The Trans Flag in A Hat in Time and Politics in Gaming
Have you ever been playing a game you love, only to turn some corner and see something you disagree with striking you dead in the face? Do you HATE politics in gaming? Do symbols or topics considered to be political just make you want to go to and write a bad review on a gaming site or talk to the devs about your bad experience? Well then, you’re the type of person I’m going to talk about today.
A decently recent controversy in gaming was from A Hat in Time, when they put in an easter-egg in a DLC they released. If you look this up on google, you’ll find plenty of people complaining about it being heavily political, and possibly a part of the culture wars to put a flag in the game that shows support for the trans community. One of the arguments here is that it’s adding politics to an otherwise apolitical game. To that, I say: so what? Transgender people are a group of people and a developer choosing to show support in a game through something very simple isn’t an issue. If you think that’s a problem, then maybe that’s on you. If you’re not trans or not against trans people, then why speak out? Nothing here influences anyone. It’s harmless.
Here’s the kicker: people who loved the game before this are now starting to boycott and change their good reviews to bad just for this one thing. Why does this effect you so much to this degree if you’re not hateful towards trans folk or the movement? You don’t need to take things that far. Also, if you think this is political, but Call of Duty, Minecraft, or other games along those lines aren’t, then you’re simply defining “apolitical” as “everything I agree with and believe”, rather than fully devoid of politics. Call of Duty is a series surrounding warfare and the questionable decisions governments make waging it. Minecraft has a myriad of people that dislike Notch, the creator of the game, because he’s against the transgender movement. This does go both ways, but it’s handled different in these scenarios.
A Hat in Time is being boycotted and review bombed by people who don’t agree with the choice to put in a trans flag. However, transgender people who love and continue to play Minecraft have made the space more welcoming in their own communities by adding in LBGT and trans specific texture packs. One is a negative reaction, while the other a positive reaction. If you want to protest a game because you don’t agree with something in it, I’m not complaining about that. What I’m complaining about is the excuses used, like politics “invading” the gaming community. Just admit you don’t agree with it and move on. That’s what I do with Chick-fil-a. I don’t agree with their behind-the-scenes practices, so I choose to take my business elsewhere. Just remember that this is your choice and your beliefs, just like it’s the choice of the developers to keep the trans flag in because they support the movement and your negativity isn’t stopping them from doing that.
Another game that recently sparked controversy is Celeste, a classic-style platformer that includes a picture of the main character, Madeline, sitting at her desk, where there are two small flags in a cup by the computer. If you zoom in quite a bit, you can see that they’re the Gay and Trans flags respectively. This isn’t something you can see very well at the regular size of the picture, but people took to the image, making it super zoomed-in, then complained that it’s propaganda and ruins the game. It’s not there for that, and the picture does suggest that Madeline is trans herself, giving the audience a cool trans character to relate to in a game they love.
Again, why is this a problem? It isn’t about politics being in gaming, as Celeste is already surprisingly dark and mature at times. It’s about a hateful group of gamers that don’t like the movements these flags represent and so they got mad that they’re in the game. Politics is a part of gaming, so if you don’t like it, then please stop playing games.
There’s one more issue I’d like to bring up, and it’s against the other side this time. CD Projekt Red got some flak for putting an advertisement in their upcoming game Cyberpunk 2077 that depicted a trans person or at the very least someone of gender non-conformity. People who support trans people reacted badly to it and said that the developers of the game were putting out transphobia without looking at the bigger picture. This is a dystopian future, much like every cyberpunk story is. It’s meant to be a little messed up, but it also shows that someone’s gender expression and identity aren’t even questioned in this world. The outrage was unwarranted and I disagree with boycotting Cyberpunk 2077 just as much as I’m against boycotting A Hat in Time or Celeste for the same representation.
My point is that political ideas are thrown around in gaming a lot and on any side of the political spectrum, you’ll have people complaining about it or actively trying to get it removed. Remember when parents wanted to ban shooters because they thought it made people more violent? This isn’t different from that. This is the same type of reaction that people are having and it’s just not necessary. The new iteration of Modern Warfare has you seeing things from the point of view of a terrorist and that caused controversy with non-gamers. People who usually play CoD didn’t bat an eye and keep playing it as if it’s just one of those apolitical things that they talk about in other circumstances.
Embrace that someone’s political views and leanings are apparent in the games they create and that it’s not a bad thing. The same can be said of books and film. Both of those also have a lot of political views and messages within them, but aren’t usually talked about. This is life and political stances are rooted in who we are and what believe is right and wrong. If you want to avoid playing a game you don’t agree with, then that’s perfectly fine. But don’t act like it’s coming from a different place than just disagreeing with it.