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A Gay Dragon

Videogame journalism is a cold place to inhabit. It can bite deep to the bone, leaving you shaking, flabbergasted that you’ve been tricked again. Unlike the world of film and music whose successes and elite acceptance it yearns to mimic, our critics rarely show the emotion found in these other mediums. Talk about cinema or records with your fellow man over a pint of the good stuff and there’ll be laughter, hell, maybe even a tear in that weary eye. Chat about this interactive format and it’s soon childish swearing and shouting over what offers the best online FPS mechanics.

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Reviewing a title is like evaluating a new car. There’s a lot of box ticking, and whether it does what that Ferrari can at a much cheaper production level. It’s mechancal; lacking that edge, that warmth, the venom that film or music critics spew for our entertainment, or the bewilderment and alteration a beautiful experience can bring. We need more of that in videogame journalism. For now though, let us trudge through the trenches and slap the backs of our fellow companions once more, raising their heads and gifting hope for one more day.

Then, from the electronic Internet abyss, a PR email came sliding through the darkness, landing upon my lap and bringing news of an iOS title that instantly caught my attention. And it gave me a chance. A chance to not to only write but more importantly an opportunity to evacuate as much of the nonsense that bounces around inside my skull into words before they’re drowned in liquid yeast excrement from that next bottle of IPA.

A Gay Dragon – the title in question – is a bare-bones, simple puzzler aimed at a young audience and conjuring an early ’90s freeware vibe. The gay dragon Melwin must be directed outside each castle of the realm to the local prince, looting any gold or hidden furniture for his lair that he can. Having a big pink dragon is embracing the stereotype to poke fun at it; it isn’t offensive, and neither is it doing anything good. It doesn’t endeavour to be more than freeware with a gimmick. And fair enough. But I’d hoped for something: a stronger attempt at a message, more than toying with stereotypes and inevitably reinforcing them. No harm done but no ground gained.

Homosexuality isn’t something common in videogames, with characters such as Deadly Premonition’s Thomas MacLaine a rarity; especially when accomplished with such care and depth as was in this case. Some believed the Mass Effect series could open up the possibilities for same-sex situations. It didn’t. The mono-gender alien race known as Asari were presented like women, who spoke like women and had the bodies of women. It was nerd fanfare, satisfying the preordained cute alien girl quota. Only having slender girls kissing slender mono-gender alien girls isn’t enough. Because no matter how many Paragon choices I made when talking to Jacob, he never slipped out of those tight PVC pants, a shining ray of light reflecting from his finely chiselled buttocks that were now out in a glorious high-definition display.

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We’d be the embodiment of Yin and Yang together, spooning in front of an entire universe that is under the threat of obliteration, wrestling naked by the flames of carnage like the men we are. Because if getting a sneak peak at Miranda’s smashing cleavage is viewed as a leadership quality in dire times – or indeed the end of times – then why can’t I see a little bit of male muscular bottom action! Moral lessons in the videogame landscape are often warped, but lest, I regress.

The ambience of A Gay Dragon resurrected childhood memories of Puff the Magic Dragon. In primary school we’d occasionally get the chance to use the one computer and jump into this – from memory – text based world. It was the equivalent of the luxury strawberry milkshake we’d seldom conquer at lunch times; unexpected and completely enthralling. No one ever got anywhere in the ten minutes we had in Poof’s domain, but it was fun nevertheless. It certainly had a wittier title considering the discussion, as Redikod is aiming at a younger audience with the simplicity of their new title. There are no real-time controls, with limited arrows to dispense and guide Melwin. Hit the play button and he’ll merrily jog forwards, turning and twisting towards the prince as his path crosses the pre-laid tiles.

And as you venture these lands, blue female dragons attempt to ruin your chubby boy collecting antics – as girl dragons have needs too – and single princesses dress as knights to slaughter gay dragons. Luckily, perhaps bizarrely, these bitter princesses can be destroyed by touch if our hero smothers himself in gold body paint. Conceivably this is a wry play on desires for gold jewellery, or feasibly that when worn by a homosexual it has the power to destroy the other sex, like church blessed water on the face of a vampire (a creature itself a metaphor for the rich sucking the life of the poor).

Either this is all complete garbage, so subversive that I was completely lost throughout, or a low-budget title with tongue firmly planted through its cheek. May this article remain evidence of the cracks in my psyche should I soon run through the streets covered in gold paint, bracing pink wings and screaming for my many princes. What I can tell you now is this: our hero certainly isn’t uptight when it comes to jumping from one young man to the next. He’s a greedy sod.

And while overweight and welding a moustache that’d cause concern for parental neighbours, Mario always had an eye for only one love. A Gay Dragon delivers many messages. I’m just not so sure which we should take away. Or – at this stage – the one I’m trying to deliver. Pass me the next bottle, darling, for the game just crashed.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

Gentle persuasion

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