For a few years now, I’ve been plotting out a video game about how the queer community responds to tragedy. It’s called Queer Quest. I was blindsided by the Pulse shootings. During the first few days of gut-wrenching aftermath, I took notes for the game. Notes about how my friends were responding, how I was dealing, and about how strangers were coping. Notes about how grief is queer. I felt so fucked up taking notes for my video game while processing my own sadness, as if researching my grief invalidated it. And then something beautiful happened. The queer community responded to the Pulse shootings with love.
There were vigils with therapy dogs, self-care events with massages, community dinners, long walks, moments of screaming as well as moments of silence, and defiant partying. The first morning after hearing the news, my good friend came over and insisted he was going to spend the day being as gay as possible (not much of a stretch for him). He wanted to find a rainbow flag to hang over a bridge, to be as visible as possible. It is apparently very hard to find a giant rainbow flag last minute on a Sunday, and I saw the hunt for the flag as an example of self-care. The action of finding the flag was much more healing than hanging it, the flag was removed within the hour. Queer Quest is my more permanent rainbow flag. In the game, you follow Lupe, who’s dealing with some shit. Her girlfriend gets kidnapped and she has to find out what happened. Lupe carries grief around like a physical object in her pocket, something tangible yet unusable. When she tries to give her grief to other characters, it triggers real talk, but she can’t give it away. Sometimes she copes by just laying on the ground and staring at the sky. Sometimes she handles grief by helping others — one friend has FOMO (fear of missing out), another can’t figure out whose house she left her shirt at. Lupe helps herself by helping others and exploring their stories.
Queer people, and especially queer people of color, deal with a lot of grief. LGBTQ folks are at higher risk of drinking heavily, of smoking, and of suffering from psychological distress. One of the strengths of the LGBTQ community is how highly we value self-care, because we need it. There are so many types of queers out there, and there’s this mutual understanding that our differences are our common ground. Queers are rarely seen in video games, historically they’re more seen in bars. Bars have historically been the gathering place for queers, but that’s changing. Lesbian bars are closing all over the states, the Pulse shooting has changed the tone of queer celebration, LGBTQ people need to be seen in other spaces. Queer Quest is an opportunity to make the LGBTQ community more visible by bringing them to video games. Loudly and proudly.
If you’d like to help support Queer Quest and the gay takeover of video games, please check out our Kickstarter.
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Mo Cohen is a queer-as-fuck game developer. She lives in Portland, likes talking to people’s pets, and eats Nutella out of the jar with a spoon. Sometimes she talks about feminism in tech, but usually she’s working on Queer Quest. Follow her on Twitter@queermogames and on Facebook at facebook.com/queermogames.