Queer games exhibition Pride at Play has launched in St Kilda

Posted on June 5, 2023

Pride at Play, an interactive exhibition celebrating queerness in games, has opened to the public in Melbourne after its debut in Sydney last year. For the next three weeks, the Carlisle Street Arts Space at St Kilda Town Hall is transformed into a haven of queer expression. A range of video games and tabletop adventures are being showcased from queer, trans, and gender diverse developers and artists based in Oceania and the Asia Pacific region. Entry is free and there are a bunch of titles available to play, as well as workshops and talks over the exhibition period.

Group photo in front of a wall of art and quotes at the exhibition. From left to right: Lisa (Checkpoint), Elliot (Checkpoint), Dr Xavier Ho, David (Checkpoint).

The Checkpoint team attended Pride at Play’s launch event, which featured speeches from representatives from the City of Port Phillip and Monash University’s Art, Design and Architecture faculty. Speakers celebrated the emerging growth in representation in the gaming space which has traditionally been dominated by mainstream voices. Associate Professor Gene Bawden spoke of the value of research into queer games and how a relationship with gaming feeds into an educational context, stating that “…gaming is accessible and it’s portable, it’s something you can take away with you.”

PCs are set up in the exhibition space inviting participants to don headphones and dive into one of the 22 games on display. We spent some time with Hua Chai’s 2021 title userID, a mind-bending point-and-click puzzler that explores what it is to truly know someone when identity is fluid. We also got to try out The Beat: A Glam Noir Game which is a strange and haunting experience about a gay cop investigating a murder, and chilled out for a while with the wonderful Unpacking which was displayed on a projected screen.

Checkpoint team member Lisa playing The Beat: A Glam Noir Adventure

As part of the exhibition, art from each of the showcased games is displayed on the walls alongside quotes from the creators. These range from general reflections on queer representation to specific goals they had in mind when developing their game. A book is also available for purchase that contains full interviews and a reflection on Pride at Play from curator Dr Xavier Ho, who describes the exhibition as a platform to highlight narrative design in queer games, a celebration of queer developers, and a provocation to continue pushing the boundaries of LGBTQIA+ gaming content.

Pride at Play runs each Monday-Saturday until June 24, with several extra games also featured on the event’s website as part of an online showcase.