The month of June is a great (but complex) time for the queer community, as companies show their support for us in a variety of ways, some more meaningful than others. Xbox’s pride celebrations are an example of one of the ways to do it right – by highlighting queer content, creators and communities, and offering tangible support to those from marginalised groups, rather than just splashing rainbows over everything and calling it a day. Obviously they have also splashed rainbows over everything though, and I am living for every part of it, but the fact that it isn’t the only action they’re taking is what counts here.
So, onto the good stuff:
Do you like Halo, Psychonauts 2, Age of Empires, or all things Xbox? Did you wish you could show the world you liked those things, but also be very gay about it? You’re in luck. Xbox have released a bunch of pride-themed merch that will allow you to rep the rainbow and your favourite series at the same time. They’re very cool, and you can shop the range here.
The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of
This incredible pride-themed controller will only be made available to ‘key influencers and media’, and I would probably murder someone to obtain one. Is that in the spirit of pride? No. But is it in the spirit of ‘be gay do crime’? Yes, which I think makes it a valid approach. The controller features flags representing different groups within the queer community, and is basically the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. So, Xbox, if you’re looking to give one away…I am here, queer, and ready.
Emotional narrative adventure Tell Me Why will be made free for all on Xbox consoles, the Microsoft store and Steam for the month of June, so that we can all rightfully appreciate it in all its queer glory. It features a playable trans male protagonist (along with a whole bunch of other queer elements) who was brought to life through consultation with a number of trans people and diversity groups, and is a solid example of why consultation works. It’s an amazing game (I loved it) and it’s exciting that so many people will be able to experience it – including the people it represents, who may not have been able to access it before.
And Tell Me Why isn’t the only game on display. Xbox has put together a whole collection of games created by or featuring queer people, which can be broken down by a bunch of filters so that you can find exactly the kind of content you crave. The categories include creators, relationship options, protagonists, playable characters, character creation options and LGBTQIA+ award winners and nominees, all of which are exciting and worthy for their own reasons, and which I encourage you to check out. Some bigger queer favourites like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, The Sims 4 and The Outer Worlds (special shoutout to asexual queer hero Parvati) are highlighted alongside indie darlings like Gone Home, Undertale, Night in the Woods and the entire Life is Strange series, and honestly you should just play them all. A bunch of them are available on Game Pass, so if you have access to that library, you have no excuse.
Would you like to have a rainbow Ford Focus 2017 in Forza, but are sick of trying to throw one together by just slapping different coloured skins of varying wild shapes over the top of each other? Now’s your chance! Owners of Forza Motorsport 7 and Forza Horizon 4 will receive this skin for free, making rainbow dreams come true. If you’re more of a Halo person, logging in during June will give you a nameplate that shows Master Chief standing in front of a rainbow, which another rainbow reflected in his mask. So, there’s gay content for all.
The Profile Goodies
Do you, like me, want to make every possible representation of yourself an aggressive rainbow? Xbox have released some new gamerpics and a new profile template that will really allow you to embrace the rainbow. The set is called ‘True Colours’, and I for one am going to be adopting that profile template immediately.
The Entertaining and Educational
Xbox will have a bunch of stuff going on over at Twitch.tv/Xbox, with each week covering a different theme. There will be devs, streamers and content creators, all talking about queer games and what makes them amazing. If you want to keep up with the schedule, the themes are:
- Week of June 1st – LGBTQIA+ Game Creators
- Week of June 7th – LGBTQIA+ Community Streamer Takeover
- Week of June 14th – LGBTQIA+ Game Protagonists
- Week of June 21st – GLAAD/Gayming Award Nominees
- Week of June 28th – LGBTQIA+ Playable Characters
There will also be a podcast about safety and how people should be able to ‘play as their authentic selves’, a big collaboration with Gayming Magazine for DIGIPRIDE, and a collection of films similar to the games collection that will highlight important queer films and award-winners.
The Most Important Stuff
The best bit of this whole endeavour is that Microsoft is putting its money where its mouth is. It’s one thing to splash rainbows on stuff, but it’s another to actively support queer members of the games industry and beyond – and this is where Microsoft are setting themselves apart. They have pledged to donate a total of $150,000 to LGBTQIA+ non-profit organisations including ACLU Foundation, The Trevor Project, Act to Change, OutRight Action International, BEAM, and Mermaids. This is in addition to the $2 million that Microsoft and their employees have given to support the queer cause in the last year alone. Those are some pretty impressive numbers – but when you’re a company as big as Microsoft, they really should be. Microsoft will also be matching all Microsoft Rewards donations made to The Trevor Project, OutRight Action International and the Transgender Law Center through June, so if you’ve been meaning to show financial support for these stellar organisations, now might just be the time!
“We will continue to do our part to ensure that everyone can play as their authentic selves and feel empowered and represented throughout the industry.”
This is the message behind Xbox’s whole pride month contribution, and I am so impressed by it. This feels like a real, tangible step towards supporting marginalised communities, but one that still allows us to celebrate our queer selves with rainbows and flags held high. For the full rundown of Xbox’s pride month celebrations, head to their blog – and you should absolutely check it out, because as exciting as this selection is, I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Jess is a writer and researcher who loves games with good puzzles, good stories, and a tendency to punch you straight in your feelings. She is one of the directors of not-for-profit organisation Queerly Represent Me and is particularly interested in games told from unique perspectives that highlight themes or characters from groups that are often underrepresented. She also just really loves coffee, hot chips, and terrible superhero TV shows, and is always secretly hoping that one day the world will give her a good Sherlock Holmes game.