LGBT Content in We Happy Few: A Brief Encounter
The mid-20th century was not a terrific time for the gays. The tide was starting to turn, sure, but we weren't there just yet. Maybe in 50 years or so... Oh wait, never mind.
Enter Wellington Wells. It's a sleepy village - where everyone is wired on Joy pills. It's a quiet city - with screaming and crying galore. It has an eye for the futuristic - and it can't move on from the events of its past.
In other words, it's a place of contradictions and self-hatred, well beyond the reach of civilised society. Where better to find the gays?
An Idiot and a Misanthrope
A decent way through Arthur's story (the first arc of the game), we meet Doctor Faraday: a rather splendid inventor whose work can be seen all across Wellington Wells. She refused to produce any more inventions for the authority, and was imprisoned in her laboratory as payback. In the house containing her lab, we meet two lovely chaps, Roger and James.
Let's just clarify, just in case anyone missed it: Roger and James are definitely, properly gay, and romantically involved with one another. The in-game lore clarifies that they were stationed to guard Faraday, as they could not be seduced by her, what with being confirmed bachelors and all. There's only one single bed for the both of them - and it's bright pink. There's a great big chalkboard that says Roger Loves James.
Roger and James both have very particular personalities. It's a little clunky that the only two visibly LGBT characters in the game are also some of the most one-dimensional, but hey ho. James is a permanently depressed misanthrope, who can barely get through a sentence without wishing death upon someone (including himself). By contrast, Roger is happy-go-lucky and cheerful beyond measure. He's also an idiot.
One of the most unfortunate things about the pair's inclusion is just how overt the two are with their sexuality. Now admittedly, some people still managed to not catch on, but it's pretty damn overbaked. Roger is by far the campest person in Wellington Wells. They're both wearing sailor's outfits, for heaven's sake. Why did the game's creators think that the way to represent one slice of the LGBT spectrum was to throw every gay cliche at the player until they get the hint. The end result is even more problematic: Every visibly gay person in the game is unbearable to be around.
As many reviewers have noted, the game is replete with bugs and glitches. When we first met Roger, rather than skipping about as usual, he was stuck on the "love bed" and couldn't be interacted with at all. A pity.
Where are all the gays?
From playing the game, it's clear that Wellington Wells has moved well beyond normal civilisation. The town frequently throws nonconformists out to the Garden District. And most importantly, the concept of a "family unit" has all but evaporated (and with good reason). As a result, very few things seem to remain taboo.
We can expect that at least one person in 20 of Wellington Wells is not straight. There is maybe a question to be asked then: Why are there only two out gay people in the entire town?
I think this is an unfair question. The heterosexual relationships between non-player characters are very rarely covered in detail. It's very possible that the average LGBT relationship is much the same as the average heterosexual relationship in the game - private and undisclosed. And that's entirely OK.
T'aint all bad...
In spite of the criticisms levelled above, we should make it clear that including LGBT people in your games is a Good Thing, and something to be encouraged at every opportunity. We thank Compulsion Games for adding Roger and James into the game, and the overt nature of their inclusion is one more slap in the face to the "historical realism" brigade.With more content being produced for the game over the coming year or so, we hope that Compulsion takes the opportunity to introduce more LGBT+ characters. And, critically, we hope that their inclusion can be undertaken with the respect and quality of writing that we see throughout We Happy Few.
Alex is the technical lead at Rainbo. You can contact him directly on Twitter or by email at email@example.com.