By Adrienne Shaw
Over the past two years, I have been building an online archive of LGBTQ video game characters and content: https://lgbtqgamearchive.com. I began by creating a list of all of the games listed in popular, academic, and web spaces as having some LGBTQ content or content that could be queerly read. This list included all genres, from all countries, as far back as we could (currently our oldest game is from 1985). Since the start of that process, and in collaboration with a similar resource (http://www.queerlyrepresent.me/), I and my various collaborators have identified over 700 games with some sort of LGBTQ content. The list continues to grow as more games are released and more historical queerness in games is documented.
I, along with the help of research assistants and volunteers, are in the ongoing process of researching each game to find all the information we can about their LGBTQ content. This includes using articles (popular and scholarly), game wikis, YouTube videos, reviews, blog posts, walkthroughs, forum discussions, and any other source we can find that discusses the LGBTQ content in these games. In some cases it also requires playing the games as there is little documentation of the content, or sorting through conflicting accounts of the game content as much as possible. This research is being supported by funding via Refiguring Innovation in Games from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (http://www.refig.ca/portfolio/lgbtq-video-game-archive/).
The current online version of the archive is a WordPress site. For each game or game series, I have created a page with a brief description of who made the game, when, and for what platforms along with basic plot and genre information. Then, for each instance of LGBTQ content (e.g. a character, mention or a location), I create a post explaining the content. I then use the blog categorizing system to categorize by the type of content so once public users can choose, for example, to look at all queer women characters or just all bisexual women characters or even all explicitly bisexual women characters. I also provide citations for all sources describing the content, in case users want to investigate an individual example on their own. However with the help of the Digital Scholarship Center Faculty Fellowship I am able to turn this “archive” into a more fully realized Archive. In addition to offering links to and summaries of information about LGBTQ content in games, with the help of the DSC I am creating an Omeka site cataloging all of the primary sources used in this research. Then we are making digital archive quality copies of those original sources (from webpages to videos) which will ultimately be housed at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. The Omeka site will be the publicly available catalogue for the digitally stored copies of all of the primary sources used in the LGBTQ archive.
The need for the Omeka site and copies of the primary sources is two-fold. First, absences in the historical records are one of the biggest challenges to producing comprehensive knowledge about LGBTQ game content. There are a great many games for which if there ever was a record of their existence it is now long gone. And this is not just a historical problem. Earlier this year GayGamer.Net went down due to domain ownership issues and much of the data from that site is now lost. Ensuring we collect for posterity the history of LGBTQ content in games is vital for both future scholars and game makers. Moreover, the Omeka site allows for a multitude of additional analysis possibilities that the WordPress tagging system does not. For instance, one analysis of this project I have planned is looking at where and when information about LGBTQ game content is published, which Omeka’s metadata and tagging functions make much easier to examine. Moreover Omeka allows a much more flexible platform for creating exhibits to complement the writing and publication of my book project this archive is part of, as well as the many different journal articles and book chapters coming from this project. The first semester of this fellowship has involved a great deal of trial and error in figuring out how to make all of this possible. But now I and my DSC supplied RA Aja J Binette are well poised to hit the ground running in the spring.