Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Spotlight on Valerie Lohman about the LGBT community and wanting to voice a gay protagonist

Last week we showed off the very first part of our interview with Valerie Lohman, the voice behind Jess from Wolfenstein: Youngblood. In this interview, Deputy Editor Aimee Hart got the chance to sit down and talk with Valerie about Youngblood, and how it’s changed her.

However, that wasn’t all they talked about. In Part 2 of our spotlight interview, we talk more about the LGBT community in and outside of video games, Valerie Lohman’s own experience being LGBT in the video game industry and much, much more.

Interested? Stick around for Part 2. If you’ve not yet read Part 1, go do that now!

So, would you classify yourself as a gamer?

So I’m really big into the storytelling aspect [of gaming], but I am not very good at, like, physically playing. I am learning! So, I play for fun, but I don’t play professionally. I’ve been on a few friend’s Twitch streams, and really enjoyed it.

I’m not that good at it, but I do love the storytelling. When something is too hard for me, I have been known to watch the cutscene movies.

Not gonna lie, I’ve also done that a few times. That being said, how do you feel about how queer stories are being told in video games? Do you feel like they could be better, what’s your favourite?

I’m watching my girlfriend play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey right now.

Ah, a very good game.

Yes, she’s playing as Kassandra. I am loving everything I’ve seen so far. We’re still in the process of playing it, and she’s romancing all of the ladies… I’m really enjoying it.

I really love how so many games now are starting to let you choose to be male, female and non-binary. Or romance whoever you’d like. But I’m really excited for more queer stories in the main storyline. I’m excited for more of that. I want more leads. I know The Last of Us Part 2 is a big deal coming out this year, though I still have to play the first one…

But yeah, I think we’re having more and more queer characters. And I’m excited for those characters to become leads in their own right, and not just be a token character. Like the badass lead that they should be. So I think we’re in a time right now where that is becoming a reality. And I’m just so excited!

I really…My voice is going to go up like 10 octaves but, I really want to play like a gay lady in a video game so, so bad.

Valerie Lohman
Yes, I agree! I know there are games where you can choose to customize your character and being gay is optional but I’d love a story where you’re just gay, bi, etc anyway.

Exactly, and I want to see a proper love story that’s explored over the entire arc and I would love to see that in the plot.

Aw, just thinking about that makes me feel a little giddy!

Same here! I’m all excited now.

Outside of what you just told me, do you feel like there are ways that video games could be doing better with queer characters or representation?

I’m watching a lot of Queer Eye right now, and I think it’s very interesting. When they did the original series, they were fighting for tolerance and acceptance, and now it’s about thriving. And I feel like we’re in that stage in all media.

I mean, before it would be a big deal to just have a gay character. That would make the news, like ‘holy cow’! I think that’s just a society thing, and not on any gaming creators or creators in general because content kind of reflects society and what society is accepting of.

So I think it’s just now a matter of that there is so much more acceptance and love in the world, and people identifying in so many ways and finding communities. I think it’s just a matter of those voices in games, film, TV, shining through and telling their authentic stories that are not just ‘I’m the token gay person.’ Which like I said, goes across all media.

If it’s not too personal of me to ask, has being a queer woman affected you in any way in the industry?

I don’t think it has, but most of the time people don’t think I’m gay.

I’m very femme-looking, and I’m a small white girl. And everyone assumes my girlfriend is my best friend and/or roommate — even when we hold hands in public. Which is a weird thing for me, because I strongly identify with the LGBT community that it’s kind of strange not to have anyone realize that, no matter how much I post about it online or anything like that.

So, it hasn’t really affected me in any way, but I definitely have made it a point to connect with more queer creators in the industry. I go to Outfest every year, and we have an amazing convention out here called ClexaCon.

Valerie Lohman
Oh yes ClexaCon! I’d like to go there one day.

ClexaCon is great. I think they do one in London too, but I’m not sure. I may have made that up.

Speaking of ClexaCon, that came to be due to such a huge fictional death of a lesbian character. And despite the circumstances, I personally love how it’s developed over time and, like you said Valerie, goes beyond different media. It was a TV death, but it affected everybody. I’m glad it exists.

I am too. The whole convention is incredible. I went last year, it was in Vegas, and it’s wonderful! Again, like you mentioned, you get to see the reach it has and how many people it has touched. And that’s very exciting to me.

This whole conversation excites me because, and I can only speak for myself, but despite there being a number of queer people in the video game industry, it still feels secluded sometimes. It’s hard to form these communities, but I feel like we are evolving. Slowly, but definitely evolving.

I think the internet has really helped. In the fact that we’re so much more able to find like-minded people and experiences. That it’s no longer ‘oh, I don’t fit in here because…’

Well, I hesitate to use the phrase like ‘a boys club’ in gaming or something like that, but not feeling like you are accepted in that space. I feel like the internet’s really helping you to find groups that are similar, that have the same experiences that you can talk about. So, I’m hopeful.

Valerie Lohman
Just one last question for you Valerie, what are you excited for in the future?

I am excited for more exciting stories to be told. I have not yet played a gay character. And that’s all I want to do.

On a personal, professional level, I’m excited for all the wonderful opportunities that Youngblood is affording me. It’s very exciting. I did What Remains of Edith Finch before this, so this [Youngblood] is my very first giant mainstream games. So I’m just excited to keep working with amazing creators. I really hope to work with Bethesda again and Arkane and MachineGames because they are delightful. And yeah, I’m kind of excited about everything.

Bringing it back to representation, I myself want to tell more queer stories. I’m writing a couple of things that I’m excited to produce and I think it’s a wonderful time. Yeah, I have a feature that I’m working on and a short so, I love writing. They’re in their early stages and I’m excited to tell stories and bringing inclusivity and understanding.

Ooh, is there anything you can tell me about these things or are they under wraps?

Under wraps. The feature is about my experiences, I had a not-normal school experience, so it kind of touches on that and how it led me to realize I’m gay. So yeah, I guess that’s all I can tease about it, but I’ve been ruminating on it for a while. But I am excited to finally force myself to finish, because I’ve been procrastinating. But I think it’s the time.

Well, thank you so much for talking with me Valerie. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

You too, Aimee.


Thank you for reading our interview with Valerie Lohman, we had a blast! To see more of Valerie’s work, head on over to IMDB, as well as her official website.

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart is Editor-in-Chief of Gayming Magazine. She specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.