Gray-Asexuality & Diverse Video Game Representation ft. Lucy Blundell
Lucy Bludell AKA Games by Kinmoku is the disabled, gray-ace indie game dev who brought us the wonderful visual novel One Night Stand. In this episode, we talk about their personal journey, why an ace would make a game about a one night stand, queer representation in gaming, and her forthcoming game VIDEOVERSE!
Follow Lucy Blundell on their website, Facebook, itch.io, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube.
Aro Streamer Kiki/ Wortermelon (Twitter, Twitch).
Courtney: Hello everyone, and welcome back to the podcast. My name is Courtney, I am here with my spouse Royce, and today we actually have a very special guest. We are very excited to have a conversation with her today.
Courtney: Those of you who have been following us for a while, or those of you who found us recently but decided to go all the way back to the first episode and just binge us all the way through in order – we see you too. Some of you may be aware that back– I think it was last November we played the game One Night Stand, I don’t know when that episode actually came out, but we talked about One Night Stand the game, a little bit about the creator, and just the concept of one-night stands as we understand it.
Courtney: And so we’re absolutely thrilled we actually have the game developer with us today, so this is going to be an excellent conversation I’m sure. Please introduce yourself to our audience.
Lucy Blundell: Yeah, thank you, Courtney. It’s nice to be here. Yeah, so I’m Lucy Blundell, but you may see me online as Kinmoku. I’m an independent game developer, and I made One Night Stand, and I’m currently working on my next game, which is called VIDEOVERSE. And previously, kind of before that, I worked at EA Chillingo, which was like the kind of mobile games, kind of acquisition, and they published the original Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, and I was like a graphic designer there. And then I’ve done, like, some jury work for the Independent Games Festival and also occasionally freelance on, like, the indie projects. And I identify as a gray-asexual, although I kind of pass as straight, I am married to a man. [laughs] And yeah, I also flip-flop between, like, describing myself as Agender or gender neutral. I’m also happy with being called a woman but– I’m very much like still trying to– I’m still trying to find myself but I like the kind of non-binary umbrella. And yeah, I go by she/her and they/them.
Courtney: Excellent, very good to know. Thank you for that. Oh, where to begin there’s so much I want to talk about. There’s so much we want to talk about. I guess, since our listeners are already a little bit familiar with the game One Night Stand, since we talked about that, let’s sort of start there. Because I think people who don’t really understand the nuances of Asexuality, or what the gray area within that could possibly entail, might be quick to say, like, why would an asexual creator make a game about a one-night stand.
Courtney: So, I’m just curious about what your inspiration for that was and what that process was like for you, in… in your own identity.
Lucy: Hmm. Yeah. So, it’s a excellent question because I think a few people are very confused when they hear that, you know, someone on the Asexual spectrum made a game about sex. But I think like, I think a lot of asexuals end up talking maybe more about sex than like allos do. I think maybe we– we don’t think about it in the same way, but we do think about it an awful lot. And I think for me, like, I was kind of a little bit fed up of not seeing the conversation around sex, the awkwardness around sex. Like, seeing two people, like, their kind of personal connections with each other, like, that’s what I’m, like, way more interested in. So yeah. Like, I think it’s this kind of– For me, like, as a Gray, I’ve always been kind of questioning it like, “Oh, I’m kind of this, but I’m also kind of that.”
Lucy: And this feeling of being in between and not quite understanding that, I think that’s where making this game, you know, was helping me understand where I lie. And I think, like, having played it and then knowing like, “Oh, the person who made this is gray-asexual,” kind of makes sense. It’s like– there’s not actually any sex in the game and to some people’s disappointment. Like, “Where’s the sex?” You know, I had that comment a lot. And yeah, I think that’s– that’s it really. Like, I mean, the original inspiration was like– I think when some people ask the story, they expect me to say, like, “Oh, it’s based on personal experience,” and it totally isn’t. It’s very much, a ‘what if’ you know. You know, I think I suffer a lot from, like, FOMO and wondering, like, “What’s the other side of, like, the coin?” Like, “What’s that life like?” So I just wanted to make this story after seeing, like, a guy one morning who looked like maybe he’d had a one-night stand. And then this idea just running away with me a little bit.
Courtney: Actually, does make a lot of sense to me when you say that we don’t necessarily, on the asexual spectrum, think or talk about sex in exactly the same way an allosexual person does, but there is a lot of consideration there. And I think we often come at it from a place of curiosity, of wanting to understand. But also wating to know where we fit in this sphere and sort of what our personal relationship is to… things, sex, relationships, connection, and– and everything that may or may not go along with it. That actually does sound a bit reminiscent. When we were playing your game, and when we were talking about your game, that was actually something that, Royce, you brought up. In your late teens, early twenties, you were also kind of exploring your own sexuality and a lot of that was just more of a curiosity and an experimentation process, rather than I guess desire or, or–
Royce: Yeah, my own identity sounds pretty similar to how you described yourself, Lucy. I consider myself agender now. I’ve never really had a connection to gender, but I also don’t really care about pronouns used. I understand that I pass male and I don’t have any aversion to that. If I think critically about gender, I tend to just toss it all out.
Royce: Grey-asexuality was also one of the terms that I held for a brief period of time, because I first heard the term Asexual and my impression of it was a more extreme, like, sex repulsed thing, at that time. And I was like, “Well, I’m not that,” but there’s clearly a big gap between what I thought was the definition of asexual at that time and what I knew as allosexual. I was like, “I’m somewhere in the middle there.” So it did take a bit of exploration to kind of find the terms that fit.
Royce: And Courtney, one thing we’ve talked about within the Ace community – well, within really any queer community – I think that any time you realize that you are not what society expects you to be, any time you’re off of the, like, heteronormative curve, you have to kind of stop and think–
Courtney: “Wait a minute.”
Royce: –about yourself and how you interact with everyone a bit more. And I think that’s why we’ve seen a lot of cases of aces and aros playing things like dating sims, or reading literature that involves romance, even if it isn’t something that they themselves desire in their own life. There is that curiosity a lot of times.
Lucy: Yeah, definitely. I mean, for me, like, when it comes to, like, asexuality is… it's gray. But when it comes to romance, I’m very romantic. [laughs] And I don’t know if that really comes across in the game, I don’t– So, basically, the main kind of character that you see in the game the– the strange– the strange woman, she is demisexual, but that’s never, like, stated. In fact, this is kind of the first time I’m saying this. And she is very, very romantic and she, you know, she’s got, like, her diary at the side and she writes in some of her thoughts. And she seems like, the more you explore around the rooms, like, “Oh this is… this one night stand isn’t– doesn’t seem like something that she’d done.”
Lucy: And, you know, she did in, like, some kind of drunken, rejection upset. And also from my own experience of– well, I want– you know, she’s quite young, she’s like in university and she’s like, “Well, I want to see what the fuss is all about.”
Lucy: But she really does, like, regret having done it. So yeah. Like, for me, like, the romantic side– I’ve always been, like, very attached to people and it’s kind of– that’s always been in conflict with my own personality as well, because I don’t know, I’m quite socially awkward, I think that awkwardness also comes across in the game. And I also am asexual, so it’s kind of like– almost like clashes with some of my other personalities a little bit. Yeah, I don’t really know where I’m going with this but… [laughs]
Courtney: Well, it’s– It’s very interesting to hear you say that because, you know, I mean, sort of like what Royce said, like, so many aces like playing things like dating simulators. And I mean, we very much fall into that camp. I think just in general storytelling, and fiction, is a very, very good way to explore different sides of yourself. Whether you are the one writing and creating it or if you’re just engaging with it.
Courtney: And that’s something that I really like in particular about video games because– of course I’m a big reader, I’m always reading. I’ll occasionally find a TV show or a movie that I’m in love with but not as often as books or video games. And to me the power in playing a video game, especially one like this where you have choices that actually affect the world around you and the characters around you, it really – to me at least, I don’t know if this is for everyone – but to me, it gives you more of an emotional impact. Because then if you make a bad choice you– you– you feel the guilt, like, “Oh, I– I made that choice. No one made me do that and now I must live with my consequences.” And– and so that’s something that I think is so interesting when you put it in a game like this, because there very much was– Like, I haven’t ever been in this situation myself personally, but I could kind of feel that awkwardness, that tension. I could kind of feel the woman in the game, like, wanting to play host like again, [hesitantly] “Can I get you a coffee?” And like, “It’s my house, I want to be a nice host.” But she also very clearly had her boundaries.
