‘Coming Out Simulator 2014’: A New Perspective on Coming Out
Have you ever wanted experience life as a farmer? There’s a simulator for that. Have you ever wanted to build a space ship? There’s a simulator for that. Have you ever had the urge to headbutt through someone’s house, into a gas station, and cause an explosion that will project you into orbit? Well friend, there’s a simulator for that too. Simulator games have always been a sweet spot in gaming, allowing players to experience tasks that rarely occur in their everyday lives.
Even in the vast sea of simulators, there is one thing these simulators have failed to recreate: human emotions. This is because simulators are not meant to connect with you on an emotional level. As a matter of fact, they are not connecting with you at all. In other games, you take control of a character in a different universe during a unique time in that world’s life. On the other hand, simulators place the gamer into the role of another person who could actually exist on an average day of their life. There are a few exceptions to this, like Goat and Rock Simulator, but for the most part all simulators follow this formula. This pattern between simulators is one of the main reasons they are also viewed as educational devices, as they give the depth of a life experience without having to deal with all the hardships associated with that task. It’s in this unique point of view that players gain an understanding of the real activity.
When you see a game with the word “simulator” before it, you expect a game that will allow you to see the world from that point of view. This encompasses everything from the trivial tasks to moments of hardship. As a result, we tend to learn from any simulator we play. But what happens when your simulator becomes personal? What if that simulator took one of the hardest moment of a person’s life and put us in their place? This is what “Coming Out Simulator 2014″ is all about. The creator, Nicky Case places the player in his place during the most difficult time of his life: coming out. “Coming out” s a figure of speech used anyone who is part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community who has decided to announce their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression with another person. Coming Out Simulator 2014 is not just the story of a person coming to terms with their sexuality, but the challenges all people in a similar position face.
It’s Not That Easy…
Coming out is a difficult process, one that involves a lot of consideration to one’s family and their own self-image. Throughout this scene, Nick is constantly referring to his parents and their culture. It doesn’t take much to realize how much pressure this may have on a person. Family is the closest thing to a person in both proximity and identity. It also serves as a main pillar of financial and moral support. Because they may not act in a way that is predictable, someone coming out would have to feel ready to do so. Jack, our character’s boyfriend, is obviously comfortable with himself and his sexuality. Using some visual cues from his open body language to the warm color of his room in contrast to our character, Nick, who’s curled up in fetal position in a dark-colored room. As the scene progresses, it’s now clear to why Jack is so relaxed; he already came out to his parents, and his coming out was well received. On the other hand, Nick has yet to reach the same level of comfort as Jack in terms of sexuality. There have been many studies that show that an accepting parental environment positively affects how well an LGBT person is able to adjust to the changes in their lifestyle and accept his or her newly pronounced identity (Beaty, 1999) . Our character has made it known that his parents wouldn’t ready for this knowledge of his sexuality, especially because of their homophobic ideology. In this case, their rejection scares him and has a negative impact on his identity. This creates feelings of uncertainty and worry for the player.
In addition to this, as Jack begins to press the player to “come out” a lot of small things begin to happen in the conversation. Jack becomes more assertive, pushing the player to the edge of his comfort zone, and pressuring him “out of the closet” so to speak. The dialogue options for the player become evasive, showing us that we aren’t ready for this. It’s not as easy for everyone as Jack is making it seem. Even so, the pressure coming from Jack is intimidating to the point where you can almost feel the pressure to make Jack happy. As the conversation continues, the choices seem to become harder to click as the three choices that you are originally given seem to merge into one choice: you’re not ready. By the time the scene comes to a rocky end, you’re no longer sure about how the rest of the night might turn out.
…Especially With Cultural Intolerance
They say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In “The Apology” by Plato, Socrates defends against accusations made by the Greeks. These claims against him took the form of two different enemies: The old accusers and the new ones. The old accusers were not a real enemy. As a matter of fact, Socrates compares to his defense against them to a fight with shadows. This is because the old accusers were the ones that preached and raised children on beliefs that may have been wrong. Children, in their nature, need the previous generation to aid them throughout their development. In doing so, they teach them values and knowledge that become rooted deep in their minds as they continue to develop. Not only that, but the world around children will also effect how they develop. Once you have an established belief, it is hard to remove these roots.
Throughout the conversation between Nick and his mother, she continuously groups “gays” as a look or a way of handling themselves. She even goes as far as dehumanizing gays by when she says “A gay.” This is her method of separating homosexuals from the rest of the world, by labeling them as abnormal. As the dialogue progresses, it’s revealed that she has read the text messages between the player and Jack send to each other.
Now that she has made some connections, she tries to isolate her son from this Jack by saying that he will try to “recruit” Nick into becoming homosexual. These beliefs are not factual, but correct with respect to her cultural upbringing and biased views. She then psychoanalyzes her son, trying to make connections and rationalize whats wrong with him. In one scenario, the player has the choice of selecting a dialogue option where Nick says he is “bi”. This is a concept that the mother does not understand as her reply leads back to her original belief system, that you are either “one way or another”. Even when she tries to identify Nick’s position in the sexual relationship between him and Jack, she tries relating back to her standard which only recognizes sexuality between a man and woman. The mother is one of the many cases where a parent lack of proper sexual education due to cultural intolerance hinders a child’s sexual development.
