‘Ness used PSI QUEER! α!’
Quite recently, I developed a yen to re-start playing my absolute favorite video game of all time: EarthBound. How ‘absolute favorite?’ It’s the only video game I’ve ever remotely considered getting a tattoo based on (and the fact that I’m still considering it after… however many years probably means that at some point, I will).
For those who are unfamiliar, EarthBound is an aerial-view roleplaying game for the Super Nintendo – the style is similar to the early ‘Legend of Zelda’ and ‘Final Fantasy’ games, except that the story is very much rooted in the modern age. Instead of a medieval fantasy land, EarthBound takes place in ‘199X’ and begins in a country called Eagleland.
At the start of the game, the player has the option to name the four main characters and answer other questions that customize certain parts of the dialogue and your attacks. At first, I was only going to use the default names… until I was struck with the idea to queer the game.
Immediately, I undid the (admittedly scant) work I’d done so far and started over. For the four main characters, I used the names of four real-life LGBTQ people I know, including myself. Lest you accuse me of narcissism, I didn’t give my own name to the main character. The name ‘Ronen’ went to the last major character to make an appearance in the game, the character whose default name is Poo.
…who also happens to be an enigmatic prince of a far-away land, a master of martial arts and psychic powers. Okay, maybe it’s a little narcissistic after all.
For the question of ‘favorite food,’ I couldn’t think of any food that was inherently queer. I suppose I could have gone completely stereotypical and put ‘Lentils’ or ‘Seitan,’ but nah. I went with ‘Chili’ because, hey, it’s something I like. You can imagine it’s vegan chili if that suits you. I also went with one of the default names for the dog (‘Misty’).
But the kicker came with the final question of ‘Favorite thing.’ The answer you put here becomes the title of the main character’s exclusive, powerful attack. My answer: ‘QUEER!’ Yes, in capital letters. Yes, with an exclamation point.
I’ve played through the game for a few hours now. For the most part, imagining the characters as queer makes very little difference, but there’s a few things I’ve noticed:
Just before the main character heads off on his proper adventure, his mother tells him: “No matter what anyone says, you’re my strong, brave boy.” Think about the layer of subtext added when that’s spoken to a transmasculine son. She’s affirming not only his bravery, but his identity as well.
The game’s female lead, usually known as Paula, is now named after one of my best transfeminine friends. When you first visit Twoson, the town she comes from, every other person has a good word to say about her: how she’s smart and kind and wise and how all the kids want to grow up to be like her. Suddenly, Twoson has become the most trans-friendly town you’ve ever seen.
And I got a little chuckle out of using the ‘PSI QUEER! α’ attack on a group of corrupt police officers.
EarthBound, just on its own, is kind of a queer game – or, at the very least, off-beat. It’s full of cartoony quirks, meta jokes and whimsy. It has a time-traveling robot bee, a gum-chewing monkey, frying pans and yo-yos as equipable weapons, and Mister Saturns. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing what new dimensions I can carve into this game that I already love so much.