Courtney: And you could feel and sense those boundaries and if you crossed them you became aware that you crossed a boundary. And I found that to be really, really refreshing because it was realistic. And we weren’t gamifying– it’s not like having the one-night stand or getting a girlfriend or getting a second date was like the point. It wasn’t the goal. It was really more about this kind of awkward interaction between two strangers essentially.
Courtney: And so I found that to be very, very interesting. And I think that’s something that is very, very appealing to people in the ace and aro communities. Because…
Lucy: It’s like you get to experience something that you don’t even really want to do in real life, but you don’t really have the consequences of having done it, right?
Courtney: Yes. And you can still sort of have that emotional experience with it, if– like you did, if it was very well written. We – I can’t stress this enough – we really, really enjoyed the game. We are a big fan of it.
Lucy: Thank you.
Courtney: But when there is just this really good writing and you– you have the autonomy to make these choices, you can still have that emotional connection and it gives you a place to explore it on that level, without actually crossing your own boundaries as a person. Because, I don’t necessarily want to go out and have a one-night stand, but I am so endlessly fascinated with what brings a person to this point and then what does happen the next day, when this isn’t necessarily something you want to keep doing.
Courtney: So it’s really that human connection aspect of it that I find so personally fascinating, that I enjoy exploring.
Lucy: Yeah, it’s, um, the thing is, like, I– You mentioned, it’s very– One Night Stand is very realistic and that’s kind of something that– So, I’ve made a few of the games that I’ve never released, but every one of my games has that kind of realism to it. I don’t really like, like you know, offering, like, a character on a plate to the player like, “Oh here’s your reward.” And the weird thing is, like, I play loads of games like that. I love games like that. I really like the otome games. It’s like, “Yes, I want that cute guy, he’s mine. I’m gonna go after him.” I love that stuff. But I also think it’s very important to have the other. And to show that, yes, that’s– that’s a gamey game. But we need to also show players that sometimes life doesn’t really go the way you want it to. Like, there’s only so many, kind of, power fantasies and wish fulfillments that games should give players. I just worry– I think a lot of what I worry about sometimes is like entitlement. Especially like entitled gamers. And I think it just needed to kind of– there needed to be something to counteract all the other kinds of romance sims.
Lucy: That’s how I felt about it when I came up with the idea.
Courtney: And that absolutely translates. That was something that we were just so excited to see represented in that way. Because there definitely can be– especially when we step out of our, you know, asexual community or even the more broadly queer community, there– there definitely is a lot of entitlement in games. Especially when you think to, like, the stereotypical like cishet-bro gamer-dudes of yesteryear, which we know the gaming community is so much more lush and diverse than that, but that is always a concern of mine when I step into a game that does have a sexual or romantic element. And I think your– your game avoids everything that sets off those anxiety alarm bells very, very well.
Courtney: And, you know, this is not a video game, necessarily, but it is gaming. Royce and I, we play quite a bit of D&D lately, and they– they just recently made an announcement for this new one D&D. It’s the next iteration after the fifth edition. And they made a new rule which I don’t love. I don’t think we’re ever going to play it exactly this way, but they’re saying, “You know what, this has been a house rule for ages, if you roll a 20, a natural 20 on the dice, whatever you’re trying to do passes, no matter what.” And I mean, usually we agree if you’re shooting a bow and arrow, if you’re swinging a sword, and you roll a 20 like, absolutely it hits, fine. But I have just played too many campaigns where someone’s like the horny bard character and they’re like, “I’m going to try to seduce the barmaid.” Or “I’m going to try to seduce the monster that we’re playing against.” And it’s like, no… If this– if this NPC or this character already had a boundary and you are trying to seduce them and they’re not into it, I don’t care if you rolled a natural 20, it’s not happening.
Lucy: Yes, it’s kind of like, does that character get to roll as well? [laughs] They–
Courtney: Right, right!
Lucy: And that’s, that’s how, like, you know, I was thinking of when I wrote The Stranger like, “Oh well, what about what she wants?” I don’t care if she’s fictional, she’s the person you’re interacting with right now.
Courtney: Yes, yes. And– and– and that– that’s what I just really loved about it. It’s like, she had her boundaries and the game was respectful of her boundaries. So it– that’s what I think made it feel really human was because she felt really human.
Courtney: So I’d love to hear a little more about – in as much or as little detail as you’re comfortable going into – what exactly is your personal definition of this sort of gray-asexuality. The gray area. Because I think you can talk to 10 different gray-aces, and when they talk from personal experience and not textbook definition, you’ll hear 10 different answers.
Lucy: Yeah, that’s very true. Yeah like, I’ve heard, you know, about a, like, kind of gray-A stories and it’s like, “Oh, I’ve never slept with anyone and I don’t want to, but I still feel that.” And for me it’s like, well that’s not my story at all. Like, I had several boyfriends when I was younger. The interesting thing about me is that I– my kind of gray story is it took me so long to find it. I only found out about the term asexual in my 30s, I’m 35 right now. So, it’s quite recent [laughs] but when I look back to my life, all the signs were there. Like there were, you know, kids at school, like, even you know, young kids, but also like young teenagers, like, getting interested in the opposite sex and I just wasn’t.
Lucy: I did start, like, developing crushes, but it was very romantic. It was like, “I want to hang out with you and we cuddle, and that’s kind of it. Maybe we play games and we’re each of ours, like, you know, significant.” But that was kind of– that was kind of it. And I didn’t– you know, I had quite, not that– not that I was popular at school, but I had a few boys, like, asked me out when I was younger. And I was like, “No, I’m not interested.” Then rumors started spreading like, “Oh, she’s– Lucy’s a lesbian, she’s frigid.” She’s all these things. And then I went like, “Am I gay, am I queer? Like what’s– what is this?” It’s like, “Well, I mostly like boys. So I think I’m normal.” [laughs] And then, like, I had, like, a boyfriend when– I think my first one was when I was like 15 or 16. And I kind of just went along with it, like, “Well, I guess this is what I should be doing.” But I really wasn’t that interested. And then, you know, that– that didn’t work. And then I had another boyfriend afterwards and he asked me, like, you know, he wanted to find out what my deal was.
Lucy: He’s like– he’s like, “What do you find attractive about men?” He’s like, “You don’t seem into me.” And I’m like– and he’s like, “What body part is it that you like?” And I’m like–
Courtney: Oh no. [laughs]
Lucy: “I don’t know, I don’t know.”
Courtney:“Tell me specifically.”
Lucy: Yeah. I just couldn’t answer him. I think he was like, expecting me to say like, “Oh I–” you know, genitals of some kind. He’s like, “Oh, well I like this on women.” And I’m like, “I don’t really– I like personality.” [laughs] So that was like a big major hint that something was a bit different, but I was still, like, very romantically interested in boys. So I was still like, you know, trying to, like, figure out what is going on. So without going into my whole life story, eventually I found, like, a boyfriend that I felt more comfortable with, a bit more attracted to. And that’s the thing, that’s where, like, the gray comes in. It’s like, okay, so it is there. It’s just very kind of weak and very irregular. It’s just, it’s just not a very common thing for me. I feel way more connected to kind of asexual people than allosexual people, but I also can’t eradicate, you know, the other side of it because it is also there. So yeah, I think that’s– that’s the main thing. And then, you know, going around, like, in my late teens, early twenties still not really figuring out what was going on and then, of course, BoJack Horseman comes along and I’m like, “Oh my God!” Like that episode– Well, several episodes where Todd is– as you guys have done some great episodes on Todd before…
Courtney: We’ve talked so long [laughs] that we– that we made that our first two part episode and it still ended up being one of our longest episodes.
Lucy: They are so good.
Courtney: We can’t say enough good about BoJack Horseman.
Lucy: Yeah, and it was that moment where he’s kind of sat next to– I can’t remember his, like, girlfriend’s name, is Emily?
Courtney: Emily, the high school girlfriend.
Lucy: Emily! Yes. And she’s like, kind of sat next to him and he’s just like animated and he has his facial expression and he is so awkward. He’s like, “What is this? Why you sat next to me on this bed?” Like, “I want to leave.” And I was like, “Oh my God, I relate with that.” And that was the first time I’d really seen that and it is crazy that that’s the first time, you know? Like the first time that, you know, that it’s normal and it’s okay, you know.
