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Queens: Why Some Relationships Suck - A Story In Four Screens

by Cassandra Khaw on 02/01/11 11:45:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Crossposted from TK-Nation. TK-Nation's a South-East Asian gaming site that plays home to news about quality underdogs from the gaming world, indie cosplay and video game collectibles. 

Chinese New Year is one of those events I'm never really sure I'm looking forward to or not. 

On one hand, there tends to be copious amounts of gambling and enough good food to saturate my arteries for the next six months. There are also red packets to be acquired, friends to visit and illegal fireworks to catapult into the skies. On the other hand, there's also the gossip, the not-always-good-natured jockeying for position on the family tree and the illegal fireworks shrapnel raining on your head.

Strange as it might sound, these are probably the reasons behind why Queens impacted me so hard. To summarize, Queens is a 2D platformer created for one of those Ludum Dare challenges; a bite-sized game done in three days and based on the theme 'domestic violence'. You play as the titular Queen after she's pushed through a hole in the floor by what I would assume was her King. Left in a rather unpleasant-looking dungeon, your goal is to then escape the four screens the game is comprised of, a surprisingly difficult task given the wicked amount of traps festooning the place. During this time, the King can be seen meandering unconcernedly above you. 

On my first few playthroughs, I wasn't too impressed with the game. Then again, it might have had something to do with the fact I spent my initial five minutes repeatedly falling into pits or being crushed by stalactites. It took a few more attempts before the theme began to sink in. The Queen, each time, you die, is always different; not only does her name change but her appearance as well. The King, on the other hand, is the same flippant bastard that shoves each Queen down into the dungeon.

Relationships are a gamble. They're often the biggest gamble anyone will ever undertake in their lives; the wrong move might spell a few bone-crushing years of pain as you attempt to finangle an escape. I guess it's why Queens hit a chord with me - festive seasons are probably the best time to see the effects of domestic violence. It's never really spoken of but you often see it: the abuser is often suave and noncommital and their partner often a skitterish rabbit trying their best to weave a hopeful smile. 

In that respect, Queens has done an incredible job at serving as an accurate albeit general metaphor for the idea: the pattern behind domestic violence is often the same even if the identity of the people might differ. The victim, regardless of who they might be, always end up running the same gauntlet, one that can easily result in them being crushed given the slightest mistake. Queens doesn't explain what happens to the female protoganist once she's fallen down a hole or after she collapses into a crumpled heap on the ground but it's a bit too easy as a woman to make the mental connection. It's the spirit breaking, the victim surrendering, the relationship ending, it's surrender in its darkest and most uncomfortable form. As for the abuser, he or she will just keep doing what they do best once their current victim have given up the ghost - they'll keep looking for more people to satiate their twisted wants. 

I've seen a lot of games deal with the idea of spousal abuse and domestic violence but up till this point, they've often felt too personal to me. Each person's experiences with the matter will be different. One person might walk away with a broken arm, another might be too frightened to ever leave their house again. No matter what form the scars take, they're still the same thing: someone is being hurt. There's a part of me that's certain that I'm supposed to tell my readers right now that I wish the game has an extended version or a sequel but I don't. I think it's perfect the way it is. Over the last few months, a lot of indie developers have convinced me that games have taken the place of books in our modern world in the sense that they're now the ones responsible for delivering difficult messages in an indelible manner. 

Queens feels like one of those afternoons when you're out with your relatives and there's that one player in the group with a new accessory on their arm. You can see the pain in their eyes, the strained smile and you find yourself torn between hoping you'll see them again next year or that they'll break up with the bastard before their psyche becomes damaged beyond repair.

Happy Chinese New Year, guys.

To play Queens, you can visit it at its website here: http://noonat.phuce.com/queens

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