I spent a few minutes going through Hunt for the Gay Planet by Anna Anthropy, which really did only take a few minutes to navigate through. The text is presented as a digital pick-your-path story, not unlike some of the ones we’ve read in this semester. In fact, most of what the story was is simple in design.
As far as I know, there weren’t any ambient sounds or songs. Neither were images or anything of the sort. Hunt for the Gay Planet was primarily shown as a black screen with white text, with little to do but to pick highlighted text and deciding where I wanted to go. There was a surprising amount of options to pick from, but they all lead towards the same destination so it wasn’t too much of a deal. The text itself was crucial, telling the story of a gay explorer as she aimed to find solace in a gay planet, away from straight culture. As a protagonist, she was snarky and abrasive, which I wasn’t surprised about considering how much she goes through to find any sort of peace.
I felt like I was missing something. The experience went by pretty fast, and while I had a rough idea on what the narrative was and what it wanted to say, I felt the piece itself lacked a lot of impact. It felt disjointed almost, like it wasn’t finished or something. I timed myself at about 3-4 minutes reading through, and there wasn’t enough for me to go on another quest.
But perhaps that was the intention.
Because I felt lost, I went online to see if there were any reviews out there, something to help me shape together some ideas as to what to make sense of. I found myself at IFDB (Interactive Fiction Data Base) and found a few reviews there. Most of the comments there reflected on my feelings of missing something. One comment that caught my eye in particular was that of Felix Plesoianu, in which he writes:
“Having read Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space, I expected this game to be the poor man’s version thereof, judging solely by the title. And it is…kind of. The ending in particular, with all the revelations and the choices, reminded me of the webcomic.”
My next search had to be of this comic. Sure enough, after another minute of Googling, I found it.
Based on what I’ve read of this, it is pretty similar in nature. I couldn’t find an online version of the book because sadly enough, the original author does not own the rights to it anymore. It belongs to another company (that I think owns Men in Black?), which is disheartening because that company has a reputation of being shady (stealing IPs) and this story meant a lot to the author.
I thought back to Hunt for the Gay Planet, and it almost mirrored this situation in several ways. There were situations in which someone’s freedom were infringed (the author losing her story, the protagonist being hit on by straight men). Both obviously centered around the same plot (even a similar sci-fi aesthetic). Both stories felt unfinished in a sense. I was noticing a pattern in another piece of media that reflects off this story.
I found one more review, on Kill Screen, and the header of the review reads Anna Antrhophy’s Hunt For The Gay Planet Exposes How Far Games Need To Go For True Equality. The sparks in my head started kicking in. I read along and found several intriguing observations, one of which was:
“Anna’s criticisms are obvious. No one should have to pay extra for a character that matches their sexual orientation, and then be placed in the ghetto for it. Over email describes the business practices as insulting and exploitative.”
I glanced back at the abstract for Hunt for the Gay Planet, and sure enough, it states that this is a satirical take on an actual thing that took place in a game.
In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, there was a DLC (downloadable content) pack that adds in a new planet inhabited by gay people. You needed to pay money for this (on top of what you pay for the base game) and then the planet will haphazardly appear in-game, but its significance will never be made if you never buy this. This planet, that added more variety that is then shoved to the side, is treated as an afterthought.
Then everything clicked in.
This story felt lacking in almost everything because like how Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space mirrored this story, Hunt for The Gay Planet is satirizing this particular event. I think back to all the old games I’ve played growing up, and most protagonists were centered on straight males. Anytime variety was added (like making a character Hispanic), it is done in a way that doesn’t effect the story or change anything, like I’m playing a vessel that only I can try and find a sort of connection with it.
What started off a story I didn’t like, opened my eyes to a whole different spectrum outside the narrative, like a good story can do. It uses it very minimalistic approach to design and aesthetic to speak volumes on a real-world issue that continues now. It goes to show that e-lit has a lot to offer in the grand scheme of understanding bigger issues, and this particular piece made me reconsider how I should evaluate these pieces.