Hey folks, it’s Pride Month! Here at Indie Hell Zone, I’m going to try to focus on games with LGBT+ themes or made by queer people. I tried to do that last year, but that was entirely sidetracked by my YIIK playthrough, which was my lowest point playing a game ever. Fuck you Allanson brothers.
We’re going to start things out with Is It That Deep, Bro?, a game by moawko and cavegift that was made for the Gay Western Jam. As the name suggests, it was a jam that featured cowboys and cowgirls doing gay stuff, with this particular take having two boys go to a gay western movie.
It is a short visual novel with interactive segments where you play as a boy and his friend Clay seeing Dallas Divide, an acclaimed movie that also happens to be a gay cowboy romance. Clay claims to be seeing it for ironic reasons, but you? You’re definitely not sure why you’re truly there.
Your character has a blatant crush on his friend, but he can’t outwardly act on it, be it anxiety, repression or believing that Clay’s own ironic mask is sincere homophobia. However, what keeps it from becoming an extremely uncomfortable experience like how Coming Out Simulator was for me is that you can nudge your character in the right direction. There are short interactive segments where you influence your character’s reactions, like whether or not you pull away from sharing an armrest with Clay or not. There are three endings based on how much your character embraces his feelings. The end of the outing could be awkward and stilted, or it could be “haha what if we were both boys alone in a theater watching gay cowboys?”
Is It That Deep, Bro? is really a story about gay representation in media and the effects that it could have on people. Representation in media is important because it can help closeted people sort through their feelings and make them more comfortable with themselves through example. For me, it was finding yaoi fanfics of Super Smash Bros swordsmen; though personally, I have a complicated relationship with that stuff now since, you know, most of it isn’t written for actual gay masculine people in mind.
Dallas Divide inspires your character to be more comfortable with his feelings toward his friend. He may be “ironic” about it, but his flirty irony opens things up between him and Clay. And who knows, maybe Is It That Deep, Bro? could be someone else’s own encouragement to be more open with themselves.