Atari has made history today by revealing a mobile game dedicated to celebrating the LGBTI community, Pridefest.
They have created a freemium game, similar to Farmville or Simpsons: Tapped Out, in which you as mayor stage an endless stream of Pride parades to add ‘color’ to a grey city.
It starts well, with the ability to select your pronoun when you start playing – ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘them’.
But following that, it starts to fail. You are then asked to pick out clothing options, and if you pick ‘he’ or ‘she’, it means you’re left with some pretty stereotypical gendered options.
There are obstacles to your mission to spread ‘Pride’. As you hold the parades, protesters will crop up carrying signs like ‘Shame’, ‘Do As We Command’ and ‘We Don’t Like Colors’.
While you wouldn’t expect a family-friendly game to have a sign saying ‘God Hates Fags’, for example, there is no context to why these people exist or why Pride is necessary.
As you march around town, if you touch the protesters they will hurt you and remove one of your floats. If you lose all of them, you lose the mission.
Andrea Ritsu, a lesbian trans gamer, wrote a powerful criticism of PrideFest about this issue.
‘There is no way to actually defeat these protesters, they will always damage you if they touch you. Yes, this is a game in which the city devoted to Pride Parades is still hurt if they interact with a protester, basically making the protesters stronger than the paraders,’ she writes.
‘Probably not the intention, but that’s the outcome that I felt when I realized I was powerless to stop them and had to run away. The game says that we need to show them the “meaning of Pride” but according to the game that’s just “fun and rainbows” in the first place.’
She adds: ‘Now, I never got to see this in the game itself. But the loading screen has a super tiny flag with two male symbols on them. That’s the closest to a mention of gay things I’ve seen so far. Of course, said loading screen (which can be seen at the top of the screen) also has a massive “STRAIGHT ALLIES” thing in the bottom right. Good to see where their priorities lie.
‘And that’s the story of how Atari tried to get free positive PR from the LGBTQIA+ community by not even mentioning them in their game about Pride Parades.’
Fred Chesnais, the chief executive officer of Atari, said in today’s press release: ‘Pride is only one small portion of the diverse LGBTQ culture and community, but it is one centered on freedom of expression, the pursuit of equality, and shared celebration. Pridefest was designed to celebrate progress the LGBTQ community has made toward equality while working to emulate the spirited and celebratory atmosphere of today’s real-world parades.
‘It was that spirited atmosphere that especially drew us to the idea of Pride as an overarching theme and parades as the core gameplay mechanic.’
Does it work? See what you think. You can download Pridefest on IoS and Android now.