Why Undyne and Dr. Alphys Are The Best LGBT Couple In Gaming Today

If the game were less politically correct, I suspect Sans would have made jokes about Alphys “sleeping with the fishes.”
Source: tomatomagica.tumblr.com

So, per the suggestion of many reviews, friends, and YouTube Gamers, I finally got my hands on Undertale and I’m enjoying the trip. It’s easy to see why it’s indie gaming gold; it’s a story of hope and determination where every choice you make has weight and there’s no wrong way to play it. You can even go through the whole thing without raising your weapon once and relying on judicious diplomacy and kind gestures if you’re a dedicated nice guy.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a memorable game without some emotional moments. Moments that I’d like to talk about at great length, but if it’s one thing that all the hype around Undertale has taught us, it’s that it’s best experienced coming in fresh. So, I’m only going to spoil ONE aspect of ONE of the story’s paths in order to talk about the game’s most adorable couple.

A good chunk of the story is dedicated to two characters – Undyne; the fish-like head of the Royal Guard who pursues you initially, and Dr. Alphys; a reptilian scientist studying the very nature of what the game refers to as SOULs.

As the game progress (provided you don’t stray from the pacifistic route and kill either of them, you monster), you learn that the two are very close friends and that Alphys has deep affections for Undyne that she fears are unrequited. However, play your cards right, and you’ll see these two finally admit their love for each other and go on their first date.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t any meaningful LGBT characters in gaming; it’s just that they don’t seem to carry as much gravitas. Transgender characters like Birdo and Vivian exist in the Mario games but offer very little other than simply acknowledging they exist. And if they do offer something more, it’s often lost in western translation.

I once dedicated nearly a third of an article to gay and bisexual characters in Borderlands 2, but while they may have been intentionally written that way, there’s the nagging feeling that such commentary on LGBT rights might have only come about due to time and budget constraints preventing the unique character interactions based on gender.

Undyne and Alphys don’t have such concerns surrounding them. They are a legit lesbian couple and their relationship is treated just like any other romance.

There are several other aspects that make this relationship beautiful. For one, it’s easy to forget that neither of these two fit the standard definitions of beauty. Undyne is an intimidating, muscular, almost amazonian woman with a face like Lord Voldemort had sex with a disgruntled great white shark. Meanwhile, Alphys is short, timid, overweight, and suffers from a noticeable overbite. This, along with their monster-like qualities, makes it much harder to sexualize their relationship (not that the internet hasn’t tried) and brings their romance to the forefront.

What’s more, there’s a darker story that fuels their passion. Alphys’ SOUL experiments have led to the unintentional creation of many nasty characters in the game leaving her filled with guilt. It’s even suggested that she might be suicidally depressed by her failures. You quickly start to realize that someone like Undyne gives her something to keep working for and saves her from her spirit-crushing sadness; She’s LITERALLY her knight in shining armor.

Undyne and Alphys have one of, if not the most beautiful love story in gaming history and their existence is a sign that the medium is still moving forward. Here’s hoping for a sequel where they hand out the wedding invites.

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No Easy Choice: Should We Support Doug TenNapel?

The judgemental look on your face is not helping your case, Doug.
Source armikrog.com

 

While I was researching for last week’s article on marriage equality, I learned of some things that left me feeling most uncomfortable.

As it turns out, Doug TenNapel, the creator of classic game series like Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood has returned to the gaming scene after a 16 year hiatus to bring us the third entry in The Neverhood series; Armikrog. After starting a Kickstarter campaign in 2013, we should be seeing it released this year.

This should be exciting – at least for an old school gamer like me. But I instead find myself conflicted.

You see, many people from my generation remember TenNapel, not only for his off-the-wall interactive comedy that feeds the inner man-child within us, but for his extreme conservative Christian views (which, for the record are OBVIOUSLY not speaking for all Christians). He’s has said a lot of rather hateful things regarding same-sex couples (check the comments on that article for his subtle AIDS stab), attacked the ACLU by claiming that they defend pedophilia (don’t ask me how he worked that into a half-assed smear on Obamacare), and has also been generally sexist towards men and women alike on multiple platforms.

As I said in my review of Screaming Soup!, it’s really hard to defend good art when the person is being offensive – intentionally or otherwise (Side Note: if the creators of Screaming Soup are reading this, thanks again for taking my advise to heart). It’s even worse though, when you know they mean it because there’s a real possibility that they could use the money they make off their project to fund campaigns to promote their bigotry.

