Rainbow Arcade: the history of queer gaming 1985-2018

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Schwules Museum, a well-known queer museum in Berlin, Germany, has launched an exhibition titled Rainbow Arcade. It explores the rich history of queer themes and characters in video games since 1985.

The exhibition leads its visitors through different sections highlighted in different colours. The exhibit covers more than 30 years of queer content in games through fan art, memorabilia and video interviews with designers. The last part of the rainbow tour also presents several playable contemporary LGBTI titles.

The exhibition was curated by Adrienne Shaw with Jan Schnorrenberg from the Schwules Museum and German gaming journalist Sarah Rudolph. Shaw was also responsible for the rediscovery of 1989 explicitly queer game Caper in the Castro, by developer CM Ralph. The game takes place in San Francisco and the protagonist is a lesbian detective, Tracker McDyke. She will need to solve the disappearance of her friend and drag queen Tessy LaFemme.

Moreover, Shaw created the LGTBQ Video Game Archive website in 2016, the first attempt to catalogue queer content in games. “Until the archive, there just wasn’t a historical understanding of LGBTI content in this medium,” she told The Guardian. “It makes it really easy to forget that this kind of content has always been in games.”

According to their website, “the exhibition will be taking stock of contemporary pop cultural questions of representation, stereotypical and discriminatory narratives in entertainment media, and our cultural memory.” This will also be the first time a museum will show the research by the LGBTQ Game Archive.

“Rainbow Arcade is special because it explores the intersection of queer history and game history, two distinct areas of contemporary culture that have been neglected and underestimated for a long time and therefore haven’t been archived really well,” explains Schnorrenberg. “It is actually one of the very first sociopolitical video game exhibitions ever and many video games and designers that we are featuring have never been shown in a museum before.”

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