Campo Santo, the creators of the popular exploration game Firewatch, have already been embroiled in some controversy regarding their next title. The newest development by the company is called In the Valley of Gods, and it looks fantastic. If you haven't gotten a chance to check out the trailer I would high suggest you do.
Essentially, it's Firewatch in Egypt, with the addition of a character that you interact with on a face to face basis, rather than through a walkie talkie. The announcement trailer that released during The Game Awards in December 2017 apparently aroused some interesting comments from viewers. Campo Santo founder Sean Vanaman shared one allegedly overriding sentiment in particular while being interviewed by GamesTM magazine, which was, “Oh you're just going to make a game about minority lesbians?”
Supposedly, a great many people who watched the announcement trailer for the game wondered if the two female protagonists were in a relationship together. Vanaman likened this to watching an Uncharted trailer and wondering if Nate and Sully were going to do the dirty. He equates it to a gender bias, which I don't agree with. Some people almost certainly watched Uncharted trailers and wondered if Nate and Sully were going to get together. So it's not really a surprise that some people watched the trailer for In the Valley of Gods and wondered if the protagonists were an item. Frankly, we should be applauding this sentiment considering it means people are more recognizing and open to the idea of gay relationships in video games.
But allow me to digress. Vanaman stated in the same interview that the two In the Valley of Gods leading ladies are not in fact a couple. They are just two friends working together to achieve a common goal. The main reason for In the Valley of Gods' existence, according to Vanaman, is to explore the concept of female friendship. He believes that this is a topic that hasn't been covered much in video games, and hopefully In the Valley of Gods will help change that. Hence why the so-called (by Vanaman himself) “SJW bullsh*t” responses revolving around the game's announcement really got to him.
I have two bones to pick with this whole controversy. First off is the unfortunate knee-jerk reactions by fans to assume that anything featuring women is immediately a vehicle for SJW sentiments. I covered this at length in a previous opinion, so I won't elaborate too much on my feelings on that here. My second problem with this newest Campo Santo drama is that what does it matter in the grand scheme of things whether the characters are lesbian or not? Let's delve a little deeper shall we?
If In the Valley of Gods featured a lesbian couple, it doesn't inherently mean that it's a political or social statement. It would merely have been a game about two women who happen to be in a relationship together. Some people want to tell those stories. Vanaman did not, but said if other people have their heart set on telling that sort of tale, they should absolutely be able to. I agree with him in this case.
Look at it this way, say I wanted to make a video game about puppies. Maybe it's because I just like puppies, or maybe I think there's a story I can tell that hasn't been told yet about puppies. What if dog breeders suddenly stood up and shouted, “Why does everything have to be a comment on the horrors of puppy mills?!” Everyone else would rightly be confused, and wonder what in the world they're going on about. In a society that, by and large, accepts strong women and gay couples of every shape and size, we need to stop making things political that aren't.
As far as my second sentiment regarding the reactions to In the Valley of Gods, who cares? If a storyteller wants to spin a yarn about two women that are in love with each other or two women who share a friendship for the ages, they can, should, and will. Whether the game featured lesbians or good friends, it doesn't matter either way.
What does matter is the story that's going to be told. It's either going to be great, or it's going to be awful. The sexual orientation of the main characters really holds no sway on that fact. Sure, it would undeniably give exposure to a subject that hasn't become mainstream yet (lesbian couples). But as far as Vanaman is concerned, he's still bringing to light a theme that hasn't been explored much (female friendships). Either which way up, down, left, or sideways, stories are meant to be told, and the subjects should be as varied and vast as the imaginations of people telling them. Who cares whether we're talking about aliens, or giant pink fluffy masses of sinew and fur, or two simple human women who want something similar out of life?