Developer Luke Miller is sympathetic to the idea of straight men feeling excluded by his gay-themed adventure game, but unapologetic.
Following in the footsteps of traditional point-and-click titles, My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant is a humor-filled, puzzle-driven dive into a sci-fi world. The game stars captain Tycho Minogue as he travels the universe and attempts to thwart an evil ruler of the ex-boyfriend variety. Yes, it's a title many might consider a novelty due to its rarity. This isn't just an adventure game, but the self-proclaimed "gayest game ever made."
Speaking with Polygon via email, Miller explained that Space Tyrant was promoted as a gay game in order to cement it alongside novels or films typically meant for gay men.
"I certainly don't want to trick anyone that isn't interested in its content," Miller said. "Unfortunately the gaming industry is so young that there's no ‘gay game' niche and so it has turned out to be really controversial to call it gay-themed."
"It's not about exclusion, it's about expanding the types of stories told in games."
The developer added that his experiences with Space Tyrant have been a learning process; the game has already received its fair share of hostility while seeking votes via Steam Greenlight. One complaint that seems to surface often is about the game's sexualized male characters. Tycho travels the universe in a tight cropped T-shirt and shorts, and there's no shortage of brawny, often shirtless men. Part of the game's tongue-in-cheek humor is rooted in the comfortable, confident way it doles out sexual jokes and innuendos. According to Miller, this is just part of what makes the game different.
"One of the things I really love about the hero of the game, Tycho, and I think this is what makes him different from a straight hero, is that he can go from being the subject to being the object and back again with fewer of the negatives associated with sexism," Miller said. "Sometimes you want to be Tycho, sometimes you want to be with Tycho. That kind of equality is one of the benefits of a gay game. Coming out of the closet means you get to be as macho or as feminine as you want, whenever you want."
Miller realizes that some straight men may feel left out at the idea of a game targeted specifically for gay men, but he hopes people won't begrudge a title here and there.
"If there were no straight games then I would understand the hostility, but come on," Miller said. "Space Tyrant is diverse and inclusive, but it never really occurred to me to make it straight friendly. It's not about exclusion, it's about expanding the types of stories told in games, which can only lead to more interesting games for us all."
"Growing up there were no gay characters in any of the science fiction I loved."
Miller describes everything from science fiction TV shows, point-and-click-adventures and Australian gay culture as part of his inspiration. Specific titles include Star Trek: The Next Generation, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Day of the Tentacle and Space Quest.
"Growing up there were no gay characters in any of the science fiction I loved," Miller said. "So I decided to have some fun and make some gay science fiction myself."
As for why there are so few gay games on the market, Miller credits it more to economics than homophobia, though it's still a problem he's run into where the gaming industry is concerned. With such a smaller percentage of the population there's a natural limit on sales that have little crossover appeal. If there is a solution, Miller said, it's to support what's available.
My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant is available for Windows PC, Mac and Linux, and according to Miller, a sequel might not be far away.
"My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant really opened my mind up to what a gay game could be like," Miller said. "I'm plotting a second one as we speak and it's even gayer."