Lucy: So I was like– I saw myself in that but I was also like, “But I’m not fully that,” you know, so how it goes, you do an online quiz and it’s like, oh, it says I’m gray-asexual. And me, like, “Does that feel right?” And it’s like, yeah, I think– I think it does. So that’s– that’s it, really. And I have to admit, like I’m still– I’m still figuring myself out, I’m still, like, not wanting to put myself in a box. So I like gray, it feels not too pressurizing. I can just be a bit more free but I understand now, like, way more about who I am and why I was the way I was when I was younger.
Courtney: It is absolutely an ongoing process. I mean nobody is ever going to be pigeon-holed in one label for the rest of their life indefinitely with no nuance. And so, it’s whatever serves you and feels good right now. And I think that’s really one of the most important aspects of having diverse representation. Because hearing your story makes sense. There– there’re echoes of my own experience, echoes of other asexual spectrum people that I’ve spoken to, where there was something where you knew something wasn’t quite exactly like everyone else before you ever had the word for it, and before you even really knew where to start exploring. And I, I mean, I obviously just love BoJack Horseman, but going– going back to your earlier life when people were saying, like, “Oh, is Lucy a lesbian?” Or “Is Lucy frigid?” It’s– I think that happens to a lot of us.
Courtney: I was also– I think I was technically bullied for being a lesbian but at the time, I was like, “That’s not an insult so, fine.” And so– Which is just absolutely bonkers to me that there are still some people who think that, you know, asexuality isn’t really queer. Some people will be like, “Oh, asexuality can be queer but only if you’re homo-romantic and you straight aces don’t count.” We hear that all the time. It is very hateful but it also just really washes over a lot of what our experiences actually are. Because before you had the word, before you had the exploration of the spectrum, other people were sensing that there was something about you that wasn’t like them.
Courtney: And even without the language, that is something that other people sense and that– that is a queer experience.
Lucy: Very much. Yeah. Because like, when I think back to school and the kids that later turned out to be, like, gay, it was the exact same thing. It was like we never really knew what it was, we were kids and we didn’t quite have the words for it.
Lucy: Because we were young. But we knew that– you could kind of sense that something was different about that person and you know then sadly sometimes they got bullied for it. And it’s the same thing. Like I was bullied for– and I don’t think it’s just my asexuality, but it was because I was a bit weird and a bit different, and not into the things that everyone else was. Like, “Oh, why does she not want to, you know, have a boyfriend?” And, you know, it was either like lesbian or frigid, or sometimes it was just like, “Oh, she thinks she’s above everyone else.” I got that a lot. And it’s like, no, I just want to stay in the library and read books and draw. [laughs] I just wanted– yeah, I don’t know, that’s just how I’ve always been. And I think, yeah, like it can– it can be perceived in a bad way when you’re in that kind of school/peer pressure environment.
Courtney: Mm-hmm, absolutely. I think– I think a lot of people can relate to that. So yeah, I mean, going way back, there you just said, like, “Oh, I just want to sit and draw and read books.” So, artwork, I take, it has always been a very important side of your personality or life.
Lucy: Yeah, definitely. I think– My mother was an artist, kind of like part-time, just doing it as a hobby, but she was really good. And now she does it, is like a full-time job, which is really cool. But yeah, like it’s kind of always been in the family and I remember painting when I was like 3 or 4 years old in like nursery. And like yeah, that’s– I was like, “Yeah, this is what I’m going to do with my life. I’m going to paint pictures!” And then when I got a bit older, it was when I was about 12 or 13, I was drawing, like, comics at my desk over the summer holidays and I was like, “This is what I want to do. I want to illustrate stories.” And make money from it. And I did try and kind of dip into comics quite a few times, but it never really took off. And I think, like, looking back, I think my artwork was never good enough. But I was also really into, like, computer games and technology. I was always messing around with, like, web design and things like that.
Lucy: And it came a lot later when I realized like, “Oh, I can program as well.” That was also very interesting, more of a story about gender stereotypes, that I grew up thinking only– only boys program. And it’s interesting because my brother is a programmer, and I always thought, like, “Oh, I’ll just– I’ll just leave it to guys.” Like, I can’t figure that out. And it’s really weird that I thought that because I never really thought myself as stupid, or slow, or anything like that. I just thought, like, girls don’t do that because I’ve not seen girls or women do that. So in my late twenties I’m, like, starting to try it out myself, like, I use Ren’Py which is a visual novel engine and it’s actually quite simple. And I– like I said I’ve done, like, web design and other things before, I was like, “Oh this isn’t that different.” So I just taught myself, like, how to do it.
Lucy: And a big reason that I made visual novels is because I still have that desire to tell a story with my illustrations, but also it’s quite easy to code.
Lucy: So it just seemed like a really good fit, and it mixed the kind of art with the technology and that turns out, that’s– that’s where I like to be, I think.
Courtney: That is outstanding. I mean, I am an artist, I have throughout my life transcended many different mediums, but I’ve never gotten into the tech side of things. But I’ve always enjoyed playing video games since I was young. So, I’m very much a video-gamer. But it’s so fascinating to hear you say that you just didn’t think girls did that, because there are a lot of technology fields like that, even some science fields. I mean there’s a big push for, like, women in STEM. And in fact, everything you’re talking about too, there’s like an aces– There’s an Aces In Comics group, there’s an Aces In STEM group. And those are all fantastic because I love seeing communities come together because It can feel very lonely and isolating if you’re the only person with your identity in– in a group of people.
Courtney: And I mean, I guess, Royce, you– you have a lot more experience with the technology side of things that I have, because I am– I’m not a tech person, but you went to school for this. Were there– Were there many women in your class?
Royce: There were some. The demographics were definitely skewed but it wasn’t rare. I think that there are more women in Art and Animation majors, then in Programming majors, but there were still a number. The school I went to was pretty small. It was a school that was devoted towards game development, where those were– the three biggest majors were video game programming – which is what I majored in – game design, and game art and animation, which had a little bit of overlap with non-gaming art and animation, which could be either more towards, like, the creation of movies or just other forms of digital art. Just the– the major representation on campus was game art animation.
Royce: I didn’t go into the video game industry myself, but I did kind of learn in college that I liked the programming aspect of it first and foremost. I found that when I did try to actually make something, I never really had a story that I wanted to tell enough to actually go through the effort to make something. And I was also kind of frustrated that when I would have an idea in my head, I could do all the work to make it work programmatically, but at the end of the day it probably wouldn’t look the way I envisioned it unless I had someone else to collaborate with. And so I ended up kind of playing around with a few things here and there, finding myself getting lost in the technical details and then deciding I don’t actually need to work in the video games industry. I’m just going to do general software and play games.
Lucy: That sounds fine. It probably pays more, to be honest. It’s interesting though that you say that the kind of art and animation courses had like kind of, you know, an even split of women and men. ’Cause I actually studied animation at University and I was like the only other woman. There was, like, one other woman and that was it.
Lucy: And the rest of the class was men and I really was not expecting it. I was expecting it if I’d gone into, you know, computer science or something like that. But I was really shocked because I thought like, you know, Disney is a huge inspiration for a lot of people going into animation, and I always think the Disney fans tend to be more female. So I was really surprised. But I think it was just a weird year because the year after it was an even split. It was like 50% girls, 50% boys. So I don’t know what happened there, but all I know is that it was kind of– it was a little bit sad for me that I didn’t really have like other female students to kind of work with, or collaborate with. And yeah, it kind of meant that I did a lot of things on my own, which then led to, like, me becoming a kind of solo, independent game developer. I just ended up learning, like, how to do it all myself. Maybe not very well, but I’m able to do a little bit of everything, so.
Royce: That happens to some degree, I think, in any sort of small company or particularly indie game developers, whether it’s one person or a small group of people. You end up having to take a lot of various individual responsibilities wherever you can just to make things work.
Lucy: Yeah, yeah. It was like that when I worked at EA Chillingo. ’Cause that was like a– very small branch. And when I first started, it was like, “Oh could you do, like, this user interface, like, we need the reskinning.” And then it was “Oh, could you do a magazine advert?” And then “Oh, we want a 3D model so we can make, like, a toy. Like in– you know, for merchandise. And it was just like, “Wait, what the heck is this job?” Like, I’m doing all kinds of things. So, yeah, I’ve always just been kind of good at that, kind of jack of all trades, master of none.
