The Arkh Project Is Creating A Game For 'Queer People Of Colour' (And Everyone Else)

There's been article after article about how gaming culture (and perhaps all of nerd culture) is typically and fundamentally a straight, white, cis-male dominated scene. However you look at it, it's hard to deny the fact that the character landscape in video games is a little monochromatic.

This is where The Arkh Project comes in. The group is trying to raise money to create a game that represents the under-represented. The idea is this: take a development team made up entirely of queer people and people of colour and create a fully-realised RPG that stars a main cast of mostly queer people and people of colour. The Arkh Project is asking for $US100,000, which they plan to spread out over a series of different fundraisers, to cover the costs of their game. The project's indiegogo page summarises their goal like this:

The Arkh Project is a group of amazing people getting together in an attempt to raise funds and create a video game completely off the beaten path. People of colour are often tokenized in video games, leaving them to play one of very few roles. Queer people are consistently left in the dust in meaningless relationships, or relationships that are mocked. We're looking to turn that upside down. This game is for people who don't get to be fantasy and sci-fi heroes! This game is to help normalise the millions of other people who play video games!

An eventual release is planned for PC and Mac, with a possible release on Xbox Live. The game is still in its design phase, and the team is currently putting together concept art. In other words, this is a long, long way from being a playable game. The spark is there, however, and something like this is certainly overdue.

You can donate to The Arkh Project here, and get even more information about the project on the group's tumblr page.

UPDATE: Many commenters have pointed out The Arkh Project's past, including statements attributed to its members, doesn't speak well of its ability to execute on its ambitions, or of being a strong voice for diversity. This post, by someone who supports the concept of queer characters in videogames, particularly raises some legitimate concerns with the substance of The Arkh Project's business plan. It also points out that an Arkh Project member runs a Tumblr blog entitled "dumbthingswhitepplsay", which has posted some topics that damage the Project's moral authority on the subject of diversity. [ h/t BubbleF***ingBuddy]


    It is a noble goal, but to be honest, why does it matter whether the development team is gay/non-caucaisian? Development teams are pretty diverse anyway, the only thing that needs to change is the project direction.

    And lots of games are getting more diverse, the future is promising.

    The linked blog is right, they do have no real plan at all.

      Yup. You could play a black gay dwarf way back in the original dragon age. and that was an AA title.

    If you're buying videogames based on the sexual orientation and the ethnicity of its characters, then it can't really speak much for the "game" itself.

    It shouldn't matter.

    Do gay (or for that matter, non-white people) need games made just for them? No, they don't. This is something that writers and developers need to adjust, just as society does. Over time. Selling a game on the premise of having a gay development team, or gay characters (I'm looking at you Bioware) or god forbid, a "gay" plot, is a thin premise at best.

      Ideally, race and sexuality and the like shouldn't matter. But that isn't the point.

      The point is that, in general, people want to identify with the characters within the fiction they consume. They want someone they can relate to.

      Now, race and sexual preference and gender may be morally neutral matters, but it is IN FACT EASIER to relate to fictional characters with the same race, gender, similar appearance, etc. as oneself.

      This isn't a bad thing. It is simply a fact about psychology. People will find it easier to identify with someone that looks like them than someone that doesn't, ceteris paribus.

      The project is simply trying to have characters which are easy to relate to for non-white, non-hetero people.

      That said, I probably would disagree with about 70+% of the ideological beliefs of the development team, but the point is the game would fill a genuine niche.

    I thought the whole point of equal rights is to stop placing one group ahead of or in front of another and I dont want to stop or repress queer/colour rights but isn't making a game with the intention of turning the tables on the social norm the very definition of discrimination?

      Yes, you are correct.

    Are gay people even cool with "queer"? I thought queer was mostly unused these days.

    This can't possibly be a good idea. I doubt very many straight "people of colour" are going to want to play a game that is also full of "queers". Some of the strongest anti-gay sentiments in America come from the "coloured" community.

    You'd be better off making 2 different games, 1 for "queers" and 1 for "coloureds".

    And hiring developers who are only non-white and/or gay, is just as racist as whites intentionally NOT hiring blacks strictly because of race.

