empathy in real people. And if there are millions of people falling in love with a Bi Asexual woman of color on a video game, and they’re going on this journey with her, then some level of that is going to start seeping into the real world.

Courtney: And when I say she was unanimously everyone’s favorite, I kid you not, some of these articles that are coming out, if you just google “Parvati from Outer Worlds,” is, like, “Ranking the Outer Worlds companions and the best: Parvati. Was there really any choice here?” And from Polygon: “The story behind Parvati, the internet’s favorite Outer Worlds companion.” So of course it’s going to hit a little differently for Ace people, but there are non-Aces who have very likely never played a video game with an Ace character who are just absolutely falling in love with her. And that is the point of representation. That is what we want and what we need. And they even slipped in the cake. [laughs] The cake. That’s kind of always the tell-tale sign of, like, “Yeah, an Ace got their hands on this writing.” [laughs] There was a cake Easter egg with Todd in BoJack Horseman. There was a little cake reference in a YA book I read called Let’s Talk About Love. It’s such a fixture in the Ace community that I don’t expect the average Allo gamer to know [laughs] or necessarily care about that, but it’s definitely a nod to the Aces who are playing, like, “Hey, I see you. I get it.”

Courtney: But hey, do let us know if you are aware of any other video games that have really good Asexual and/or Aromantic representation. I do think that this is technically the first game we played within overtly Asexual character in it. Although we’re aware of a few others. We’ve got some other games on our list that we are definitely eager to play. In fact, I mean, a few years ago, before Outer Worlds came out, before we were aware of any game that had any Ace characters, we were even saying, you know, “There needs to be a video game with an Ace character.”

Courtney: And we kind of did a thought experiment about what that would look like. If we were to design a video game with an Ace character, how would we portray that? Because in a video game, it’s a different mode of storytelling than TV and movies. Sometimes I think it can be an even more effective mode of storytelling, because the immersion can really, really make it feel personal and sometimes hit at the heartstrings in ways that I personally don’t always get from just purely visual media. And it is sometimes a little hard in a video game to think about how would I present an Ace character without making dating kind of the focus, and without making it the conflict. Because otherwise, it doesn’t always just naturally, organically come up. But I’d definitely love to see more. I’d definitely love to play more. I think Parvati was very, very much needed to introduce a whole demographic of gamers to this orientation. And I can imagine we’re only going to get more rep from here on out. So, fingers crossed on that front. But anyway, that is all for today. So we will talk to you all next week. Goodbye!