Royce: I think that’s kind of funny though, because anyone who’s ever worked in a remotely tech field has been called in to, you know, fix someone’s computer or do something that isn’t really in their job description.
Royce: Just because it’s like, “Oh, you do computer things.” And in your case it was, “Well, you do art stuff. So we need– we need some kind of art over here,” that the medium doesn’t matter. It’s just, you were the art person.
Courtney: “We need more art!” That’s so interesting. One thing I’m just curious to touch on because both of you are in the non-binary umbrella, one way or another, and talking about fields and– and school and just sort of things that tend to skew one gender or the other in the binary sense. Did either of you have any sort of like introduction to actually non-binary identities at that time? Because I feel like right now everybody at least– at least in the media with the [inaudible], it’s like, “Oh well, colleges, nobody has any gender any more and it’s all gender anarchy and everybody’s queer.” And I feel like that’s a big exaggeration. Queer community, still very much the minority. But yeah, was– was that any factor in– for either of you?
Lucy: I mean, I can’t really say for me it was, no. I feel like it’s again, like, kind of similar to the asexual term, like non-binary and stuff at least where I went to university and everything, just– it’s almost like it didn’t exist. Even though it did. We just didn’t have the words.
Courtney: Yeah. That– that makes sense.
Royce: There were at least a few people who are openly trans or who started transitioning at my college, some of whom I knew pre-transition. And so it was something that I was aware of but I don’t think it really played a prominent role in my own identity.
Courtney: I mean labels are– I mean we’re always finding new labels and some of them fit some of them don’t. But actually this– this is kind of related to gaming. I think we’re allowed to talk about this since they didn’t technically end up using us for anything, but Xbox just recently did their– their big like Pride month campaign, with their little Pride controllers and things.
Courtney: They were talking to the two of us–
Lucy: Oh cool.
Courtney: We were going to interview with them for something, but I think the whole project kind of ended up being less of a thing than they originally intended it to be. But they kind of sent us like a wall of Pride flags and they were like, “Which of these apply to you?” And– And a lot of them we were, like, having to look up because it’s like, “I’ve never seen that flag before… What is– what is that flag?” And one of them was Trigender. And I was like, “Trigender? Why that’s not a word that I have heard spoken aloud or read before.” But then I started thinking back, I was like five or six years old and– and as a little child I was drawing a little pie chart and I was like, 50% boy 50% girl. And then I was like, “Nope, that’s not right.” Then I was like 25% girl, 25% boy, 50% other? And I was like, “Yep, that– that sounds good.” And then in the ‘other’ I was like, “That must be Courtney.” And like, I wrote ‘Courtney’ under ‘other’. [laughs]
Lucy: Aw… [laughs]
Courtney: And I, like, kept that pie chart in– in my, like, toy box. And– and it’s just so fascinating because I suppose in the spectrum that is non-binary, I would also fit there in some way. And to just, literally, as a matter of just a couple of months ago, to hear the word Trigender like there are three genders. I was like, “I made that pie chart when I was five.” And I don’t think it’s a useful enough label for me that I’m going to start being like, “Everyone, I am trigender!” Mostly because I’m also very femme and I am very much a woman like in the same way a drag queen is a woman. Some people get mad when I say that because I– like, [mockingly] “You are not a drag queen”, I kind of am a drag queen. I used to perform at drag bars and I know that there’s more to being a woman than dressing up and presenting feminine, but that, that is my expression of being a woman and I love being high femme. And I mean, I will dress up in, like, a full Victorian ball gown to go to the mall, just because that’s the only way I can palate going to the mall if I have to. So, like yeah, I like she/her, I like– I like the performance of being a woman. So I’m like, oh we’ll– we’ll go with that. There’s more nuance there, but we’ll go with that.
Lucy: That’s awesome.
Courtney: So, I’m so glad that we are talking to you. Now, we’ve been wanting to sit down and have this proper conversation for months now, but we were just so blown away by how much of a surprise it was to find out that you are part of the ace community. Because we mentioned this a bit in our previous episode, we already had your game and we were planning on playing it after Ace Week last year. Because we were like, “Oh, we’re so busy. We’ve got a lot of things we need to do for Ace Week. But after Ace Week is over, let’s play this game and this will be our game that we sit down and relax to, after all of this.” And then lo and behold, on Disabled Ace Day, I started following all these people who are using the Disabled Ace hashtag, and I found your account. And I was like, “Royce! You’ll never believe this! The game that we are about to play…” So that– that was just so fortuitous. So what– what can you tell us about being a Disabled grayace and finding that hashtag and finding us in the community or…
Courtney: Anything like that.
Lucy: So, I guess it’s very nice, it’s heartwarming for me to hear you say I’m part of the community because I don’t feel like I am. That’s not because I feel excluded, although it could be because I’m older maybe. But I think it’s also because– I don’t know, I tend to keep to myself. I only went to, like, my first Pride this year. And I– even then I only kind of dipped in. I was like, you know, just testing the waters. Like, “Oh what’s this about?” You know.
Lucy: And I saw the like asexual flags and I was just like– I felt so happy, I felt so good. So I was like, “Okay. Next year, I’m going to make a whole day of it and I’m gonna– I’m gonna have a really good time.”
Lucy: But yeah, I think I found– I think I found you guys on Twitter, originally. I don’t know how, but I heard that you did the podcast. I thought, “Oh wow, I want to– I want to learn more.” Because this is still new to me. So, so yeah, thank you for doing the podcast because it’s my main source of asexual information. And–
Courtney: Well, hopefully, we’re doing it justice.
Lucy: Yes, I think so. It’s– it’s something I look forward to every week. So yes, thank you. So yeah, so I found you guys on Twitter and then I started listening to your podcast. And then obviously, like, because of that, I was, like, following you on Twitter and I think I had seen you guys tweet about and retweet other people, and I was wondering like, “Oh, should I– should I tweet?” Because the label asexual still feels kind of– like, I’m not– I don’t feel like I’m fully out yet. I am online and with a few people in real life, but that’s kind of it.
Lucy: And that’s kind of the way I want it to be, I guess. But the Disabled part is quite new for me. That’s even newer, because I had, like, an accident about three and a half years ago. And it’s still– I think I’m mostly over the trauma of that but it was like– it was quite a big deal for me to, like, admit to things in– in a tweet. And I’m now, like, “Should I– should I do this?” And I thought, like, well it’s, you know, it’s a good– it’s a good thing to see more of this. This is what I am, this is what helped me realize who I was. And I wanted, like, hopefully people to realize, like, the person who makes these games is Disabled and it doesn’t really change much about the game, or my work, or anything like that. But it is part of who I am. And yeah, I think I just wanted to share that. And I was also very– it was– it was just very nice to see people in that similar situation and see all the other things that they’re making, and it’s just really inspiring. And yeah, I wanted to be part of it.
Courtney: I am so, so glad that you did. I am so thrilled that you did because we were already set to play the game – so we would have played the game anyway and we would have still loved it because it’s a beautiful story – but being able to connect to you, Lucy, as the person who created it and– and to know just a little bit more about your story, that is also so important. Because so often we talk about asexual representation in the media and we talked about the Todd Chavez’s and– and these fictional portrayals of asexuality, and it is very, very important. But real-life representation is also vital. Even just– even women in certain fields. You didn’t think women did programming things, and I think a lot of us in– in this age bracket grew up also like, “Wow, I have never seen it.” So just the representation of women, queer people, non-binary people, and that disability element too. Because as Disabled people, with the entire spectrum of what disabilities can entail, there are so many additional barriers to education, to employment, and so it really, really helps to see real-life people doing cool things.
Courtney: So I– I consider that Disabled Ace Day to be a success because I was able to meet you, and so many other just really, really cool Disabled ace creators and business owners. Because we need that real life representation and we need that community too. And I can definitely appreciate when you say that you don’t really feel like part of the community yet, because I felt that for like 10 years. It takes time, you don’t necessarily just get to know everyone and feel on a personal level with everyone just because you came out as an identity. It still takes some time to– to meet the individual people within the queer community that you can really relate to, and you know, play games with and have conversations with, and relate to on other levels than just the sexuality component to it. So I think– I think that’s so cool.