      Hahahaha! Oh my god was this comment a joke???
      "1 for queers and 1 for coloureds" You're being funny, right?
      You do realise the whole "black people vs the gays" thing is a beat-up by white supemacists in order to try to show that these damn minorities just can't get along, don't you? Most homophobia comes from upper-class white religious conservatives, as in the Pope, Tony Abbot, US Republican candidates, the Westboro baptists church - the list goes on and on...
      Possessing one last tiny sliver of faith in humanity, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that you were taking the piss. Because life's just easier that way.

        You're correct that not all black people are homophobic. Indeed there are many non-white people that are non-straight.

        But there IS a significant amount of homophobia amongst various African Americans. There is also a very significant amount of social conservatism generally amongst African Americans.

        Also, going on about "upper class white conservatives," the majority of religious/social conservatives in the US aren't upper class. Most American social conservatives are uneducated rural working/farming types.

        As for the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps is a Democrat and a former Civil Rights lawyer.

    I already played a "coloured game". It was really good. You play as an African-American in the "hood", and you get a black girlfriend and your black friends get up to some shit, and then the white man tries to keep you down. You also get a Hispanic friend who is always there for you.

    San Andreas is an awesome game.

    Stupid idea, hope it fails. These 'Do gooders' are actually causing more harm.

    Interested in how it turns out from a critical point of view, just don't end up making the next AMY

    I mean, if you look at the concept art above; are these people gay? The guy looks a little effeminate, but that in of itself seems a bit discriminatory. Do I care about their sexual persuasion? Not really.

      Both characters are girls.

    I don't think this is going to help change people's perceptions at all. If anything it promotes the idea that gays and racial minorities are strange and different, requiring a game made specifically for them. Games and fiction in general are only a reflection of reality. The problem isn't with the games being made, it's with the predominant perceptions within society. Find some way to address that and all else follows.

      I kind of agree, the under-representation of minorities in gaming - and popular culture in general - is symptomatic of society. And the problem here is that if companies start releasing games based on race or gender we end up culturally ghettoising people who aren't straight white middle-class cisgendered men - like that's the default human and everything else is the "other", and consequently should have their own games, music, separate see the way it goes.
      I prefer the Bioware approach of just populating the games they create with more diversity of race and gender. That way, bigots don't have a choice and if they don't like it they can piss off back to COD.

    Persona 4 is the best homosexual/transexual game out there. It managed to have gay characters and have an important plot point, but it's not the selling point of the story. It's the best treatment of the issue ever.

    And ditto for the Tony Abott hate. I really hate him and his crazy religious hypocrisy.

    As a 20 year old white male gamer...I want to play this game. It could be interesting. What unintentional tweaks and changes from normal game design will take place? As always, no one is going to MAKE you play a game outside of some Gold farming sweatshop, so who cares? Think of it as an experiment, join in if you like.

    Also...James? Of course he looks effeminate; it's in the style of a J/K RPG. They all look like that, that's just the style.

      Now as a straight male, it's not really in my interest to see homosexuality take front stage of a game as I don't particularly find the act interesting in it's self. Of course, I don't mind if there are gays in games but just because they are gay doesn't make me care for them any more or less.

      Also, I wonder, how do you hire people considering some laws of some countries. Solely on the premise of sexuality and skin colour? Even though such said laws are silly and easily to get around.

      If they want to hire people because of only such said nature, then it's up to them. I would much prefer a studio that hires based on skill any day.

      and sidenote... lol... so how are they going to prove if someone is of homosexual nature?

    this is beyond offensive. "hey guys lets celebrate diversity by stereotyping minorities and saying white people suck". Seriously, hopefully this game never sees the light of day.

    I totally support the idea of a cast with a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and sexual preferences. If you want to appeal to a wide audience, it helps to create a cast that includes someone for everyone to identify with. This is a very well-known writing technique and explains the popularity of ensemble casts.

    That said, the game itself doesn't particularly interest me since I'm not a fan of fantasy RPGs in general.

    However, I'm glad to see people actively address under-representation of their demographics.

    This sounds like a terrible idea and exactly the sort of thing that encourages division and conflict.

    Umm... although i'm all for more diversity in characters for games these days, this project sounds a little counter productive...

    btw isn't the main character in the upcoming prototype game coloured? what about L4D2? There are a ton of modern rpgs that allow you to play as someone of colour too...

    Just feels like rather than making a game that only focuses on gay and coloured people, that maybe they should be working on a game that makes all races and sexualities truly equal so that everyone can enjoy it.

