For a young queer person, coming out in North America can be really hard. Everyone has a different experience, but inevitably, it changes your life and it changes your relationships. It can also be a horrible nightmare. Kids are routinely bullied, not accepted by their families and even kicked out of their homes for being queer. The statistics are depressing, and the reality of the situation is that it’s scary for many, whether their parents, loved ones and friends ultimately accept them or not. But it’s also the only way forward for most queer people, since the alternative is to live a lie.
Coming Out Simulator 2014, by indie developer Nicky Case, is a deeply personal adventure game that details precisely that struggle with humour and gut-punching emotional honesty. It allows the player to join them, and in fact, play as them, as they come out to their parents. Case’ game is inspired by real-life events, they call it "emotionally authentic, factually inaccurate."
"The main arc of the story, coming out to my parent and it ending in me having to break up with my boyfriend, is true," Case told me in an email. "More or less. A lot of the dialogue [consists of] things my mother actually said, such as ‘Don’t let the gays recruit you’ or ‘Which one of you is the woman in the relationship?’ My father did punch me, as he does in one ending of the game, but he didn’t hit me when I came out, since he left the family long before."
"And his violent tendencies [were] partially why my mother divorced him."
Case made the game partially as an enrichment exercise — they wanted to experiment with a narrative-heavy game, and work on story writing skills. The Nar8 game jam — which Coming Out Simulator 2014 debuted at — gave Case "an excuse and a deadline." But the primary reason was an opportunity to explore a traumatic, life-changing event.
I finally feel secure enough to … basically … broadcast my personal story
"Four years after my messy coming out experience, I finally, finally feel secure enough in my emotions and identity to … basically … broadcast my personal story to tens of thousands of players worldwide. Y’all get to see my dirty laundry now."