Tuesday, March 5, 2024
FeaturesGayme of the Week

Gayme Of The Week: Dead in Vinland

It’s the start of a new year and I’ve already decided to head off back to the Norse/Viking era by playing some Dead in Vinland – a game that surprised me in more ways than one.

Developed by CCCP, Dead in Vinland is a survival/management game that puts you in charge of controlling Norse warrior Eirik and his family as they start anew on an island that’s full of new, exciting people and the deadliest of foes. Due to them starting this new life out of survival, the four family members – Eirik, his wife Blodeuwedd, daughter Kari and sister-in-law Moira – have to build an encampment from scratch to survive.

Surviving by itself is a difficult task, but with the addition of a tumultuous foe that wants nothing more but to make the family his new pets and demand tributes from their goods… Life is difficult in Dead in Vinland.

With life being so miserable and cruel, it’s hard to imagine just how romance – specifically queer romance – works in this game. But work it does as while The Family are your main concern for the majority of the game, the people you come across can affect not only how The Family views one another, but how they view the people they come across. Sure Eirik and Blodeuwedd are married and together, but people can fall out of love and find warmth in the arms of other people. Does it suck? Of course, but that’s what made, in my game at least, the lost feelings between the couple feel so very pivotal.

But I digress. Yes, queer romance can happen in this game and, for the most part, it works. I haven’t been able to unlock all of these queer romances, but I know for a fact that Eirik, Moira and Kari are able to fall in love with other same-sex survivors. I have yet to see who it is for Eirik and Moira, but Kari is able to fall in love with Shanaw, a ‘wild girl’ that you can come across throughout your adventure. The depiction of Shanaw is very tone-deaf, and feels plenty stereotypical, but the romance between Kari and herself is rewarding to play through. As to be expected, the two decide to keep their relationship secret as they know the people at camp won’t understand, but they do both get boosts for being ‘in love’ – making them stronger characters together in battle.

What’s fascinating about this is that while this queer romance is kept secret, it still does positively boost the character’s stats. For most people, keeping something so pivotal about yourself under wraps can be draining, so for the love between these two characters to do the complete opposite is an interesting take, especially as the heterosexual relationships also get this same boost. It’s hard to say that it’s equality, especially when this relationship is a secret, but it’s definitely a complex choice that’s worth considering.

As for the other same-sex characters, Eirik and Moira, both are compelling choices for different reasons. This game is steeped in the toxic masculinity that is authentic to the era, meaning that Eirik considers it a weakness to cry and not be able to protect his family. To him, not being able to shield them from the horrors of this new island doesn’t just hurt him as a father and husband, but as a man. He is still deep in that particular hole, but as you play throughout the game you can see what that perspective is doing to him. It depresses him to the point other characters notice and can reassure him. For Eirik to be able to have a sex-same relationship while also falling again and again into that toxic mindset says a lot about his character and his struggle with being true to who he really is. Eirik is a character that I’m looking forward to returning to in the future. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m morbidly curious at which man can steal his heart.

As for Moira, she’s the witty, bisexual aunt that almost everyone has. Due to her witchcraft and sarcastic nature, she’s often been shunned in the past and has been holed up in her sister’s home. Not many in the old village The Family lived in was kind to her, with the most positive thing they have to say about her being that she was a man-eater. It’s something she takes with pride, but she’s not shy in expressing her desire for both men and women at the same time. Her otherness is clear to see and, inherently, makes her a queer character that’s both relatable and engaging in how she embraces being different. In comparison to Kari and Eirik, with Kari being young and naive and Eirik being trapped in a toxic mindset, Moira doesn’t have to discover who she is – she already knows.

If you’re interested in playing Dead in Vinland for yourself, you can play the game on PC and the Nintendo Switch.

Gayme of the Week is a weekly column by Aimee Hart about indie LGBT+ games that she’s played and what she loves about them. If you’ve got any recommendations, be sure to contact her on Twitter (@AimemeRights) or email (aimee@gaymingmag.com).

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.