Happy Pride, friends! When it comes to representing the LGBTQ community in video games, there are more misses than hits. Which is why I was so surprised to discover the LGBTQ-positive relationships when I jumped into Bugsnax after acquiring a PlayStation 5 at launch. Whereas the marketing for this game displayed it as a silly, Pokemon-esque adventure in which you capture the titular creatures and feed them to the grumpuses of Snacktooth Island, the relationships between the characters created a deeper narrative than I could have ever predicted. It’s these choices to include canonically queer characters (if such a descriptor even exists for grumpuses) that makes Bugsnax the impressively progressive game that I wasn’t expecting.
In Bugsnax, Same-Sex Relationships are the Norm
Though we can’t say with certainty that the community on Snacktooth Island is representative of the larger world of Bugsnax, it is worth noting that of the dozen or so characters, there are multiple fully realized or implied same-sex relationships. There seems to be no society-based prejudice or hesitation to show love for the one you care for. There is some anxiety amongst characters like Snorpy Fizzlebean, but that solely stems from him being unsure of his relationship status with fitness-obsessed Chandlo Funkbun. Though Bugsnax sets up a world in which queer relationships are fully accepted as the norm, it doesn’t remove interpersonal anxieties that so many of us feel in the real world.
Even in the most loving, accepting home, there can still be uncertainties that each person (or grumpus) needs to work through. Thankfully, open communication and a solid support system are great first steps to living the fulfilling, open life that you want. And that’s where Bugsnax’s greatest message lies: No matter who you are, you’ll find acceptance and love. Whether this is just represented within the town limits of Snaxburg or is truly the case in the larger world, perhaps we’ll find out when/if we get a Bugsnax sequel.
Queer Relationships In Games & Positive Representation
Representation matters. As a medium, game developers are slowly getting better at reflecting the audiences who buy and play their games, but there’s still a long way to go. The past several years have given us more LGTBQ+ characters in games, but usually with the caveat of some traumatic event or societal pressure linked to their story. This isn’t always bad — like I said, games should be representative of the people who play them, and there’s certainly a large demographic who will find those stories reflective of their own struggles.
Bugsnax tackles these stories from the other end of the spectrum. All of the grumpuses in Snaxburg are grown adults with their own careers and dreams. They know who they are and who they love. Although it’s possible that Snorpy Fizzlebean or Elizabert Megafig had a difficult time growing up, that’s never talked about. Instead, we see how happy they are and how their relationships motivate the work that they do outside of their personal lives. Everyone came to Snacktooth Island for different reasons, but none of them were fleeing due to anti-queer sentiment from the larger world, further supporting the idea that queer relationships amongst grumpuses are the norm. These relationships aren’t just something that exist on the fringes of the game, either: they’re a core part of the main story and something the player must understand in order to reunite all the grumpuses back in Snaxburg.
Being Whatever You Want To Be
Too often, queerness in games is implied rather than outright spoken. Many fans will create headcanons about their favorite characters and cling to them as canonical fact, no matter what actual information is released from the developers. Bugsnax reverses this notion of outright showcasing these relationships in the open. Again, this is not something that was a key point in the marketing of this game or something that anyone would have necessarily expected, but it’s woven brilliantly into the fabric of the narrative. Your mission is to unite all of the grumpuses back at Snaxburg, but by doing optional side quests, you’re able to learn more about their stories and help these relationships grow. Just like humans, grumpuses can have difficulty communicating and showing their true feelings. But with a nudge in the right direction, each grumpus is able to pursue what matters most to them. In a game where transformation is taken to a literal level with the physique-changing properties of bugsnax, it’s refreshing to see that it gives the characters the opportunity to be whatever they want to be.
If you haven’t played Bugsnax, I can’t recommend it enough for its charm, positive relationships, and fun gameplay. Have you played through this bug-catching, snax-eating, LGBTQ-positive game yet? Do you have a favorite grumpus? Let us know in the comments!