But, then again, a straight up boycott would be unfair as well. The production company, Pencil Test Studios, probably doesn’t share TenNapel’s agenda. Neither do the legends that offered their talents to what should be an amazing game. I don’t want to punish great men like actors Rob Paulsen and Michael J. Nelson for the hatefulness of one man.

Like I said, it’s a complex issue with no clear cut answer. Those that support the sales will be criticized for supporting a known bigot while those who boycott it will be accused of not being able to separate an artist from his work; the end result being the Kobayashi Maru of consumer politics.

Unfortunately, this is one of those times where I have no answer – at least not just yet. The sad fact is that we may see a great piece of art commercially fail this year due to one man’s despicable words. And that is something that no one on either side of this issue should be happy about.

It Has Only Begun: What To Expect After Marriage Equality

Can we just leave those lights on? It really brightens up the place.
Source: US Magazine

 

June 26th of 2015 will forever be remembered as one of the single biggest victories for the LGBT community in American history. This is the day that the Supreme Court ruled that no state can make any law forbidding same-sex couples from marrying.

As a citizen of one of the first states to legally recognize gay marriage (New Hampshire was 5th behind Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont) and someone with quite a large number of gay, lesbian, and transgender friends, this news raises my spirits enough to still have enough faith in the world to keep charging forward.

That being said, the job is far from done.

Just because same-sex marriage is protected by law does NOT mean other people are willing to accept it. In many ways, the problem of homophobia is likely to become more insidious.

Those that oppose gay couples have already started pushing back; some in ridiculous ways. When those people start perceiving this change as a threat to them (it isn’t, but that’s how change is handled by those who don’t accept it), they will start reacting in more aggressive and bolder ways. As uncomfortable as it may be to think about it, some may even take drastic measures and we may see a spike in violence toward LGBT people as a response to this victory.

Now. It’s possible that this may not happen and same-sex opponents may accept that they were on the wrong side. However, we have to expect that this is a very real possibility. In a world where wars are still sparked over religious hate and racism persists long after anti-discrimination laws are passed, it’s not unrealistic to expect some people to be more active in their use of homophobic language or give more accusatory stares when “the wrong couple” walks into a room.

This is by no means to diminish the victory that has been won. We have every right to celebrate the fact that our government is now obligated to recognize the right of it’s citizens to love whomever they choose.

What I AM saying is that we can’t let this victory make us complacent. We have a long fight left ahead of us and we can’t lower our arms just yet. The ruling in the Supreme Court was a painfully close 5-4 decision showing that tough opposition still lingers.

Homophobia still lives and we can’t rest until we wipe it of the face of the earth. Things may be getting better, but we can make them better still.

Is Disney Right To Ditch The Boy Scouts?

Lesson learned: One does not mess with The House of The Mouse.
Source: Scouts for Equality

Recently, Disney announced that, effective next year, they would cut all financial support to The Boy Scouts of America. This act has seemed to strike a cord with The Scouts and as well as stir up controversy among the general public.

The reason for Disney’s turn around is a ban that BSA has on gay scout leaders.

So the big question is this; Was Disney justified in telling The Scouts off and employing the ‘taking my ball and going home’ diplomacy? Well, lets look at the facts.

Disney has always been big on the idea of ‘rock on with your-weird-self.’ Heroes in Disney films tend to be outcasts and outliers from the norm. Ariel from The Little Mermaid wanted to mingle with humans despite the animosity between them and her merfolk. Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a disfigured man shunned for his appearance. Elsa from Frozen was ran out of her own kingdom for fear of what her phenomenal power could do. So supporting a group with any kind of exclusionary regulation would be hypocritical.

Speaking of Frozen, opposing gay rights would be especially hypocritical of Disney. Remember, one of the fan favorite characters of that film, the shopkeeper Oaken, is theorized to be gay.

And even if that isn’t true, Disney World is still home to a massive LGBT event that attracts over 150,000 people to Orlando, Florida every year. And though Disney doesn’t officially sanction the event, it is still synonymous with Disney and any action to the contrary would have the potential to destroy the company’s image.

So, from a corporate standpoint, Disney is making the right choice. However, on prolonged examination, one can’t help but feel badly for The Boy Scouts.

Clearly not all of the Boy Scouts support this policy. A sub-group known as Scouts for Equality is working to correct the issue by ending the ban and regaining Disney’s support.

Speaking personally, I’d like to see the ban lifted and Disney continuing to support the BSA. The Scouts still do a lot of good for people and it’s a shame that this horrible act could ruin them. Here’s to hoping that they eventually become an all-inclusive team for everyone’s benefit.

I suppose the lesson to be taken from this story is to know what the people – both your audience and those supporting you – want from you. Although it also would help if your policy wasn’t incredibly bigoted.