A lifelong gamer, Brit Snaggel founded Hella Gay Games when hardly anyone else was making queer-friendly, queer-inclusive games.
“We decided that we should just do it ourselves, and make the kind of games we’d like to see,” she says. “It’s a really good way to connect with people and battle wits against your friends, to explore a different way of approaching a problem you might not be exposed to in day-to-day life.”
This May, she leads a conversation at the Brisbane Powerhouse’s 'Gayming Night' as part of the MELT 2018 programme. 'Gayming' is an inclusive evening where attendees can playtest in-progress games, chat to queer developers and even give creating their own games a go.
While LGBTQI+ representation in the gaming world is improving, the wider community can still be “hostile to difference,” according to Brit.
“It’s not just queerness,” she says. “It’s women, it’s people of colour, it’s people with disabilities, and if you don’t fit this stereotypical idea of what a gamer is, you can often find spaces that just don’t feel comfortable.”
Brit’s hoping to publish 'Cuddle Pile' later this year, a competitive card game which sees friends trying to maximise the happiness of attendees in a ‘cuddle pile’.
“It’s part card game, part tiny queer art project,” she says. “In addition to it being a cute, lovey-dovey game, we’re also in the process of commissioning a diversity of young, queer emerging artists, contributing cards of their own unique art.”
While there’s more and more representation of LGBTQI+ identities in the digital video game space, Brit says there’s still a lot to be desired in traditional tabletop games, where the mechanics of gameplay often require players to make compulsory heterosexual choices just to play. She wants the tabletop gaming world to expand, making space for “people of a variety of identities to see themselves in the game.”
“As our media gets more diverse, you hear story after story of people saying, ‘I saw this movie and it had people like me in it, and I just never thought that could happen’,” Brit says. “I think that even though it’s ‘just a board game’, it can be a space to just sit and rest and be affirmed and bolstered by media that sees you, that validates you.”
One of her favourite queer-inclusive games is 'Billionaire Banshee', a relationship simulator that has players try to build a perfect partner in spite of their often eccentric quirks. The title card, for instance, is ‘happy to shower wealth upon their partner’, but ‘is also a literal banshee’.
“There’s no assumptions about the gender of this person or the gender of any of the people who are playing,” Brit says. “You could play this game if you were not queer and never think about queer issues, or you could play this game if you were queer, and also be able to engage completely authentically.”
As people look to connect with their friends and family outside the digital space, tabletop gaming is experiencing a kind of renaissance.
“I think people are looking for ways to connect and have in-person social interaction in ways that feel very authentic and engaging,” Brit says. “There’s something unique about sitting around a table with a group of folks, where everyone’s focus is in a single place.”