Courtney: I believe you mention to us and maybe– maybe there’s not much you can say about it yet, but I believe you said you had an unfinished game sort of about coming out as asexual. Do you have any sort of future hopes, or goals, or anything like that, that you want to share?
Lucy: Yeah, so this was a game that I was working on kind of immediately after One Night Stand. And its kind of project name was Memories and it was like a semi-autobiographical game. And it was mostly– I was mostly inspired by the movie Boyhood. I don’t know if you’ve seen that.
Courtney: I haven’t, actually.
Lucy: Okay. It’s quite a long film, but it’s basically like 10 years of the boy’s life from, I think, age 10 to 20. So you see like his teen years, but it was actually shot like in 10 years. So you see the actual actors grow up.
Lucy: And I was like, “Oh, I love that. But I want that with a girl, and I want to see a girl grow up.” But then like, as I was writing it, I’m like, you know, I’m discovering myself. Like I think before then, that was– that’s like five years ago, I didn’t know about asexuality, I didn’t really know much about non-binary or agender. I– I knew a little. I was like, “I think that’s what I am but I also don’t mind being called a woman.” So I’m like, “Is that what I am?” Like I don’t know… And I’m like, “I think I’ve got a lot of soul searching to do.” And I’m making this game and it’s kind of like I was writing it and I’m like– I had to keep changing it and revising it like, “Oh, this is– I’ve changed now, I figured out what that is.” Like, it was like– you know, and the main character was about as confused as I was – and that was– that was kind of in its own way beautiful – but it was also like if you were playing not going to be getting much out of this. [laughs] So I’m like, “Okay, I shelved it.” Like, I put the idea of– hopefully I will come back to it when I know myself better or maybe I will make it fully autobiographical and then it can show the confusion along the way.
Lucy: I am not sure. I’ve also, like– I’ve been playing more visual novels recently. And I think Memories was a game that didn’t need many choices. It was more of a linear story, like this is what this girl is going through and let’s just add some, like, artwork and music and things to go with this. Generally, I think I was adding way too many choices that didn’t mean anything and I just– I didn’t think the experience was very good for a player. So whilst I really do want to finish it and put a game about kind of an agender or asexual experience out there, I do know that I need to understand myself better before I can do that. So yeah, it wasn’t– arguably wasn’t just about those things, it was also about friendship, school, divorce, fitting in, first dates, things like that. So it was very much like a finding yourself kind of story. But yeah, it’s– it was just a bit too ambitious, I think, for the time. So, I do understand it’s very important for asexual representation, and I think video games are – as we were discussing earlier – very immersive and a very good way of really putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. So I very much want to go back to it at some point.
Courtney: And we will be ever so excited to play it. When– when it arrives someday. Because we definitely want to see more ace representation, well, everywhere, but also very much in video games. Just because that’s our media of choice more often than not. Are there any sort of elements of just asexuality, the ‘discovering yourself’ journey that you don’t think gets enough representation in media? Anything that you would really want to see more of, whether that be in something you create or just in general.
Lucy: I think just in general, like, asexuality needs way more representation. I think I see a lot of it in comics. There seems to be a big, kind of, asexual comic artists. Like it seems to be what a lot of us do. Is what I originally wanted to do as well, which is very fascinating. But I think it’s– it would be great to see it in a game. I think just– I played a game called The House in Fata Morgana, which is a kind of gothic visual novel, it’s quite a popular one. And it’s not about, like, asexuality but it is about queer– like queer stories basically. And if you– if I describe it like that and you go into it, the first few stories are not about that at all, but it’s quite a long game. But you spend more time with that– Sorry, it’s very– it’s so hard to talk about it without spoiling it, but it really put me in the shoes of an identity that isn’t my own. And it did it so well and I was like, “Wow, this is like the game of the year for me.” Like, that is the power of video games. I really, really liked it. So it’s like–
Courtney: It sounds amazing!
Lucy: Yeah, I recommend it. It is– it is like 50 hours long to read, but it’s pretty good.
Courtney: Royce, put it on the list! Put it one the list!
Royce: It’s already on our list.
Courtney: Oh, is it? Okay.
Royce: I came across it after we played The Letter.
Courtney: Oh that was another long one.
Royce: It was a very long–
Courtney: Very long one.
Lucy: I haven’t played that one.
Royce: visual novel. We liked the horror aspect, there were some manifestations of the characters that we could have passed on. Like the character choices.
Courtney: It was just so long that there was a lot of really, really good to it, but there were also some routes that, once you get to the end of it after so many hours and then you restart– Because what if there are multiple routes, we’re the kind of players we want to see all the routes; because to us, that’s like the full story, see all the sides of it. There were some parts that got very repetitive and weren’t very skippable. So when there were days where it’s like, “All right, we’re just gonna click, click, click, click, click, click.”
Royce: To speak to some of the mechanics of the game, they did have a skip feature, but sometimes there would be very, very minor changes in dialogue–
Courtney: Hardly any change at all.
Royce: –that basically amounted– Basically amounted to very little difference.
Royce: And the game wasn’t written to be intelligent enough to skip through the parts that were the same.
Lucy: Make sense.
Royce: But one thing we did like though, they visualized the entire branching nature of the game in a way that you could actually look at and see what scenes you had missed and–
Lucy: Oh, yeah.
Royce: –what you hadn’t, and try to figure out what you would need to do differently to get through this one branch that you hadn’t accessed at that point.
Lucy: Yeah, sounds fun.
Royce: The game that you just mentioned was one that I found on lists of comparable games or similar genre games that seem to be very well received.
Lucy: Yeah, I– it was on my list for a good few years as well. I was always like, “Oh, it’s really long, like, when am I gonna have time for this?” And it was– I think it was last summer I played it and I did struggle with it at first, because it’s made up of, like, lots of short stories. And then the second one is really quite a horror story. And I don’t– I don’t do horror. Like, I really freak out. If it’s visual novels, I can kind of hack it, but I– I don’t usually choose to play them. And it got really quite gruesome at some point. I was like, “I don’t think I can get through this.” But I eventually did. Eventually persevered. And then, when all the story started coming together, it’s like, “Oh my God. This is like– it’s incredible.” And, like, the kind of soundtrack is sung in various, kind of, European languages. I think there’s quite a few Portuguese songs. And it’s interesting because it’s made by, like, Japanese developers.
Lucy: So it all feels like some kind of stage play. And, yeah, the kind of queer representation. I didn’t go into it knowing that that was in there, but it was and I was just blown away by it. I– it made me feel so compassionate and empathetic. And I was like this is what, like, games and visual novels are all about. So I, you know, I’d love to do something like that but for asexuality. So yeah, like maybe at some point.
Courtney: Yes. Oh, it sounds so good and I’m so excited to play that now.
Lucy: Hope I haven’t hyped it up too much.
Courtney: No, we– that’s exactly the kind of game that we love. And it almost makes it better that you didn’t play it just for the representation. Because, for as often as we’re like, “We need more ace rep,” we also want really good ace rep. I don’t want an ace character just for the sake of it being an ace character. I want that character to have a really compelling story or to be a really important part of a very compelling story. Because I also want to just, like, really enjoy the media I’m partaking in. And I think one of the coolest things for us about BoJack Horseman again, was that we already liked that show and we’re watching it as the seasons came out before Todd even came out as asexual. So that was just like the cherry on top, because we already loved the story and this just makes it so much better, and so much richer. So that’s, that’s very cool.
Courtney: Well, we’ll have to– apparently it’s already on the list, so we’ll get to it at some point. But that was actually something, to mention One Night Stand again, something we really, really appreciated. Because we played it in near enough proximity to The Letter that– that was such a long one, and One Night Stand is much shorter, but we really liked that after you finish a game of One Night Stand, you have this screen with the different endings. So you knew sort of how many endings there were, and you kind of got a clue to how you could get some of the endings.
Courtney: We’ve really appreciated that because when we play really, really long drawn-out visual novels, we almost have to cheat and go online and be like, “What decisions do we have to make to ensure that we get a different ending, so that we don’t spend hours and hours and hours going through this just to make one mistake and get the same ending we already did.”
Courtney: It was really cool that we didn’t have to, sort of, look up and cheat on One Night Stand. Because it’s like, “Oh look, we have, we have a little clue. I bet if we do this differently, we’ll get a different result.”
