DomPam2: Games are not for everyone

I feel like there’s a misconception among well-intentioned games people that to promote diversity in games, the goal ought to be to make a game that everyone can enjoy. While it’s a goal that sounds nice in theory, in practice, it tends to result in bland, uninteresting games that don’t really speak to anyone in particular. I personally feel that what we should really be doing is making more games for people who don’t typically have games made for them.

One of the most frequently repeated criticisms of DomPam1 was, in fact, that it wasn’t a game for everyone.1 To this day, I’m still frequently confused as to why this is even a bad thing: the vast majority of videogames in existence — the vast majority of works in any medium, even — are not for me, and I learned that lesson pretty early on in life. It occurs to me, however, that some folks do in fact go through life assuming that their tastes are universal, particularly those for whom the constructed “gamer” identity is a perfect fit. That is to say, if you play videogames, there are very particular reasons why you like videogames, and very particular games you hold up as gold standards for the medium. Generally speaking, you enjoy smooth-feeling gameplay that makes you feel empowered and as if your choices actually matter, and you like having impressive production values to go with that.

I was having a conversation with my PhD supervisor, Rilla Khaled, on this subject, and we joked about the fact that my games should have a quiz at the beginning to gauge one’s suitability for them, much like the age verification questions in the Leisure Suit Larry games. Of course, the more I thought about this, the more I thought this was a hilarious idea, and that I should really implement it into DomPam2. We had just been discussing a paper on the interactional context of humour in stand-up comedy, specifically, on comedians’ use of “surveying” in tailoring their jokes to a particular audience. (e.g. “who here is into hip-hop?”) We talk a lot about how comedy is hard to do in games because we don’t have as much control over timing, and yet, we also don’t have as much control over gauging how our audience will react to particular jokes.

The quizzes in Leisure Suit Larry serve a similar function: it’s not that it’s impossible for kids to figure out how to get through the age gate, so much as it’s the game signalling that kids, or anyone put off by sexual content, are not the game’s intended audience. While DomPam2 is not a sexy game,2 it is nevertheless not a game for the typical “gamer” audience so much as “people who like radical queer experimental art about feelings”. So, in a couple of days, I came up with some questions, implemented a quiz, and voila.

Not everyone’s going to find this quiz as funny as I do, but that’s okay. In fact, that means it’s working as intended.

  1. There was even a particularly glowing review I remember that nevertheless ended with an editor-mandated lacklustre 6/10 score solely because of its not-for-everyone-ness. Unfortunately, this review seems to be lost and gone forever, otherwise I would link to it.
  2. It is, much like myself, rather awkward about sex.