A Scottish game designer and GayGamer.net contributor named Mitch Alexander is working on a new independent videogame in which the player role-plays as a member of a group of mythical green monsters forming same-sex romantic entanglements.
It's called Tusks: The Orc Dating Sim, and interested gamers can now download a fabulous sneak preview for PC and Mac.
Moving past the sheer suprise and delight that such a game exists, the premise is straightforward enough: the player joins a group of male orcs, some of whom are married to the group's leader, at an annual festival called Uá. Among that group are several other species, including a human and selkie. Together, the group is traveling north, each for reasons that emerge over the course of play. As they travel, the player interacts through dialogue options with each character; and all of the characters express interest in same-sex relationships.
Beneath the creative premise lie some compelling themes. For example, the Uá gathering can be seen as a stand-in for queer community. One character describes it as an opportunity for orcs to form a nonbiological family of their own choosing — an experience familiar to many LGBT people who create a "chosen family" in the wake of a family of origin's rejection.
"Some others may not have found their people yet, and feel disconnected as a result, but the Uá is a bond that reminds them that they belong, by virtue of who they are," reads one line of dialogue.
In another uncanny parallel with some parts of a queer existence, a character named Brocgin says of the outside world, "They think we're filthy, sinful hedonists out to corrupt their innocent flock."
Meanwhile, the human Aed struggles to understand the otherness of the orcs in a way that feels similar to heterosexuals who have only just discovered LGBT culture: "You're very different. From the norm. I mean, you're normal, but you're not human."
"It's like you already have some kind of connection with each other, even though you're all strangers," Aed observes.
"Monsters are the eternal outsiders," writes Alexander. "Instead, I’d like to cast the orcs as the protagonists, and show that most of the things we tend to think about orcs tend to be reflective of the folk writing them."
The game also features body types beyond the usual sexualized physiques found in dating simulation games: most characters are heavyset; one is an amputee; there are a wide range of skin colors, ages, and distribution of body hair. They are generally scantily clad, and players have an option to enable or disable adult content.
The game is still in development, with Alexander crowdfunding via Patreon.
"My hope with Tusks is that queer players might find something relatable in the orcs," Alexander writes, "who are navigating a world that considers them outsiders, but who charge on nonetheless to forge their own lives and relationships in the way they see best."