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Coming out is tough, especially the first time. The stomach-churning, the anxiety, the shortness of breath — telling someone, anyone, that you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is an emotional rollercoaster few would wish to board again.
Enter, then, “Coming Out Simulator 2014,” which not only takes you back to that first time but hands you the keys to someone else’s coming out tale. When you’re in the driver’s seat, navigating another person’s life, what would you do? Do you tell their parents, do you try to keep it a secret, do you give up and run out the door?
Presented as a simple, choose-your-own-response game, “Coming Out Simulator 2014” offers, as creator Nicky Case calls it, “a half-true game about half-truths.” It’s a semi-fictionalized version of his own coming out story back in 2010, the year Dan Savage launched the It Gets Better Project. Players take control of Nicky over the course of one evening, during which his boyfriend urges him to come out to his parents. What happens next is up to you. The potential outcomes are varied — violence is one such response, and it’s as shocking as you’d expect it to be — but above all the emotional payoff is great.
I found myself caring about Nicky. I pondered decisions, raged at his parents’ responses, refused to let him be shamed for being him. Case’s game isn’t a technical marvel — though it does have some very intelligent programming — nor is it a graphics-heavy, melt-your-retinas experience. Instead, it’s a thoughtful, sometimes funny, often heartfelt exploration of one man’s own struggle to be himself. Case wasn’t striving to be autobiographical — indeed, he claims “My game is emotionally authentic, and factually inaccurate.” Whether it’s true or not, and whether you’re closeted or not, it’s guaranteed to provoke more than a little emotion.