    Allot of you seem to be missing the point. It's about creating a game centered around a gay/person of colour. There is nothing wrong with that. It isn't going to cause dramatic social change, it isn't going to cause division. It's about putting someone who typically isn't in the spotlight in video games into one. As a gay male I would love to see this game produced. There are so many games out there that straight white guys can relate to, why can't we have a turn?

      The problem that people have with this is that it's not just "a game centred around a gay person/person of colour". This is "a game that's going to shoehorn the fact that they're gay and the fact that they're of colour at every single point that it can be brought up or involved in the plot".

      I have absolutely no problem with a game with a gay main character. Hell, I have no problem relating to such characters. The problem is when the character is made to involve his sexuality in absolutely everything and is so far removed from the norm that no-one can relate to them. I'd imagine that even some people who share that sexuality would be alienated if the story revolves around it to such extremes.

      As I said in another post, the best way to do it is to just have what you'd consider a "straight" character and casually reverse it. Their love interest is now a man or their skin is now dark. Sexuality is only one part of a person, and there are many more that tie people together; if the entire focus is on the one that is different, you'll never get anyone to relate, but if you put the focus on everything, it becomes clear that we're all still just like eachother, that we're all still human, and we're all still alike. It is in this circumstance that the audience can relate easily to any kind of character; gay, of colour and everything else.

        "This is “a game that’s going to shoehorn the fact that they’re gay and the fact that they’re of colour at every single point that it can be brought up or involved in the plot”."

        How do you know they're going to handle it tastelessly?

        I mean, it is a fantasy action-RPG. I doubt they're going to have Lady Gaga songs as the leitmotif for the gay character, or gangsta rap for the black character.

        Whilst I admit I think they could easily handle this distastefully and drop obscenely politically correct anvils atop everyone's head (for instance, make the villain a straight white cis male rich-businessman in the fossil fuels industry), it is quite possible they will handle the subject matter tastefully.

        That said, given some of the statements of the people behind this project, there is a reason to be concerned.

    As soon as your selling point has anything to do with sexuality or colour, you've defeated the entire purpose of promoting equality. How do you do it properly? CASUALLY implement these features. Maybe the main character is gay. If he is, don't fucking plaster it on the box art and make it your design directive. What you should do is just.. Make him gay. Maybe it casually comes up halfway through the story in a random conversation. Maybe some subtle hints are dropped throughout the game. Maybe he kisses a guy at some point if you want to involve a romantic interest.

    This is just the wrong way to go about this on so many levels. You CAN have gay characters and get people to relate to them - you just make them normal people. Not people whose lives suddenly revolve around their sexuality.

    People of colour? Same thing. Just make them of colour. Don't go any further, because you've already succeeded. Don't shoehorn racism and evil whites into the game, because you'll just alienate your audience and once again defeat the entire purpose of what you're doing. If you don't want to make the main character of colour, then do it for a central assisting character, like your first party member or something.

      So it's okay for the game to have gay characters just as long as it isn't promoted on the front of the box? I don't think you quite understand what this kind of game means to the target audience.

    This is stupid. In any game where you get to create a character's looks you can already make a non-white person. And a lot of games where you get to decide on a relationship thing you can decide on a homosexual relationship.

    Sure there are games where you get to do none of those things and the cast is entirely white and straight but seriously, how many of those can you think of. Also even in those games it's not like the characters are running around going, "Look at my white straightness and how I am doing exclusively white straight things." There are no normal game in the world where this happens.

    Speaking of being tokens and fantasy/sci-fi games, pretty much everyone who isn't the hero are tokens in these games anyway. Also these are the games most likely to allow you to make your characters anywhere from pitch black to paper white and probably not even human anyway (and they probably all have flaming red hair by the time I'm done with them). And while I disapprove of the limited amount of guy on guy relationship you can have, there are pretty much lesbians growing out of the grounds in these games.

    Lesbians? That's the creator's idea of representing an under-represented group?

    Lesbians are EVERYWHERE in video games. They don't need representation at all. If the creators wanted to actually wanted to represent an underrepresented group, they'd be representing male homosexuals. They're the ones that get received poorly in media. People lap up lesbians like honey.

    Honestly, given this person's history, her past projects and what she proclaims to represent, I think that she's one of the most single-minded, misguided and abhorrable bigots I have ever seen. No-one should want her representing their cause.

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