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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A collective of indie devs on itch.io are marking Pride Month by selling a “Queer Games Bundle” featuring more than 200 games from 195 creators.

Why it matters: Pride month initiatives like the Queer Games Bundle are premised on supporting queer developers in a material way.

  • “Purchasing the Queer Games Bundle is a direct action that you can take right now to support queer people in a life changing way,” the campaign reads.
  • “If we had 1/3rd of the budget of an AAA game, we could give every solo developer a livable wage for a year and every single team a massive funding boost. Imagine what the developers and artists in this bundle could create a year from now if they weren’t worried about starving or how to pay their rent this month.”

The big picture: Major companies tend to celebrate Pride with deals on games, donations and a lot of rainbows — goodwill initiatives that do little to give back to queer developers.

  • Efforts like Square Enix donating Pride merch profits to LGBT organizations, or Microsoft boosting queer-centered games on its platforms, are a good start. But they’re also a business move.
  • Change requires investing in queer devs, supporting their work year-round, hiring them, and putting them into positions of power.

Between the lines: Representation of queer characters in games is better than it’s ever been, especially over the past decade. Consider that games like Gone Home, Life is Strange, Dragon Age, The Last of Us, and more have put the stories of queer characters at the forefront. 2020 included several games that expanded that catalogue.

  • Tell Me Why was the first game from a big studio to feature a playable trans character.
  • 2020’s most lauded game, Hades, included a cast of bi, gay, and non-binary characters.
  • The Last of Us Part 2 from Naughty Dog is the biggest AAA developer yet to create a game with multiple queer characters.
  • Quirky action-adventure game Bugsnax featured several queer couples.

By the numbers: In 2020, as reported by Out, a Nielsen study found that 10% of gamers over the age of 18 identify as LGBT.

2,000 LGBT identifying participants over the age of 18 said they identified as:

  • Gay or lesbian (40%)
  • Bisexual (50%)
  • Transgender or non-binary (10%)

The bottom line: Video game companies that say they’re invested in change have to create those differences from within through more than just rainbows a few weeks once a year.

Go deeper

Video game developers struggle to fix "crunch culture"

Naughty Dog co-presidents Neil Druckmann (left) and Evan Wells. Photo: Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Game developers aired diverging views this weekend about whether encouraging developers to work "passionately" on a game is cover for inducing them to work too much.

Why it matters: Crunch has been accepted as a real, impactful issue within the game industry, but there still isn't a simple fix applicable to the entire sector.

Updated 7 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.