blood play: a queer gothic approach to game design
By locating queerness in gothic media and monstrosity I have created a set of queer gothic design principles—which I call queer gothic poetics—to guide the creation of games that are structurally queer gothic: this is the name I propose for the new genre of media that I am identifying. Games can be aesthetically gothic—Bloodborne, with its Gothic architecture and narrative of corruption; Darkest Dungeon, with its focus on legacy, ruin, and evil; and Gloom, with its despair, family ruin, and titular gloom, are proof enough of that—but are there existing games that have a gothic structure? In answering this question, I turn to a couple branches of theory: queer, gothic, and monster. Additionally, I look at academic writing and research in queer game studies as well as queer games themselves. How do queer game designers approach the production of queer games? What can I learn from them and how can I apply their insight and wisdom to the creation of queer gothic games? I begin by drawing upon the work of Tanya Krzywinska and Matthew RF Balousek. Krzywinska identifies five “gothic coordinates”—which can be used to locate gothicism in video games—in her 2015 paper “The Gamification of Gothic Coordinates in Videogames”: story/character, mise-en-scène, affect, style, and function. Balousek’s 2017 MFA thesis Opening the Horse proposes a set of design principles using queer formalism as a structure. After creating my queer gothic design principles, I used them to guide the creation of queer gothic game fragments: Grey University v0.1.0. Grey University v0.1.0 is a set of Twine games, interactive fiction, about gay vampires struggling with their monstrous nature, religious trauma, and falling in love. It is only one part of a larger project, and is tied to a piece of ongoing fanfiction titled Grey University I, published on the fanfiction site archiveofourown.org, commonly known as AO3. The last portion of this thesis paper is a postmortem of both Grey University v0.1.0 and the thesis paper itself. I identify my successes and failures with the creation of the game and the design principles and answer the questions: What is a queer gothic piece of media and how does one create one?