Lucy: That’s really cool. Yeah, I– There’s one thing that I don’t like players having to do, is leave the game and go look up a guide online, or worse go through like a Let’s Play video, and try and find the bit. I’ve done that so much and it breaks you out with it. And it’s like, why not just give people a clue of what they need to do? Like, and my next game has a similar thing where there’s, like, a little tip button. So if you are ever a little bit stuck, it’s like you can just check, instead of having to, like, go load up a web page. It’s like it’s just there, like you can–
Courtney: That’s so nice.
Lucy: You don’t have to use it, but if you want to use it, it’s the other. Yeah.
Royce: That’s also good because sometimes when you’re having to go into walkthrough mode, you can’t get all of the tips that you need to get to the conclusion that you wanted without also spoiling some of the experience.
Royce: Like, like it’s very difficult sometimes to come through the information and not have a few things get given away prematurely and then you don’t experience it in the same way.
Lucy: Yeah, that’s– that’s the thing. Like, you want to be able to control, like, how the player is going to get that tip. Like, as you say, Royce, it’s really disappointing when you’re just trying to find a tip and it’s like, I’ve gone to one chapter too far and now I know where the story’s going. And that’s happened to me on a game that I’m playing at the moment, and it was kind of frustrating. Yeah.
Courtney: So yeah, we really, really liked that. We thought it was very clever and it was– it was just perfect for the– for the game that it was, in the size, and the length. And were there– I want to say nine, were there nine different endings?
Courtney: Twelve! Okay, I don’t know why I had nine. I guess it was almost a year ago now. Goodness, what month is it?
Lucy: Yeah, gosh.
Courtney: What is time anymore? But, yeah, we thought that was very, very cool. So The House in Fata Morgana is on our list. Are there any other games that you really appreciate that have either good ace rep or just more broadly, general queer rep?
Courtney: Lucy Mmm. Yeah. So the game that I’m playing at the moment is AI: The Somnium Files. And I– the thing is when I am playing like– this like– the first game and the second game, I’m playing the second one at the moment, and when I thought these games, I’m like, “Yeah, that’s really great LGBTQ+ kind of representation.” There’s a character called Mizuki, who’s like a young girl in the first game and she’s pretty much just, like, really angry at people for not, like, treating these people well, like, minorities. She’s like, “I am sick of this really oppressive world!” And she’s great. And it’s like, “Oh, I love her.” And she’s really, like, angry about it as well, which is great. And she does it about disabilities and race and religion as well. She’s like, “I wish we could just treat everyone with respect.” And I’m like, “That’s great.” But then, at the same time, when I was just preparing for this podcast, I just read– You know, I read the synopsis of the original game again, the first one, and I find out like – sorry if this is a bit of a spoiler – but one of the killers in the game is told that he has a brain dysfunction, that means he can’t feel love…
Courtney: [disappointingly] Ow…
Lucy: Or oxytocin, or whatever. And I’m just there like, “Is this aro hate?”
Lucy: Oh no…
Courtney: Oh man, that– that is a shame. That is a shame because, yeah, there– there’s the aromantic element of it. But then there’s– there’s also a disability element of it. Because there are, you know, people with various neurodiversities that can affect empathy levels but that does not mean that they are abusive or serial killers.
Courtney: Oh wow. That’s–
Lucy: Yeah. So I was there like, “Well, this is the game I’m playing right now and I really like the series.” I’m like, “Wait a minute.”
Courtney: I mean you can still like something and be like, “That wasn’t the best choice. I wish they made a different choice there.”
Courtney: Goodness knows, we’ve watched plenty of things where it’s like, we’re still enjoying the story, but maybe they could have had a sensitivity reader, maybe their team of writers could have been a little more diverse. So..
Lucy: Yeah. I think–
Courtney: –Working process.
Lucy: Yeah. With this game I think the heart is in the right place that just didn’t– this one slipped through, kind of thing. I wouldn’t want it to put people off playing the game. I do think it’s generally very good, but I think they just wanted to, like, explain in a “scientific way” why this character is the way he is. And it’s like, “Ow, you shouldn’t have done that.”
Courtney: That’s too bad, that’s too bad. But I’m– I mean, yeah there– We kind of went through that when we were– we did an episode where we talked about Dexter because that was a TV show that started good but also kind of went off the rails. But for as much as it’s like, “Oh we don’t want our asexual characters to all be serial killers.” It’s like when we were going back to re-watch Dexter and just hearing some of the lines that he said from, like, episode 1, where he’s looking at allosexual people and being like, “Why are you this way? I don’t understand.” We were like, that’s actually really funny. And we just– we enjoyed hearing someone else on a screen say that even though it’s like, “Yeah, but it’s because he’s a serial killer.”
Royce: There’s also, you know, there’s a general problem of queer identities being cast as villains, for any number of reasons, just because they’re different and because the writers don’t fully understand that experience. But in a lot of cases, the villains in the story are the most interesting character to me.
Courtney: That’s also very true. And it’s also like the– the chicken or the egg. It’s like, is the villain actually the most compelling character here, or is it just because I can relate a little more to the villain than the other characters? And it’s like, I don’t know what the answer is, I don’t know if I need to know or if I care all that much, but… yeah, I– very often the queer villain is my favorites, so.
Lucy: This is so true. Like recently, like, as I’ve been getting older, it’s like, I relate with these villains so much. [laughs]
Lucy: I’m like, “Is something wrong with me?” Apparently not. [laughs]
Courtney: No, that’s– that’s a pretty, pretty common experience, I think. At least in– amongst the company that we keep. Maybe we’re all just villains.
Courtney: So do you know of any games with ace or aro rep? There aren’t a lot that we’re aware of.
Lucy: No… I have–
Courtney: But there are a couple.
Lucy: I have– I have some more like– There– I have trans rep games, a couple of suggestions there.
Courtney: Uh, yeah, let’s hear.
Lucy: The first one is Tell Me Why, which is the Life Is Strange team.
Courtney: [gasps] We love it!
Courtney: We love that game!
Lucy: This is really nice. I actually preferred it to Life Is Strange: True Colors…? The latest one?
Lucy: I really liked the characters, like Tyler and Alyson, the siblings.
Courtney: That was such a good game.
Courtney: We’ve played all of the games from– have we played all of them from that studio at this point, even the ones that aren’t in that genre?
Royce: I think so, we played… What was it? Twin Mirror?
Royce: Fairly recently.
Lucy: Oh, I haven’t–
Royce: That was the last one on our list.
Lucy: Haven’t heard that one.
Courtney: That one was interesting. So, we played the first Life Is Strange years ago and it was beautiful. We loved it. It was unlike any game we’ve played before. And the good and the bad of that is that we know we’re going to enjoy Life Is Strange 2 and Life Is Strange 3, and Tell Me Why is– could be a Life Is Strange. It just–
Royce: I think it only wasn’t too because of licensing issues if I remember right. Like a different studio owned that IP now.
Courtney: Something like that.
Lucy: Yeah, sure.
Courtney: Like, it could have been. The mechanics were similar. The art style was similar, but… So I know I’m going to enjoy them. I think they’re well written. I like the gameplay. But at the same time, I’m not necessarily going to have exactly the same experience I did, like, the very first time where this was completely new from anything else I’ve ever played before. But I– I do think Tell Me Why was probably– probably up there. I haven’t thought about categorizing them in terms of favorites, but oh, that was very good trans rep. I think then– it was voiced by a trans voice actor.
Courtney: I think they won all kinds of awards for it. It was a beautiful game.
Lucy: Yeah. The other game is a very small indie game called A YEAR OF SPRINGS and that is like a trilogy game of, like, a visual novel, like, short stories. And I’ve only played the first story of the trilogy. But it’s basically about a trans woman who wants to go on a hot springs trip with her friends and it’s how, like, a woman, you know, the half of the game is like just her friends trying to make an appointment like, “Oh, were you upset, my friend?” And it’s like, “No...” Like these gendered rooms. And you don’t– you don’t fit, kind of thing. But I actually learned from this game that – and I didn’t know this – that like, trans people, if they want to change gender officially they have to be sterilized in Japan.
Lucy: And I did not know that. And this game, like, has a very, very cute art style, very sweet music. It’s very gentle but it informs you about this. And I just thought that was really, really like worth noting. And it’s quite a small short game. So I think it’s on itch.io, if you want to experience that as well, I recommend it.
