Kindred Spirits’ Lesbianism Doesn’t Make My Heart Soar

Kindred Spirits on the Roof is a game that, on the surface, seems like it wouldn’t be allowed on Steam. From what I can gather, the game revolves around two ghosts who can only find peace the way others find pleasure – by sleeping with one another. Now, normally I’d have nothing against these types of themes – I’m guilty myself of using them in Roleplaying Games – but with Steam being accessible by people of all ages, I’m not sure if it’s even going to be allowed to be on there. That of course depends on how ‘in your face’ they are with it, if they show nudity or not, and generally if they can make it family-friendly enough to be let on the platform. Steam have taken lots of games off that crossed this line, so it’ll be interesting if it actually makes it.

Far apart from the sex issue, the games’ protagonists are both female. As it’s a game in a Japanese style by a Japanese developer, and it’s erotic, that makes it Yuri. Again, I have nothing against Yuri, Yaoi or anything else of this type, but I don’t think Steam is the best place for it. It does, however, raise one key issue: is the game going to portray Lesbian relationships in a light that shows two ordinary people in love who also happen to both be female, or is it going to take the alternative route of pandering to certain social demographics that are most easily summed up with the phrase “I love lesbians but hate lesbianism”? I hope it’s the first, however it’s all too easy to fall into the second, especially with games on Steam.

One thing that indicates the second of these two extremes is the way I’ve read about how the game actually intends to go about getting the two spirits’ grooves on: the player seems to have to make Yuri couples all over a school so the ghosts can learn. This immediately raises a red flag for me- you can’t change people’s sexuality and it seems odd that there’d be so many girls who like girls in a school environment, considering the statistics. Then again, this is fantasy land, so wilful suspension of disbelief means I guess I can let that slide – this is a world where ghosts are real.

Image Courtesy of AfterEllen.com

Image Courtesy of AfterEllen.com

Looking at other examples of controversial themes in games, we can see that there are times when including them has given the game the ability to tackle the issues of society – and we can also see examples where the theme has been completely ignored, played for laughs, or just plainly missed the mark. The examples that jump to my mind are the Fable series, Danganronpa 2, and Hatred (Spoiler warning for all three). Fable takes the route of allowing the player to romance with any gender – male or female (there’s no transgenderism, but still) – and even takes it so far as to portray this as perfectly natural. Growing up, Fable was one of the games that, as an LGBT* person myself, made me feel like I shouldn’t be ashamed of who I am.

On the other hand, however, you have the recent game Hatred. This was, I feel, meant to bring up the issues surrounding violence, especially in the light of recent events, in a way deliberately intended to shock. But the game totally missed its mark, failed miserably and only had a few cheap laughs at a sensitive subject’s expense. It tried to be the next Postal but completely fell flat; it tried to bring up serious issues but didn’t even try to thread them into a story. I’m confident that Kindred Spirits won’t be this bad – it does seem to have a plotline, after all – but all that demonstrates that there are serious pitfalls to avoid.

Another game where societal issues closely related to the plotline is Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. During the course of the game, a female student, Mikan Tsumiki, kills two of her fellow students to appease her Beloved, who is strongly implied to be somebody of the same gender as herself. As well as this, in his last free time event, it is strongly implied that Nagito Komaeda, another student, has feelings for the main character, Hajime Hinata, who is also male. This theme isn’t explored much after its necessary use as a key plot point, but it is played off as being completely normal and natural.

Overall, games tackling societal issues is important, especially as they’re an interactive medium. However, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of making their representation farcical, and I fear that Kindred Spirits might do just that.

That is, if it even gets to be on Steam in the first place.

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  1. N 8 January, 2016 at 03:16 Reply

    This article is very unfortunate, misleading, and at times slanders an entire form of lesbian media. As a previous commenter noted, had you Googled information on this visual novel you would have easily answered any questions you had regarding the game’s content. In fact, the individual in charge of translating this game makes quite a view CGs available in full English text public on their Twitter.
    Your main issue with this game is the worry that it may not be appropriate for all ages as it has been listed as a game that will feature uncensored nudity. My issue with that is you immediately jumped to the worst of conclusions. Knowing Steam has such strict policies on nudity and sexual situations you could have gathered that the nudity featured would likely have been either in non sexual situations or extremely tame (possibly the equivalent of a sex scene in a PG-13 film). Again as another commenter noted much of the game’s nude art is nothing more than exposed breasts. And while some of the scenes in the game are sexual situations, they are about as stimulating as a friend telling you “yes, my parter and I have sex”. It’s quite literally that. The “sex scenes” are part of a story explaining a full consensual relationship between two women. They are not created with the singular intent to turn on the viewer but instead to fully immerse them in a complex relationship between two lovers.
    I seriously urge you to reevaluate not only your view on lesbianism and lesbian media, but your understanding of visual novels as a genre. Even most visual novels that are made with sexual situations written in are nowhere near the equivalent of hardcore porn (which is what you seem to be hinting at all throughout this article).
    The treatment of lesbians in media is a topic that should be analyzed and critiqued especially with the consideration that it is often exploited by non lesbians. However, this doesn’t mean all forms of lesbian media are made for and by this demographic. If you feel that you want to worry about the handling of this type of media you ought to research it deeply beforehand.

