When you fire up the Lovestruck: Choose Your Romance app on your smartphone or tablet you’ll be whisked away to a variety of fabulous and fantastical settings. Find love in outer space, find love in a town filled with vampires and werewolves, or find love as the secret love child of the President of the United States while you’re being protected by some dashing Secret Service agents.
Promising the “greatest interactive love stories,” the Lovestruck portal hopes to bring soap-y romance novels to your screen, letting you choose what your happily ever after looks like. And it truly offers a love story for all of its players, including several love interests of color and many same-sex romances across its stories too.
But Lovestruck hasn’t always been this inclusive and it has taken a little while to get here. To find out more I spoke to junior producer Lauren Comp about Voltage Entertainment’s evolution and how the games have managed to find an audience of lesbian and bisexual female fans.
Lovestruck Introduces New Lesbian Love Interest
In September, Lovestruck story Havenfall is for Lovers introduced a new WLW (women loving women) romance, a biracial lesbian werewolf (and sheriff) named Mackenzie Hunt. In an email, Voltage junior producer Lauren Comp explains to me that Havenfall is for Lovers offers “a full season of content exclusively dedicated to falling in love with [Mackenzie] and only [Mackenzie].” Mackenzie’s introduction is “special” because her story is available right from the beginning of the game, which hasn’t been the case with previous titles.
Indeed, although Mackenzie is Voltage’s 10th ever love interest for lesbian and bisexual women (and the 8th within the Lovestruck portal), she is the result of steady, measured progress. Comp points to characters like Aurora James, the suave suit-wearing woman who was the fifth love interest introduced in action-packed kidnapping caper Gangster in Love. Or Serena Zhang (pictured below) who was the third to be added to Castaway! Love’s Adventure.
The ‘journey’ to Mackenzie Hunt has taken almost four years. When Comp joined the Voltage Entertainment team in January 2014 “the idea of a female love interest had never been broached,” reveals the producer. After spy story Queen’s Gambit launched in December 2014 (it’s no longer available), it took four months for love interest Emily Verma to be added to the game and this was only after Comp had shown Nanako Tsutani (Voltage’s chief operating officer) the content in a “near-gold state.”
It took 14-16 hour days of crunch (high pressure, extremely busy development periods) to get Queen’s Gambit and Emily’s story out the door. Voltage would then introduce its second lesbian love interest, Medusa, in Astoria: Fate’s Kiss, though this was no simple matter either. Comp thanks the entire production team and the game’s writers for “logging many hours in making [Medusa’s] nineteen episode season one story cohesive and real, causing players to truly fall in love with her.”
The battle for better representation – female love interests that reflect and appeal to Voltage’s lesbian and bisexual female fans – has been not been easy. Comp explains that while American companies in the visual novel industry “are more open to including same-sex options” (often “as a side piece of a larger story”), for Japanese companies like Voltage Entertainment “change takes time.”
The producer notes that “There is usually a fear and a risk that the market “isn’t large enough” to cater to these fans.” But “WLW Fans have more than proved their place in the market of otome” in the eyes of Voltage’s entertainment, says the producer, without disclosing any figures. Havenfall is for Lovers‘ Mackenzie Hunt may be Voltage’s 10th female/female love interest but she certainly will not the last.
Lovestruck: Choose Your Romance is available to download on iOS and Android.
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