Courtney: Royce, put it on the list. Royce is keeper of the media list. Our ever-growing media list. That– that sounds great and that– that is very good to have something you can learn about from different– different countries and different cultures too. Because I think a lot of the online, sort of, “queer discourse” is very western-centric. Very american-centric. And of course, we have our issues, we have our own political issues to be sure, but things can just vary so much country to country. And we can sort of– very easy to miss if you aren’t intentionally trying to go out of your way to keep a more international view of the news and the queer community, and variety of experiences.
Courtney: Years Of Springs… Oh, that sounds very good. Now, I’m getting all excited about all the great games. Uhm, surprise! We wanted to trick you into coming on to the podcast just so we could get recommendations for video games.
Lucy: [laughs] That’s fine!
Courtney: No, this– this is really cool.
Lucy: Oh, in kind of researching for this episode, I did find there is an asexual character in The Outer Worlds. Now, I haven’t played this game but apparently, I think they’re called Parvati.
Lucy: So, they are, like, out as ace, so I’m– I was never interested in that game, but now I’m like, “Hmm, might need to research that a little bit.”
Courtney: Well! Let me tell you, we actually– we played The Outer Worlds for exactly that reason.
Lucy: Oh, okay.
Courtney: We recently did an episode– recorded talking about the game. And I would say, for you, it kind of depends on what kind of games you enjoy playing. Because we really enjoyed the character, we thought the character was very well done. We thought the options were very well done and we loved just the story about it. The writer, who sort of took control of this character is also ace herself. So she was able to bring some of that real first-person experience to it and I think that showed in many ways. And when we played it we basically played through her story line and then we were like, “Eh, we’ve kind of had enough of this game.” Just because the genre isn’t our favorite genre of game. We liked her storyline, but we didn’t necessarily feel compelled to see the entire game all the way through after we finished her arc.
Lucy: All right.
Royce: You mentioned liking Mass Effect?
Royce: So this– this might be more up your alley.
Royce: Both of us actually don’t really play shooters at all. And after however many hours into this game, the shooting mechanics and whatnot, the combat mechanics, the world exploration got a bit tired. And we weren’t really invested in the story outside the characters.
Royce: So we basically completed what we came here for, which was mainly Parvati's storyline and also some of the other NPCs who in our opinion were less interesting.
Royce: Overall internet consensus is that Parvati is the best character in the game.
Courtney: She’s unanimously everyone’s favorite. Which is quite remarkable.
Lucy: That’s really cool.
Courtney: For an ace character.
Royce: But we did drop off after getting through that aspect of the story line, which was pretty well through the game. It was pretty far into it.
Lucy: Okay, it sounds like I’ll just watch it on YouTube at some point. I just don’t have the time at the moment.
Courtney: It is a bit of a long one. We also– we started playing The Outer Worlds because we had heard such great things about Parvati and we were looking for a new game anyway. And so we started it and we played it a bit, but then Elden Ring came out, so that became our lives until we finished it. [laughs] So we kind of had to take a break from Outer Worlds for a while, to play Elden Ring. And then we came back. So we did finish Parvati's storyline eventually. But yeah, overall I was pleased with the representation though. So I think whether you decide to watch it or play it, I think – especially as someone who writes things with branching options – I think you’ll– you’d be very interested in the options that they gave and presented to the player. And the ones that they didn’t. Because the writer was very clear to say, like, “I didn’t want any, like, bigoted options. I didn’t want the player to be able to say anything cruel.” But there is still the spectrum of how you respond in certain ways, so.
Lucy: Yeah, cool.
Courtney: Did you have any others or are– shall we go on to talking about your upcoming game? Because we’re very excited to hear more about that too.
Lucy: Yeah, I only have, like, a couple of other games but they are all the big ones like Mass Effect, Stardew Valley, Gone Home. You know, other, like, games where you can be, like, bisexual. They are games I like, but they have been around a while now. So yeah, we can go on to VIDEOVERSE.
Courtney: Why does Gone Home sound familiar? Royce, did we play that one, or is that just one we’re planning on playing soon? Checking.
Lucy: Checking the giant list.
Courtney: The list!
Lucy: I think Gone Home came out in 2013, I think, could be wrong.
Royce: I believe that that is one that we have had on our list for a long time, but haven’t actually played. The reason I had to stop and look was because a few months ago, we did play a game that was sort of a house exploration. Like, family personal story sort of game and I couldn’t remember what game that was.
Courtney: That was… Edith Finch, right?
Courtney: What Remains Of Edith Finch?
Royce: That’s it..
Courtney: That also had a queer storyline element. One of the characters in that. That one was tragic.
Lucy: Yeah, I do really like that game though. [laughs]
Courtney: Very tragic game. [laughs]
Lucy: Yeah, Gone Home is another house exploration. But when I first played it, my husband was like, “Oh, you got to play this game.” And he kind of, like, put me in a room to play it and switched all the lights off, and tried to create a horror experience. And I’m there really on edge, and he’s really trying to make it seem like this– this thing that it’s not. And then at the end, I was like, “Why did you do that?” Like, it’s just that it’s actually a really nice story. But, yeah, I– I can’t– If you haven’t played it, I can’t really say too much about it without spoiling it, so. But it is quite short.
Courtney: All right, we’ll bump it up on the list then. Well okay, I am dying to hear– for as much as you are able to discuss since it is a forthcoming game. You have started releasing teaser trailers for an upcoming game called VIDEOVERSE. Tell us what you can about it. We’re so excited.
Lucy: Well, VIDEOVERSE is another visual novel game. It is a game that’s mostly about love and friendship and it’s inspired by Nintendo’s Miiverse, that used to be a popular thing a few years ago. And it’s about, like, kind of making friends online and being like a teenager again. So you play as Emma, who is this young boy, and he is very much in his video games. He– he’s also, like, an aspiring artist. So he’s, like, trying to, like, draw on his tablet, do these little like Miiverse like drawings and share them with people. But then you find out like, oh, he’s had, like, some, like, online trolls, like, kind of putting his artwork down and he’s lost confidence in himself. So he’s kind of like, he talks to his friends and his friends are like, “Oh, come on.” You know, like they encourage him. They show him, like, “Oh, you should show your stuff.” So he does and he meets another artist who, then, he befriends. And then they– those two get to know each other more. And yeah, I don’t want to spoil it too much, but there are, like, loads of kind of side stories in this one. You don’t have to do them, very optional. But you can, like, fully explore, kind of, this fake social media gaming network that I’ve made. It is very kind of reminiscent of, like, MSN message boards.
Lucy: Neither of course, like, kind of a– kind of early 90s, early internet, kind of thing. The music has been composed by Clark Aboud, who did music for Slay The Spire and Kind Words, and he’s done a really cool kind of–
Courtney: Oh! Kind words!
Lucy: Yeah, yeah.
Courtney: We know that one.
Lucy: I love Kind Words.
Courtney: Very sweet. It is very sweet.
Lucy: Yeah. I was like, “I want to do that but like a narrative game.” So you– you’re very much encouraged in the game to send nice messages to people.
Lucy: But of course, it can take a slight turn for the worse. It does– it is a visual novel with choices, but if you don’t help the community grow, it just gets more kind of nasty. It gets more like how the internet is now. And I think there’s a part of me that just, like, does really miss what message boards and fan forums and things used to feel like. It’s like, “Oh, people know each other. People care about each other. People, like, used to chat in their spare time.” Maybe it’s just what kids did, but it’s like, I just miss those times. So, I think I’m– I’m a little bit, like, maybe sad about how the internet is kind of becoming this– just a very angry place where people yell at each other, and nothing gets achieved. And I just wanted to kind of bring some compassion back into that. And yeah, Kind Words was definitely an inspiration. So I was like, “I love the music of this game.” So I sought out the composer and luckily he wanted to help so…
Courtney: That is so cool. Because yeah, I really enjoy Kind Words. I think it’s such a– such a breath of fresh air amongst all of the… internet of it all.
Courtney: I mean you– you said it perfectly, it very often feels like you log on and it’s just people yelling at each other. And so yeah, I think that’s such an interesting way to explore narratively the older, sort of smaller, more community-focused branches of the internet rather than the, you know, the ‘screaming into the void’ on– on Twitter as they say. So that sounds very, very cool. I also just like, I’ve always really enjoyed games where there are a lot of– a lot of different characters, that you can explore different aspects of the characters. And I don’t think I’ve seen one that is like a message board. Normally we have ones that are like–like you’re a barista or you’re a bartender.
