Wherein I discuss Pride, the end of a Wonderworld, yet another cult classic Japanese game series coming to PC, and the looming dread of a sloppy wet E3.
Let’s see, topics, topics— oh, here’s one. This past week saw the beginning of pride month, also known as June, which over this past decade has gone from something only visibly celebrated via parades in larger cities into a major movement for everybody under the LGBT+ spectrum to come out, declare their gender and sexual identities, and celebrate their differences. While also being a time for cis and hetero people to show their support however they can, and for corporations to pretend like they care by putting out rainbow renditions of their logos. Because that takes 3 minutes in Photoshop and makes you seem relevant, without actually doing anything.
Anyway, the reason I’m bringing this up is because of my somewhat… estranged relationship to this whole concept and the idea of even being part of a community. For those not in the know, I’m an asexual transgender woman, so I easily fall under two of the LGBT+ umbrella categories. However, I struggle to look at all these other LGBT+ people celebrating themselves and feel like I necessarily belong with them. The idea of being ‘proud of who you are’ has never really sat well with me as an individual, and that is for a lot of messy reasons involving my low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and self-deprecating nature.
Those traits are actually fairly common in a lot of the LGBT+ people I follow, but I think there is one thing that differentiates me from most of these people, and it’s the whole reason why pride month is a thing. Most LGBT+ people have some sort of shared adversity. Discrimination, fighting to get proper healthcare, rejection from friends and family, all of that awful stuff. But me personally, I really did not have any of that.
I mulled through my own gender issues in secret, came out as trans to my mother, started HRT a month later, and 18 months after that, I liquidated my savings account to pay for FFS and assembled a preliminary wardrobe so I could begin presenting myself as female. That was 3.5 years ago, and I have not run into any issues since then. Nobody rejected me, was mean to me, and while some took months to adjust, they all pretty much got used to me being Natalie. Also, I pass as female and I have never been misgendered by somebody who did not know me before I transitioned. That’s something very few trans people can relate to.
I look at my story and see myself as somebody who had some stuff wrong with them for a while, repressed it with the ‘I’m not trans, I’m just a pervert’ schtick, eventually realized enough was enough, followed the steps needed to transition, and is now comfortably and happily living as female with no major lingering dysphoria. I mean, except for my genitals, but I’m working on that as we speak. Nothing about that really strikes me as something to be proud of.
Now, am I saying that other people shouldn’t be proud of their gender or sexuality? Hell no. I’m glad that so many people come together, clamor, and make themselves known during this time of year. If you’re LGBT+ and happy with yourself, go nuts, get loud, and make your voice heard to help earn sympathy for your community. All I’m really saying here is that I’m not particularly proud of my journey or status. I did some stuff, am still doing stuff, and I’m content with my place in the world and my overall identity.
…Also, and this will probably get me branded as a heretic from somebody, I really don’t like the trans pride colors. I never really enjoy associating myself with warmer colors as they do not look good with my light complexion or red hair, and the bright pastel pink of the trans pride color scheme just does not sit well with me. But I freaking love the asexual color scheme. It’s comfy and looks cool. No joke, but if you give me a character creator, there’s an 80% chance that I will dress them up using the asexual color scheme.
This week in video games… not a lot happened, as everybody is getting ready for E3 2021, and it’s looking to be such a mess this year. Instead of just having a few big conferences, there are no less than a dozen events this year, and I have a strong suspicion that the show as a whole will suffer because of this.
With the rise in the prevalence of these publisher-run announcement showcases, we see a lot of misunderstanding of the fundamental appeal of corporate livestreams from a customer perspective. People watch these things because they want to see games, they want to see new game footage, and they want to see game announcements. They want to know what’s coming out and what they can get excited about. But so often these showings get sidetracked as they feel obligated to advertise fluff or tat, or they simply lack the content to justify their length.
There have been a lot of discussions about what makes a good one of these things, a good Nintendo Direct-like, but few people, like those behind the Dragon Quest 35th anniversary special, seem to get it. Combine this with production delays introduced thanks to COVID-19, and I think this year will have a lot of titles that are over a year from shipping, or titles whose presence is stretched out for the sake of filling time, even though people typically prefer the rapid-fire approach.
Anyway, the first story that caught my eye this past week was how Yuji Naka is no longer working at Sega. Yes, the programming wizard behind the Genesis Sonic titles and the shepherd for the series for nearly a decade has left Square Enix and for pretty obvious reasons. I did not bring the game up since its reveal, but Balan Wonderworld came out this past March, and it was not good. The reasons why are complicated, muddled, and not necessarily confirmed due to how secretive the Japanese games industry is, but when you pick up the pieces, it’s clear why something went wrong.
