I’m a bit confused by Atari’s latest social sim. Pridefest (available now for iOS and Android), puts you as mayor of a city that has lost all its fun. Your job is to bring it back, via friendly businesses, supportive homes and plenty of rainbow-themed parades. But is it more than just lip-service?
According to the developers, Pridefest is “a free-to-play game designed to emulate the colorful atmosphere and inclusive spirit of the hundreds of real-world Pride parades held annually around the world.”
Fred Chesnais, Chief Executive Officer of Atari explains:
Pride is only one small portion of the diverse LGBTQ culture and community, but it is one centered on freedom of expression, the pursuit of equality, and shared celebration. Pridefest was designed to celebrate progress the LGBTQ community has made toward equality while working to emulate the spirited and celebratory atmosphere of today’s real-world parades. It was that spirited atmosphere that especially drew us to the idea of Pride as an overarching theme and parades as the core gameplay mechanic.
But. While Pridefest is happy to give you tasks transforming buildings from dull to bright by spreading joy, it doesn’t really explain why. There’s no real explanation about what Pride is (and we’re talking the social movement, not the emotion). The focus is almost completely on rainbows and sparkles, which is nice, but it’s at the expense of addressing the issues facing the community it aims to embrace.
Chesnais explains that making a game for both members of the community and allies to enjoy was an “important goal”:
As Atari’s first game developed in support of LGBTQ equality, Pridefest works to bridge the gap between this underserved community and the gaming industry.
And on one hand, this is a good first step. It’s a game directly marketed towards the LGBTQ community, and these are few and far between. On the other, it’s a pretty cheesy one. It’s difficult to make a game that targets a demographic as broad as sexuality, but surely Pridefest could have dug a little deeper? The skeleton is there, and a few quick tweaks there and there would make things informative but not preachy. Just drape a few of those rainbows over a few facts (When was the first Pride parade? What were the Stonewall riots? What does LGBTQ stand for?), maybe include a few historic videos, photos or audio recordings, and hey presto, the game’s more than a piece of fluff. Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts wasn’t perfect, but it’s a great example of how to blend fun with facts.
At the very least, a game like Pridefest is a perfect opportunity to include information on what to do / who to speak to if you are struggling with your sexuality. For so many young people in particular, growing up queer is definitely not full of rainbows.
My biggest problem with Pridefest, however: Who makes a game targeting the LGBTQ community that doesn’t feature beards in the avatar editor?