Courtney: And you have all of the clients and some that are repeats who come in. And the more you engage with them, you start to learn more and get more connected to people. We’ve played games with that sort of set up. So that’s– that’s very exciting. And we will be the ones who do all of the different side stories. That is how we play games like this. We want the whole story.
Lucy: That’s awesome. I should also mention that the– I actually added a feature having– thinking about the lack of asexual representation. My original idea for this game was like a Miiverse love story. Like, I want it to be a love story. I’m really romantic, I really love this kind of thing. It’s like that’s what I want to do. I’ve always wanted to do it. One Night Stand wasn’t really a love story. I want– I want to make something real sweet. And then you know once– you know, listening to your podcast, hearing– learning more about, like, aro people as well and realizing, like, there’s not really, like, much representation for them. And I’m forcing people into, like, “Oh, you’ve got to fall in love in this game.” And it’s like– it’s not– it’s not just a linear story, like, this is– the player is involved and they should be able to interact how they want to. So I actually added, like, a platonic kind of aroace kind of route, if you will. So the player can– if they just want to be friends, they can just be friends.
Courtney: That is so cool!
Lucy: And they can just be a supportive friend if they want to be, yeah.
Courtney: That is so exciting to hear. And I’m sure many of our listeners and many in the community are also going to be really excited about that. We watched an ace and aro gaming panel a while back, where there were some game developers and some just gamers or streamers who were all aspec. And one of the streamers– Oh, it’s gonna drive me nuts, I can’t think this name off the top of my head… I want to say Kiki? It’s– they’re actually a drag queen and I think Kiki is the drag name. Well, we’ll link all links to things we talked about in the show notes as usual. But yeah, they were saying that playing games, even like Stardew Valley or things, as a streamer that the first thing someone will come on and ask is like, “Who are you romancing?” And they’re like, “I am aromantic and I’m playing these games that I don’t have to romance people, and yet everyone coming to watch me is– that’s the first thing they ask.” And I thought that was a really interesting component, because I’m not an aromantic streamer but it makes sense. Just sort of society’s obsession with romantic and/or sexual things. And plus, options are just cool and– and we’ll play all the options. We’ll do the romance route… we’ll do the planotic... [laughs] We like doing that.
Lucy: I think for me it’s been very important to make sure that the platonic route is just as satisfying as the romantic route, and–
Courtney: That’s very important.
Lucy: It’s reached that point where I’m like, “Okay, I prefer the platonic route.”
Lucy: Yeah, it’s like it feels less selfish somehow. It’s like, less about what the player wants and more about you caring about that person. So, yeah, I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out.
Courtney: Oh, that is– that’s very cool. That is so cool to hear. I love everything about that. Do we know when– when we can expect this?
Lucy: Unfortunately, VIDEOVERSE hasn’t got a release date right now, but I am hoping it will be like, probably early next year, but it is– it’s one of those– It will be kind of done when is done. But yeah, I’m working very hard on it. So, hopefully soon, because it is very tiring.
Courtney: Oh, I bet. It sounds like there’s so much that goes into making a game. Which, I mean, we just admire all the work you put in, this is very, very cool. But where can the people find and follow you? So that when you do have a release date, they’ll be able to know, right away.
Lucy: Yeah. So on Twitter and Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, I am @gamesbykinmoku. That’s K-I-N-M-O-K-U. And then on Steam, or itch.io I’m just Kinmoku. So VIDEOVERSE is now live on Steam, so you can wish list it already. Or if you haven’t played One Night Stand, you can download that straight away and play that.
Courtney: Excellent. Is there anything else you want to talk about or touch on that we haven’t done so already?
Lucy: I guess just thank–
Courtney: –just jump in.
Lucy: Thank you so much for having me. And I’ve always wanted to chat to you two, because I listened to your podcast a lot and you just sound like two of, like, my old friends that live in the US, so I don’t get to see them that much. And it’s like, “Oh, you guys sound so cool. I’d love to chat.” But also like to just thank you for making this podcast, and spreading awareness and everything, it’s really good.
Courtney: It’s really a pleasure. And– and we’re glad that we get to do this and that others are getting benefit from it. Because yeah, we know that there needs to be real life representation, just like fictional representations. Like there just aren’t that many married ace couples that are publicly out and– and spreading awareness. So we’re happy to fill that role if we can do it justice.
Lucy: Oh, I did remember one thing. But I remember you guys mentioned that you really hated the ace representation in Sex Education.
Lucy: And I was like, like, screaming like, “Yes!” I’m sick of everyone saying, like, it’s just– it’s so great. It’s rubbish! It’s like five minutes of nothing. [laughs]
Courtney: [laughs] Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. We did have a couple of people after that episode say, like, “Yes, finally someone said it.”
Courtney: I mean that was– that was kind of another reason why we wanted to start a podcast. Was because we’ve both been– I mean obviously we knew each other were asexual before getting married, we’ve been together over eight years now. And a lot of the popular talking points that we see online just isn’t really our experience. We’re like, “Where is this coming from? And why does everyone love this thing that we don’t love?”
Courtney: And so, it’s like, May– Are there other people who also feel the same way we do and they’re just not vocal about it? Like everyone else is?
Lucy: I think I did tweet about it at the time. Like, I don’t know, I had a few gripes with like some of Sex Education, with something else that I didn’t like about it. I can’t remember what it was now, but I remember tweeting, like, kind of angrily, like, “This is rubbish, this sucks.” Like, I’m there, like, “Why am I watching this show?” Like, I don’t know, I guess because like, it does– it does help educate some people. Like, you know, me growing up, I didn’t really have that much like sex education at all. We were taught in school but it was very much like, you know, how to reproduce, that was it.
Lucy: And learning about other sexualities, it’s like, “Okay, I can see why the show is popular.” But boy, did they like, really just brush aside asexuality. It’s like in one moment, they’re like, “Oh yeah, it’s fine that you’re asexual, don’t worry about it.” And then, in the next episode, they’re all like singing about like sex and dancing around, but it’s like, where’s that asexual girl gone? I wouldn’t blame her if she’s just gone.
Courtney: She’s just gone.
Lucy: It’s like this is a bit much.
Courtney: No, I– Yes, absolutely. And that’s why we say, like, we don’t just want an ace character to be there, for the sake of an ace character be there. Like we want them to be a vital part of the story. Because that’s what gets people connected on an emotional, personal level. And what begins to foster empathy and understanding and can lead to proper allyship in the long run. And proper education. Not because you’re throwing the information in someone’s face as a PSA, but because they want to learn and understand more because they start to care. So yeah, that Sex Education, we– we have thoughts. We were also like– I think that was– was that our second episode, Royce? I think it might have just been our second episode and we’re like, “Well, time– time to test the waters here, this is a hot take.” We’re coming out the gates with it.
Royce: Yeah, that was– that was episode 2. That was all the way back in October.
Lucy: It’s like, if you guys disagree then maybe this podcast isn’t for you.
Courtney: Maybe not.
Courtney: Oh yeah, that’s– that’s very interesting. So yeah, we’re so thrilled to talk to you and we’re going to be very excited to play your game. We’ll be– we’ll be tweeting out about it, I am sure. And also I suppose, I don’t think we’ve even mentioned this on the podcast yet – which is kind of weird maybe we should have done that – but we started a Marketplace for ace and aro owned businesses, that is on our website. And I believe you put One Night Stand up there.
Lucy: I did.
Courtney: And I think we have one other ace-created video game on there right now. I think we have two different video games on there. But we just broke hundred. We have over 100 shops on there now.
Courtney: Which is baffling! I didn’t even know there were 100 ace and aro creators selling their– their beautiful wares, but we’re thrilled to bring those people together. And so, yeah, we will– We’ll make sure to get the– the new game up there once that comes out too. And yeah. So, so! In the meantime, please make sure to do the things like follow, subscribe on whatever platform it is you are listening to us on, and make sure to go and follow Lucy @gamesbykinmoku, and definitely make sure to snatch up One Night Stand if you have not already, and be on the lookout for VIDEOVERSE. And until then we will talk to you all next week. Goodbye.