Ruberg says games allow trans people, queer people, and others with marginalized identities to present themselves in the way that works best for them. Ruberg says, “You know people talk about feeling that euphoria, but a lot of times you hear people say, it was like a really big first step for them. And that it was a really big stepping stone for a lot of people to get out or make the transition later, that they were able to do it in online gaming spaces.
Whether it’s clothing, name, or personal style, games provide a space for experimentation in presentation. Often, before someone is ready to ask people in real life to recognize them the way they want to be recognized, they get used to practically asking first.
Games, like everything else, don’t change lives or make bones tremble every time they’re played, but they can regularly reassure identity. They can also be a bit of a safety net. By entering a virtual world, trans people have the freedom to be exactly who they choose to be, and this is especially special at the start of the transition or upon exiting. But beyond that, open-world games allow freedom, not only in personal expression but also in the communities that players have chosen to create for themselves.
“Games create worlds,” Ruberg emphasizes. They bring up the idea of the creation of the queer world, a branch of queer studies that focuses on the communities queer people create for themselves, which often seem almost separate from the rest of the world. Or at least very different and new. “Video games make it really literal. You enter a world and you maybe participate in an alternate world, or you create, by Animal crossing or something like that, you create your own island and imagine the world the way you want.
Pull the horizon into the present
The ephemeral quality of the spaces we create in open-world video games finds a mirror in queerness itself if you follow Munoz’s line of thought in Cruising utopia. Nothing right now can last forever or be as real as we need it to – we are always building towards these things. All we can do is hang on to the moments that make us feel good, the moments that give us a taste of what we want so badly and the future we want to build.
Ruberg questions the idea of video games containing absolute happiness in this way, saying, “It’s interesting that this is a utopia. You can do things that you might not be able to do, you can do it yourself, but, in pretty much all of these examples, there is always some toxicity involved. Whenever it is a online multiplayer game, someone will appear and mess with your utopia. So maybe that sounds even more like Muñoz’s idea, right? Like he says we’re still chasing him, but it’s still on the horizon.
“The future is the domain of queerness,” writes Muñoz, and it’s hard not to agree, not to look at the current state of the world and to think that we are miles and miles away. ” a company that can sum up the strangeness and the joy that this oddity deserves. Yet in the present, for some people, utopian queerness can be found, even briefly, numerically.
Watching Oakie play their game, it’s easy to see them settle into the calm, fuzzy feeling they’ve been talking about, watching the lightness spread across their faces. They have their little world, their little community, and they become exactly what they plan to be, for a little while, when they have time to play the game. And over time, in real life, they are settling more and more in this person, who they want to be, who they always have been.
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