The Sydney College of Arts in association with Pride Amplified is hosting Pride at Play, a fun, free and LGBTQIA+ positive space for gamers and friends to enjoy queer indie video games as part of the Sydney WorldPride 2023 festival. Pride at Play is an exhibition designed by Dr Xavier Ho, who is a Junior Visiting Fellow at the inaugural Hunt-Simes Institute in Sexuality Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney.
“Games that are designed by queer game designers with queer players in mind can be so much more specific with the story,” says Dr Xavier Ho.
“Unlike mainstream games where LGBTQIA+ characters are defined by their gender or sexuality, in queer-led indie games that's just one part of their identity. They are fully fleshed-out with day jobs and hobbies or other concerns or interests, while going through a journey of discovery. It’s refreshing and exciting at the same time.”
While working as an engineer, Dr Ho obtained his PhD in design at Design Lab, The University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning, through conceptualising and visualising idea networks. His research interests include data visualisation, design research, game studies, and interactive computer graphics.
“When you look at the mainstream games out there, queer characters receive a lot of attention but only a narrow slice of the wider representational field,” Dr Ho continues. “We created Pride at Play to be an amplifier for games that are designed with authentic, purposeful, and thoughtful queer representation in mind.”
Pride at Play is free and open to all gamers who want to explore queer games in an LGBTQIA+ positive space. It is organised by a team of queer and queer-ally game curators, designers, and researchers who are volunteering their time behind the scenes in order to get queer stories seen by a broad audience.
We asked exhibition designer Dr Xavier Ho to share his favourite games.
What: Our Mundane Supernatural Life is a cosy and tender storytelling game made for two.
Why: Having to hide supernatural abilities is a nice twist on the queer experience of being in the closet. Play this with a trusted friend or partner who already supports you.
What: Queer and Chill is a puzzle that integrates gender and sexuality completely integrated into the gameplay.
Why: This game is for puzzle fans as well as people who just love the rainbow parade. Test or refresh your knowledge about all the genders and sexual orientations around.
What: Kinder World is a free-to-play mobile game about houseplants, healing, and kindness.
Why: We all need more self-care in this pandemic society. In Kinder World, can hang with Samy, a samoyed dog who loves you back unconditionally.
What: Stand Up is an interactive poem game that explores the notion of what it really means to be trans.
Why: Is this a game? Is this poetry? Is this a trans experience? I mean…YES!
What: "So About Last Night..." is set in Los Angeles in 1996, you play a young queer woman who hooks up with another woman at a party and catches… something.
Why: Explore this heart-racing branching narrative and figure out what’s happening as you search for the missing goth girl. Bonus point: there will be vampires.
What: It’s Valentine’s Day, which means it’s time to make chocolate to give to somebody special. Head to Mima and Nina's Chocolate Workshop.
Why: Enjoy a mini chocolate-making game with your best friends Mima and Nina, and experience three different relationships unfold.
What: Kia Ora. It’s 2007 in New Zealand and you get to follow Ken: a 17-year-old emo with an awkward crush on his best friend Fergus. This is Small Town Emo.
Why: Embrace your inner emo/angsty teen in a retro fantasy setting. This game can be played on a real Gameboy Advance, but we’ll also have a PC emulator.
What: In Kaiju Noir, a city of ever-night, you take on the role of Detective Caribara, a private investigator of New Monstropolis, as they and their assistant Alixorus struggle to keep their agency running.
Why: A noir detective visual novel set in a world where large queer monsters live underground hidden away from humans.
Conceived by award-winning designer Dr Xavier Ho and housed in the SCA Project Space, Pride at Play is a collaboration between the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC) and Monash University. The exhibition furthers research underway at the University of Sydney’s Games and Play Lab, led by ARC Future Fellow Dr Marcus Carter, Associate Professor in Digital Cultures.
Pride at Play features in Pride Amplified, part of the Sydney WorldPride festival. The 2023 festival is expected to draw 500,000 international attendees into Sydney and inject up to $600 million into the local economy.
Pride at Play will run from 21 February to 4 March 2023 at the SCA Project Space, adjacent to the Quadrangle above Science Road in Camperdown, from 10am to 4pm daily. Closed Sunday 26 February. Age: 15+
About Dr Xavier Ho
Dr Xavier Ho is an interdisciplinary creative technologist and designer. He is a recipient of the inaugural CSIRO Medal for Diversity and Inclusion for his contributions in raising awareness for LGBTQIA+ issues in the organisation. He was a finalist in the 2020 Victorian Premier Design Awards in the Digital Design category. As a games researcher, Xavier investigates representations of gender and sexuality in games and the queer experiences they can enable.
Declaration: Pride at Play is jointly funded by the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC), Monash Art, Design and Architecture (MADA), and hosted by the Sydney College of the Arts (SCA). It is generously supported by the Hunt-Simes Bequest.
Hero image: Unsplash