In many cultures, we see some forms of intolerance to the LGBT lifestyle. One of the main causes of intolerance is strong religious beliefs. This is not to say that all people with strong religious beliefs are intolerant, but many people refer back to passages in their respective religions to combat “abnormal” sexual beliefs. In one study that researched homophobia through dialogue, a woman said her priest “insisted that it was abnormal, sinful and wrong”(Wong, 2013). In addition to this, many people brought up only recognizing human sexuality as the relationship between a man and woman than realizing there are other ways to perceive it (Richardson 1996). In one case, a mother recollecting her daughter’s coming out experience was numbing as she “did not know anything about sexual orientation” and “did not have anyone to talk to” (Wong, 2013). This is problematic for multiple reasons, one being that the mother in a parent-child relationship is often identified as the sympathetic one and is usually the most understanding in the process of coming out, especially in the case of men (Carnelley, 2011).
…And Dad’s Masculinity and Pride
Well, that didn’t go great. Even if mom outed us and threw up all over her food, at least she knows. So what is this lingering, uneasy feeling that we still feel after speaking with mom? Probably the oncoming conversation with Dad.
In the father-child relationship between a dad and a daughter is a very protective one. This is because fathers see girls as “more vulnerable.” On top of this, fathers associate their daughters as “complex”, “baffling” or “harder to understand”. However, when the relationship includes a son, it becomes reflective. In other words, the father can see himself in the child (Doucet, 2004). This creates a breeding ground for the father’s masculinity since he must teach the son how to be.
During Nick’s conversation with his father, it’s clear that he is very strict with his son. This conversation glances over topic like women, his academic well-being, and “being a man.” There are multiple times where he asserts his dominance by telling his wife to shut up or by disregarding her in some way. The air of masculinity would create a volatile environment for anyone, especially his son who is coming out. If you do choose to come out to Nick’s father, he becomes even more fierce. He threatens to remove Nick from school, impose checks on his phone messages and e-mails regularly, and even pay his tutor to possibly provide flirt or date him to show Nick that hes is straight. When the player is given the opportunity to respond to the father, there’s a chance the last thing they’ll see is a fist straight towards Nick’s face. This is how Nick’s father tries to instil masculinity into his son while forcing “the gay” out.
Masculinity is identified by four core themes: “No Sissy Stuff”, “Big Wheel”, “Sturdy Oak”, and “Give ’em Hell” (Brannon, 1976). Though these themes seem to be an old method of teaching, they still stand true today. “No Sissy Stuff” represents a man’s need to avoid participating in feminine activities. This applies to when a boy calls his dolls “action figures” or when he’s told that boys don’t cry. “Big Wheel” refers to a man’s need to gain the respect and approval of others. “Sturdy Oak” attributes to toughness. This ties in a bit with “No Sissy Stuff” as being a tough man requires numbing your emotions. “Give ’em Hell” is what’s used to describe a man’s willingness to fight or engage in violence. (Thompson, 1986). Fathers will instil these lessons into their children through discipline by enforcing punishments and in some cases physical violence. This is because a man will attribute conventional masculinity to a males as the norm, and because it’s important for his son to conform and continue a family his father could be proud of. In the case of Nick’s father, he is afraid and ashamed that he has lost his son to homosexuality when the truth is he lost his son to his own pride.
But At the End of the Day…
Your mother is crying, your father’s enraged, and you’re most likely going to lose your boyfriend, but at least dad ate mom’s puke. It can’t get any worse. Nick has just been through what many LGBT young adults would call a bad day. Rejection on any level is a hard thing to cope with. You’ve just completed the hardest part of Coming Out Simulator 2014. Feels good, right? Not a chance. The last scene with Jack and Nick ends on a bland note and sorrowful as you find out Jack left you three days later. That’s okay though; it wasn’t going to work out anyway. Once again, Nick brings us back to the present, breaks down the fourth wall and starts telling us what happened to him after coming out, but that’s for you to find out.
“At the end of this long, stupid, painful game where I played against people who should have been on my side, I won…I won.”
You can experience the simulation here.
Wong, J., & Poon, M. (2013). Challenging homophobia and heterosexism through storytelling and critical dialogue among Hong Kong Chinese immigrant parents in Toronto. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 15(1), 15-28.
Richardson, D. 1996. “Heterosexuality and Social Theory”. In Theorizing Heterosexuality , edited by D. Richardson, 1–20. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.
Carnelley, K. B., Hepper, E. G., Hicks, C., & Turner, W. (2011). Perceived parental reactions to coming out, attachment, and romantic relationship views. Attachment & Human Development, 13(3), 217-236.
Doucet, A. (2004). ” It’s Almost Like I Have a Job, but I Don’t Get Paid”: Fathers at Home Reconfiguring Work, Care, and Masculinity. Fathering: A Journal of Theory, Research, and Practice about Men as Fathers, 2(3), 277-303.
Brannon, R. (1976). The male sex role: Our culture’s blueprint for manhood, what it’s done for us lately. In D. David, & R. Brannon (Eds.), The forty-nine percent majority: The male sex role (pp. 1–48)
Thompson, E. H., & Pleck, J. H. (1986). The struc- ture of male role norms. American Behavioral Scientist, 29, 531–543
Beaty, L. A. (1999). Identity Development of the Homosexual Youth and Parental and Familial Influences on the Coming Out Process. Adolescence, 34(135), 597-601.
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