For the first time, the queer history of video games will be explored in a major exhibition: Rainbow Arcade at Schwules Museum in Berlin, spanning over 30 years of queer content in gaming from 1985 right up to present day.
Schwules Museum, one of the largest and most popular cultural institutions documenting LGBTQI culture around the world, has launched the new Rainbow Arcade to include the LGBTI history of video games. The exhibit covers more than 30 years of queer content in games through fan art, memorabilia and video interviews with designers and is presented in a colour-coded rainbow tour.
The last part of the rainbow tour will present several playable playable titles such as Caper in the Castro, released in 1989 as one of the first explicitly queer games. In the murder-mystery/puzzle game, the lesbian detective Tracker McDyke attempts to locate her kidnapped friend, drag queen Tessy LaFemme in the historically gay district of Castro in San Francisco.
The game, thought to be lost forever, was only recently rediscovered and turned into a playable format with the help of Temple University professor Dr Adrienne Shaw (of the LGBTQ Game Archive), who co-curated the exhibition with Jan Schnorrenberg from the Schwules Museum and German gaming journalist Sarah Rudolph.
LGBTQI characters have moved more toward centre stage in video games over the last three decades but despite growing representation of queer characters, the mainstream has remained reluctant to create even a single gay protagonist. It’s also difficult to find storylines that are central to the everyday experience of queer gamers and queer gaming studies continue to be marginalised.
According to organisers, Rainbow Arcade asks not only how social discourses and developments have been reflected in video games but if there has been any major progress in regards of LGBTQI representation in entertainment media. The exhibition also “explores issues regarding our digital memory and the unique challenges posed by digital culture to archives and institutions and the archival absence of contemporary queer media history.”
The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive supporting programme with international developers, artists and researchers. A companion book has been successfully crowdfunded and will be published in April 2019.
Rainbow Arcade: Queer Gaming History 1985-2018 is at Schwules Museum, Berlin, until 13 May.
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