The game was the first HD console title that Yuji Naka worked on in his storied career. The game had to include 80 different power-up costumes, for some reason. The story was carved out of the game at some point and repackaged as a novel. A small team within Square Enix conceptualized the title while Arzest handled the actual development. With Arzest being a small developer who never made a 3D platformer, let alone a console game that had to ship on 6 SKUs. The COVID-19 pandemic obviously impacted the development timeline of the game. And based on some of the quotes I saw floating around, it appears that Arzest developed these versions simultaneously, which is not how you do a multiplatform release like this.
People first suspected that something was up with the game after checking out the (delisted) January 2021 demo, and seeing as how the final release was only two months away, the developers simply did not have time to make the game better or implement player feedback. This led to a poor critical reception and a dismal commercial reception, with the game selling less than 2,100 copies during its first week in Japan.
Because of this, Square Enix ended their contract with Yuji Naka as of the end of April, and now it appears that Naka is once again a freelance developer and one with a fresh sticky brown mark on his otherwise exceptional track record… and it might be his final title. Based on an update provided by Naka, he is considering retiring from game development, and I can certianly see why somebody in his position would think as much. He had great success in his youth, but between Kadokawa screwing him over with Rodea the Sky Soldier and Balan’s poor reception, he is in a tight spot and is likely very discouraged that he has the capacity to work on a successful new title. It would suck to see him retire or bow out of the industry on such a low note, but it’s ultimately his decision. And if he does not want to go through the process of assembling a while new team and working with a new publisher yet again, then retirement might be the best option for him.
In happier news, following their October 2020 re-release on Nintendo Switch, publisher XSEED announced that No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle are both coming to PC via Steam on June 9th. As I always say, I love seeing games like this come to PC, as it keeps them future-proof, opens up the potential of game-enhancing mods, and often offers the best experience on a technical (resolution and frame rate) level.
I personally would like to check these games out now that they are on my platform of choice, but it has become painfully obvious just how few games I play nowadays, and when I do, it’s almost always a TSF visual novel, which… Actually, no. I’ll save that as a preamble for next week’s Rundown, when PRE3 will be in full effect!
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The way I see it on the pride issue, there are still some issues to face and people are allowed to do whatever they want with themselves of course, but being gay isn’t really much of a big deal in western society anymore so the whole boisterous and ´shocking the hetero norms´ theme has run its course I think. People screaming about what genitals they like and/or identify with feels more casually obnoxious than anything to me; if with a caveat that I’m glad when they find acceptance and belonging and of course wish them the best as I would anybody else.
What I’d instead want it to focus on are the LGBTQ+ issues which still do need work, like gender affirming care being readily available (which for those unawares does not mean giving carte blanche to chop genitals off after a five minute talk at the local clinic; more therapeutic sessions and access to hormone blockers which are completely reversible) or giving a spotlight to those who overcame adversity like being rejected by parents and friends with words of wisdom for others in similar boats, maybe some celebrating of activists who have helped bringing LGBTQ acceptance to the western world in the past decade, and especially if they bring it beyond the west where in many cases being LGBTQ is still a big deal with legitimate threats to their safety as the default.
I feel like that would make pride month worthwhile and provide active value rather than what I feel is mostly symbolism and an excuse to party. Not to say you can’t have those too, but they shouldn’t be the face of it like I feel they are.
I would not necessarily say that “being gay isn’t really much of a big deal in western society.” In some countries or regions, it isn’t, but there are still plenty of people in western society who are ostracized for being anything other than heterosexual. And even in places where it is being normalized, there are still western politicians who want to fight against this progress and rid gay people of as many rights as possible.
What you are describing is very much the point of pride month. Celebrating the people who paved the path for progress, supporting those who are coming out, and LGBTQ+ people discussing their personal stories, both of acceptance and rejection. This is something that happens a lot, but it is not always publicized beyond LGBTQ+ circles, as it’s easier for news outlets to say they support these people, rather than doing human interest stories and inviting them to tell their stories in front of a large audience.
Also, I want to make it clear that trans people are not in a good spot right now. Britain has made it clear how much they don’t want trans people to exist, and a lot of people, and states, in the USA are trying to stir the country up into a furor by pushing baseless narratives and repurposing the exact same type of fear mongering seen with gay people in the 1980s. The only reason why I’m not worried is that I’m already out as trans, changed my legal name, and got on a waiting list for bottom surgery.
