Fairytale parody game Your Royal Gayness stars a gay prince named Amir who must avoid coming out of the closet, turn down princess suitors and make decisions about the kingdom. To highlight its Kickstarter campaign, we spoke to project lead Salli Loikkanen to find out more about the game and the thinking behind it.
Your Royal Gayness: Salli Loikkanen Talks Disney, LGBT Representation and More
J Station X: Most of the game focuses on Amir and his quest to stay closeted. Why did you feel that it was so important to show the daily struggles of a gay person who hasn’t come out yet?
(Your Royal Gayness project lead) Salli Loikkanen:
The idea right from the start was to portray the struggles of a gay person through the means of humor, but [despite being bisexual] I hadn’t realized how painful the closet can be. I understand things better now, and I think it’s something that all people should learn to understand better.
I’m hoping that the game will be fun for gay people to play, but also help everyone relate to sexual minorities better. I think seeing a different perspective can definitely help empathize with people, and it doesn’t have to be a “real” perspective – stories and media can have the same effect. Our demo is pretty light and doesn’t dig too deep into the issue, but we’re working hard to include some profound conversations about the topic in the final game.
JSX: The game also features characters of different ethnicities and body types. Was that a conscious effort?
The inclusion of a diverse cast of characters was definitely a conscious choice. The basic idea of the game is one that could have easily lead to very stereotypical portrayals of women as annoying blondes with pink dresses that come to propose to you bridezilla-style, but we made an effort to steer away from that.
That’s why we wanted to include different cultures, skin colours and clothing styles – not all princesses wear dresses. The princesses also have different personalities, which affect what they say when they propose to you
As for Prince Amir, some might think making him (fantasy) Arabic is a radical choice, but I have to admit that we didn’t intend it to be. We just felt that a generic European setting would be boring, and went with something else. I think it probably has to do with different political climates here in Finland compared to USA – the discussion about Muslims and Arabic countries is a lot more polarized in America.
JSX: What do you think about the lack of diversity in other games?
The lack of diversity in games overall is saddening, but I think things are slowly changing toward better. The white man with a gun and a little stubble character is probably still the most common main character, but we’re starting to see some prominent female characters as even in the big titles, like Assassin’s Creed’s Evie and Horizon Zero Dawn’s Aloy.
Bioware games have been pretty great when it comes to diversity, and Overwatch has improved greatly, and is finally reaching a 50/50 split between male and female characters – which should of course be the norm, not something to celebrate, but it’s a big step in the right direction.
I’d still like to see more characters of different ethnicities, and a wider variety of different kind of female characters. Male characters get all kinds of roles and personalities, but female characters are often in support roles. I’d especially like to see humorous female characters where the humor doesn’t come from the character’s gender (as in, ha-ha, she’s upset so she’s probably on her period, amrite?). There are surprisingly few female humor characters.
JSX: Why do you think so few games feature LGBTQ characters?
A lot of big game studios seem to think that featuring LGBT characters is risky, and I understand their concerns, with everything that has happened lately (such as the outrage when Tracer was announced to be gay, etc), but they should understand that those people are just a small but loud minority.
I think big companies have the moral obligation to take a stance. They have a lot of power, and featuring more LGBT characters could really make a difference in how people think, and help sexual minorities.
JSX: Moreover, what do you think about LGBT Disney princes/princesses and are you surprised they haven’t introduced one yet?
I have to be a bit cynical here and say I’m not surprised at all. Princes and princesses are the lead roles in [Disney] movies, and making a lead role in a children’s movie gay is still considered very controversial. A lot of people who say they’re okay with gay people suddenly get homophobic when children are involved – they seem to think that the kids will be “converted” into homosexuality if they see gays on TV.
That’s obviously a ridiculous thing to think, but here we arrive again to my earlier comment about big companies. They don’t want to take risks because their production costs are so high.
That’s why it has to be the indies and small publications that drive the change – we can’t lose millions even if we handle difficult subjects because we have never had that kind of money. Of course, LGBT representation shouldn’t be controversial, it should be the norm, but we’re not quite there yet.
Thank you to Salli Loikkanen for answering our questions. You can find out more about Your Royal Gayness and support the game on Kickstarter here.