is a great game, intriguing and thoughtful all at once. I loved every heartbreaking minute. Among its more distinctive features is its diversity, offering up a cast of characters that are widely varied in their racial, religious and sexual identities.
Nat and Bert, a married lesbian couple who both found work aboard the orbital unit central to the events of Tacoma, are an example of the game’s commitment to offering a broad range of perspectives. I cite them specifically because it’s due to their part in the story that I had a unique experience I’ve yet to have in a videogame. No, not the part where I played a game starring more than one lesbian. The part where I found a sex toy in their bedroom.
Sure, this may not be as much of a novelty as I think it is. There are probably games that I don’t know about that have a sex toy thrown in there somewhere. The Saints Row series, after all, infamously features a dildo bat that can be used in regular combat. But for me that doesn’t really “count,” as the weapon is used in a comedically absurd, as opposed to intimate, scenario. In general, it’s not often you see a casual reference to the sex life of a videogame character meant to denote a level of intimacy, rather than be presented to the player for titillation.
For all the rooting around that exploration games often openly encourage, I’ve never actually seen a game be honest about what the player might actually, realistically, find if they were to go rooting around through people’s (literal and metaphorical) underwear drawers. I know mine’s no picnic. Besides the usual unmentionables, I tend to squirrel away snacks and bits of food that I consume later in a sleep-eating trance. But think about it. The homes and abandoned houses of the point and click, mystery and exploration genres, even when they’re filled with murder, pain and chaos, are weirdly devoid of anything that exposes the inherent grossness of the human body. I think I saw tampons as a sellable item in Far Cry 3 or in the environment clutter of Gone Home, or something. But just once I’d like to run into a tube of hemorrhoid cream. Or an enema kit.
It sounds ridiculous, but ultimately it’s humanizing. While in real life I would probably have a reaction similar to the player character’s upon finding someone’s vibrator in their personal belongings (restrained embarrassment), I appreciate that small moment for what it is: a positive acknowledgment of female intimacy that had nothing to do with the player’s arousal or approval. When I rooted around in Nat and Bert’s marital bedroom and found a vibrator in a box, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there to turn me on. Rather, it was to remind the audience that while we often strip homosexuality of its, well, sexuality and sanitize it for heterosexual consumption, gay people are still human beings in need of touch and intimacy and stimulation. Yes, it’s about who you love, but also about who you love.
We could use more of that subtle acknowledgment in games. We could use more of that in the world.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer living in Seattle, WA. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.