While I agree there are politicians who attack LGBTQ+ rights and that there are examples of people who refuse to accept anything but “what God intended” or whatever, I think it becomes increasingly clear that these people are on the wrong side of history as LGBTQ+ support has skyrocketed in the past decade or so. A Pew research showed that gay acceptance in the United States went from 60% in 2013 to 72% in 2019 while another study from PRRI shows that 79% of Americans recognize that trans people face quote “at least some” stigma (38% say “a lot”) compared to 17% who say no stigma.
This isn’t to say there isn’t work to be done and fights to be had to defend what progress we’ve made, let alone further it; it’s to demonstrate that while the war isn’t over, so to speak, the flow of it is moving in the favor of the LGBTQ+ movement overall. Or at least that’s what I think, since public approval tend to cause shifts in the direction of the cause they approve of, and being a social issue I don’t see big money getting in the way of it too much. I see gay rights as a fight that’s in the last quarter phase of the war with victory in sight, and trans rights as a fight roughly around the level of where gay rights were ten years ago; a major fight ongoing, but one that we’re slowly winning. Do you think I’m off in that estimate?
Regarding pride month, I feel like it’s what it’s about on paper, but it gets drowned out by the “kink culture” and the boisterous “we’re here, we’re queer; get over it”. Maybe it’s the media culture causing it, I can’t say I have much personal experience with pride marches or the likes, or maybe it’s just the face of it while more happens behind the scenes or when people go for drinks at the local bar after the march or something. If I’m not just being narrow-sighted then I wish the face of it was more what I described and less leather daddies and topless women shouting and pecking each other on the streets or hollow repaints of various logos with rainbow colors which is what I tend to see the most whenever pride month comes into view for me.
I fully agree with you that LGBTQ+ rights and representation have made amazing progress over the past decade, especially with regards to trans people. A lot of it has to do with the social media age and how these people now have a digital platform to express themselves without the same barriers that existed throughout the 2000’s. Public perception has been skyrocketing because of this, and people are becoming more aware of the issues that LGBTQ+ people experience with every passing day.
In the long-term, I think that a lot of progress will be made over the next decade, but I also acknowledge where things are at the present moment and how, unless people are vocal, fight for rights, and punch up to bigots in power, history might take a different turn. Public approval does cause shifts in policy, but just because metrics are rising does not mean that they will stay that way.
I actually do see big money as a potential threat, mostly because people with big money tend to favor a status quo, both socially and economically. They want things to remain as they are, because they want to keep making more and more money. The wealthy are influential, and if the wealthy want to shape public perception, they can. I mentioned UK’s transphobia issue, and while this is part of a deeper cultural problem with the British, much of the recent backlash toward trans people can be attributed to J.K. Rowling, who is an absurdly wealthy individual with oodles of social clout.
Again, the corporate and mainstream representation of pride month and pride parades have not advanced as quickly as the public perception of LGBTQ+ people. There will always be boisterous and kinky members of the community, and while I think that is great, I would also like to see more serious discussions and speeches get the spotlight going forward. But that does not always make for the best audience retention.
Honestly, if you want to see more serious and discussion-orientated media during pride, the best way to do so is to poke your head in a community, ask for recommendations, or find a reading list of books/articles written by LGBTQ+ people. If the mainstream is not giving you something you want, the best and most productive thing to do is seek it out yourself.
I think it’s because the moneyed interests want to make as much money as possible that they don’t care too much about social issues beyond their ability to capitalize on it. If they can make money by being anti-trans, they absolutely will. But if they get more customers from being outspokenly pro-trans then watch how they’ll turn; many of them already have as can be seen by the numerous rainbow logos around. It doesn’t mean much, but it also doesn’t put that money and influence against the cause. Well, openly at least. Never know what goes on behind closed doors.
But that aside, what I’m trying to say is that I think a shift towards the more serious would be the best approach because I think it retains attention better than a kink march. That’s not to say we can’t do those too, why limit one’s arsenal right? It’s to say I think it’d serve as a better and more educational face of the movement to raise awareness and build solidarity outside the community with whereas kink marches are better for gaining attention and build solidarity within the community.
Books are great, but I don’t think the majority go out of their way to buy and read stuff that take more than a couple of minutes unless they’re specifically and more-than-casually interested in a given topic, but I do think listening to someone helps cut the time, cost and investment necessary down a bit to serve as a better foundation-builder if you will; something to give a basic understanding of the trials LGBTQ+ people face and the arguments for why certain issues are a problem that needs addressing, certain approaches give the best results or certain actions are the best to take to help an LGBTQ+ person out.
Those are my two cents at least, I don’t think I have much else I can say on the matter. We’ll all just have to do our best and hope the future will be bright, and hopefully we can sooner rather than later pat each other on the back and say good job no matter the approach taken with everybody having contributed something to a good cause and a better conclusion.