Itch.io has become a hotbed of charitable initiatives over the past few years, where groups of creators bundle their games at an often sharply reduced price and donate the proceeds. We’ve recently seen sales supporting the victims of mass shootings, those fearing the repeal of abortion protections and organisations fighting for trans rights, among many others.
The latest, dubbed the Queer Games Bundle, takes a different tack by campaigning for enough money to pay the contributing artists enough money to support their livelihood - food, rent, health costs, etc. - and allow them to better focus on creating tabletop games. Their argument, stated quite plainly in the bundle’s description, is that keeping artists from starving or facing eviction is an unalloyed good for the industry, the games and the people who make them.
“Our goal is a future in which there are no more starving indie developers. Where corporations don’t rule our brains pumping out endless sequels but instead we have a vibrant games community that produces countless works,” an organiser told Dicebreaker via email. “To get there we need developers to gain experience and make many games, and that can only happen with time and a livable income.”
It’s a hard position to dismiss, even before considering the increased social and economic risk faced by members of the queer community - specific healthcare, lack of legal protection for jobs and housing and a terrifying surge in bigotry over the last few years makes the lives of queer artist especially precarious. The bundle plans to split its profits equally among every creator who registered to receive a cut in exchange for listing their games within the bundle. The organisers said plenty of other designers donated digital copies of their game for free, passing their cut on to their peers.
At 586 titles, there’s bound to be at least a few games among the digital stacks that will delight your table or catch their interest, at least. Lucian Khan’s Visigoths vs. Mall Goths is an excellent choice in that regard, as the tabletop RPG combines more traditional roleplay with dating sim mechanics between two versions of Goths - the ancient Roman peoples and the black-clad teenagers stalking garage shows and strip malls during the ‘90s. It was also one of Banana Chan's 2020 GOTY picks!
Glitter Hearts exists on the other end of the aesthetic spectrum. Greg Leatherman’s game synthesises the most prevalent tropes of the magical girl anime genre and applies them to setting-agnostic rules that allow anyone to build a larger-than-life persona in the fight against evil. Speak the Sky’s Twilight Song is a map-making RPG using Avery Alder’s The Quiet Year to tell stories about the softly mournful end of one era of humanity as it gives way to whatever comes next. Whether that is hopeful, melancholy or heavy with meaning depends on the group driving the narrative.
Those looking for lighter fare should check out Sean Patrick Cain’s Fake Chess: Book of Champions, which adds specific character playbooks in the sequel to the designer’s game of acting like a chess grandmaster using rules very much different from the timeless board game. Become the city park hustler, the icy Russian champion or even an actual chess computer in dramatised matches that are every bit as silly as they sound.
Sandy Pug Game’s 10 Million-HP Planet also toys with the ridiculous, pitting woefully underpowered heroes at a literal evil planet with a health pool they can never hope to squash. And yet, through the power of climate collapse-fueled anger, anime rules and a healthy dose of underling muscle, the players will succeed in killing that damn planet.
The Queer Games Bundle will remain live on Itch.io through July 7th and is hurtling towards its initial goal of $112,627 (£89,908). Those interested can pick up the collected games for $60 (£47.90), with all of the funds supporting those among the 411 contributing artists who elected to take part. A pay-what-you-can version is available on a sliding scale between $10 (£8) and $20 (£16) for those experiencing financial hardship.