Saturday, July 13, 2024

A Long Journey to An Uncertain End Is The Radical, Diverse Overhaul That Gaming Needs

A Long Journey to an Uncertain End is a queer game with a queer world – something that gaming and games completely misunderstands when it comes to including the LGBT+ community. This doesn’t mean their efforts aren’t appreciated, but it feels like, at most, we’re an afterthought in the large scheme of things.

In Crispy Creative’s management space opera, queerness is present with every step you take. According to Creative Director Kylan Coats, the inclusion of diversity such as Truly Dashum, a non-binary pilot that’ll whisk your heart away in a flash, as well as Denny Walker, a disabled pickpocket, was very much intentional.

“At past studios, putting in diverse characters was always an uphill battle. The question would keep coming up, “Why do they have to be ____?” There weren’t questions like that when characters were straight, white, able-bodied, and cis-gendered male.” Coats tells us.

For A Long Journey to an Uncertain End, Coats and the rest of the dev team have flipped that thinking by including a ‘diversity matrix’ of sorts. For each character they create, “they can not be heterosexual and able-bodied, and cis-gendered and monogamous.” And it works very well, as one of our favourite things about the characters in the short demo we previewed was how utterly unique and interesting they all were. More importantly, no longer did it feel as though we, as queer players, were the odd ones out. For some, it’d be called force diversity. But in reality, it’s just Crispy Creative not giving priority to straight, white, male gamers and that approach is well, radical within the gaming industry.

It isn’t just the companions and people you meet that are diverse, however, but the world itself. Sci-fi worlds like Mass Effect and Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City can look the part of the future, but their tone and attitude are still deeply stuck in the past.

Matias is a drag queen – and an absolutely fabulous one at that.

The world of A Long Journey to an Uncertain End however, actively challenges the gaming sphere by showing us that queerness is not just in the people we meet, but in the very structure of society in-game. “We wanted to create something that was both essentially queer,” Coats explains, “but also accessible for non-queer audiences.”

But the world of this game isn’t as simple as that. As Coats tells it, the universe here is “a mix of optimism and big sci-fi ideas. What does a universe without racism or homophobia or transphobia or misogyny look like?” Some would say that would be impossible, but sci-fi is all for big ideas and conflict can be found outside the world of hatred – at least, a hatred that is rooted in opposing ideologies anyhow. In A Long Journey to an Uncertain End, humanity has been confined to spaceships for centuries, and Coats explains that in this world, it does have an effect on the people. “As people mixed and mingled, all the tribalism based off birth location or skin tone or gender identity melts away. Pronouns become part of everyday language; a part of introductions similar to surnames and honorifics.”

That doesn’t mean prejudice isn’t in the game, of course. Just not directed at someone’s sexuality, gender, or race. Instead, generational wealth, income or resource disparity, classism, and planet sectors would all still be issues for some people. And let’s not even get started on the absolute distrust that people have of artificial intelligence and its impact on relationships. Especially since the main protagonist, aka you, are an A.I spaceship in the first place. Again, the main beef between A.I and humanity is something that was intentional from the start, as being something that goes so against what society expects that it, in turn, becomes part of the “quintessential [part of the] queer experience to people who might not be queer themselves.”

Overall, A Long Journey to an Uncertain End is an absurdist, queer game that doesn’t pull its punches in delivering a radical tale within the borders of a space management game. It’s funny, it’s queer, and it delivers. It’s a game that we, as LGBT+ gamers, need and deserve to have in our lives as a game that truly understands what it means to include us as more than just an afterthought.

So, with all that in mind, why not go support the game over on Kickstarter? The end date for the campaign is Thursday, 4th of March and if you want to see more games like this, then the best way to do that is by showing up for the developers and publishers who make these games possible.

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