  2. Alex Wolfe (@lokilotus) 7 January, 2016 at 22:27 Reply

    Just to point out, I wrote this article before it was released in an accessible format for myself (it was released in Japan in 2012, but as I don’t speak Japanese it’s hardly fair that I learn an entire language to comment on a single release).

    In addition, I was commenting on the content that I could glean from press releases and such, and how this content (in my eyes) may turn out to not be appropriate for the Steam platform, rather than commenting on the gameplay and other more game-central aspects. As I stated before, I did NOT have access to a copy before its release, and had to work from press releases and such.

    This wasn’t meant to be a review of the game, more a discussion of the themes surrounding LGBT* awareness- hence the lack of a review score.

    Overall, this wasn’t a comment on the game itself, and instead was using the game’s upcoming release to talk about the issues surrounding LGBT* themes and other mature themes within gaming as a whole.

    I’d be interested to see what you think of the review given these considerations.

    -Alex Wolfe

    • Loneliest Baby (@rymmkon) 8 January, 2016 at 02:02 Reply

      Opinion pieces like this should go beyond what popular media covers (which you might agree, is often skewed vehemently to further personal agendas) and consider all aspects. Even accepting all the stipulations you have given, many of which applied (and still apply) to me, there were many other ways to glean more information about the game. A quick Googling at the time would have revealed the game’s entry in the visual novel database (https://vndb.org/v8508), which would have revealed it was tagged as shoujo ai (typically meaning that it probably has minimal sexual content). Some more Googling would have led you to more CGs from the game, the most explicit of which contain maybe a nipple or two (common enough in other games). Your comment “it seems odd that there’d be so many girls who like girls in a school environment” also indicates that you didn’t even fully read the game’s description, which indicates it takes place at an all-girls’ school. This all covers the “no research whatsoever” complaint I had.

      My “irresponsibly written” complaint is a little more nuanced. Given that you don’t mention any other visual novels when comparing Kindred Spirits to other games, I’m assuming that you don’t have too much experience with visual novels, especially yuri ones. If you did, however, then the first thing you would have noticed is that Kindred Spirits has a distinctly different art style from actual lesbian porn games from Japanese developers (I invite you to Google “Lightning Warrior Raidy” within the privacy of your own home as an example). This art style is typical of yuri media marketed more towards women. I don’t know how experienced you are in yuri media, but anyone with a basic understanding of the genre as a whole would have immediately realized that this was not going to be even remotely close to a full-blown sex game (or would have at least been suspicious of how the media is interpreting it). In other words, anyone remotely familiar with yuri would easily have identified Kindred Spirits as decidedly not in the “I love lesbians but hate lesbianism” category.

      Which brings me to my point. You shouldn’t be writing on something that you have little to no experience in. You made assumptions about the game based on articles all playing the same angle – that it is a game that depicts sex scenes that will be on Steam. That’s understandable enough, but if this isn’t your area of expertise, why write about it in the first place? By doing that, you’re contributing to the confusion and misinformation surrounding this game. You can’t just assume that, just because it deals with some issues that are dear to your heart, you can comment about it, especially when you know next to nothing about the actual thing you’re commenting on. For example, I am not a first-person shooter fan, so I wouldn’t write and have published an opinion piece about a first-person shooter about how I’m afraid it’s going to be bad because I don’t have the knowledge to comment.

      I’m not saying that your intentions in writing this article were bad, but they were ignorant. You didn’t examine the thing you were writing about very carefully, and because of that, people who are reading your article are going to have a negative view of this game going in. I just hope you’re more careful next time you write.

      And for the record! Kindred Spirits on the Roof will definitely have a positive portrayal of lesbians. Worked on by women, written for women, has plenty of women in it. It is a Good Thing you have slandered.

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