You find a phone on the road. It’s unlocked and filled with unread messages and mystery. You open what you think is just A Normal Lost Phone and discover a journey of self-discovery, pain, love, and transformation.
On January 26, 2017 Accidental Queens launched their creation, introducing the world to a diverse group of characters who tangle with challenges some members of the LGBTQ community either have or will face.
A Normal Lost Phone was originally created by a team of four at Global Game Jam. There Diane Landais, Estelle Charrié, Rafael Martinez-Jausoro, and Elizabeth Maler were tasked with making a game prototype in 48 hours. “We didn’t know each other when we started to work on the game, but we were all attracted by the idea of making a narrative game that would tackle complicated topics such as coming of age, homophobia, and gender issues, while also being innovative in its shape and form,” said Maler.
Thus Accidental Queens was born.
The team’s goal was to make a game that’s accessible, reaches a different audience than those usually targeted by video games, and one that engages its players in certain social topics. “These ambitions met when we realized that talking about real lives through the same tools we use to communicate in our private, everyday life, was a very efficient way of engaging a player and putting them in the shoes of a character they might not want to embody otherwise,” said Maler.
“This is the true power of video games as a narrative medium after all: you’re not watching, you’re not reading, you’re not a spectator anymore. Moreover, in A Normal Lost Phone, you’re not acting through an avatar or a third-party. You’re acting as yourself, with your own bias and interpretation.”
All of this becomes very clear as you become Sam, the game’s protagonist, an 18 year-old teenager with a lot of questions about identity, love, and friendship. Sam falls on one or multiple slices of the LGBTQ spectrum, says Maler, and a portion of the story revolves around “how they express themselves and the people they are close to can see them.”
The lives and challenges faced by members of the LGBTQ community is not a topic commonly found in video games. But this is the reason they chose this topic. “While we all have our author responsibility towards depicting respectful and believable characters of any color, gender, or sexual orientation in games, we still don’t see enough production addressing this diversity as something trivial,” said Maler. “We’re hoping to provide a fair and accurate representation of the lives of LGBT teenagers, through the tiny and seemingly mundane secrets hidden in a smartphone; not as a checklist that gets filled nor as a passing joke.”
A few prototypes of this game were released before the launch and some testers have made important changes to their lives. There have been “stories of people who found the courage to come out to their relatives; testimonies of players who reevaluated their acts and beliefs, understanding that some of their behaviors were actually homophobic,” said Maler. “But without even taking into account the message of tolerance told by the game, it seems that simply playing a game where the goal is to explore another person’s intimate life is truly disturbing for some players. Whatever sticks after someone stops playing, it will surely be something that raises questions, and bears honest feelings.”