Game Log 2 – 3: Queering Soccer with Cars

Recently, we talked in class about the concept of ‘queerness’ in games.  In her writing, scholar Colleen Macklin argued that Queerness can manifest itself in games in a number of ways, besides the community outside the game identifying as queer.  In class we elaborated on this specifically in the game itself.  Gameplay can be queer.  The narrative itself can also be queer in how it is told.

 

Now, you probably are confused as to how a game about cars playing soccer could possess any sort of queerness.  But I’d argue quite the contrary.  When you think of a game like Rocket League conceptually, you’d probably initially expect it to be hyper-masculine.  Cars, particularly racing games, are usually targeted towards men, typically featuring things like scantily-clad start girls and super “macho” cars.  The same can be said for games like Madden and Fifa who focus their marketing towards men.  Thus, if I were to tell you you were going to play a game that involved both, you’d probably think this was a real MAN’s MAN GAME.

Team Rocket GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

However, on a gameplay level, the combination of cars with soccer is kind of queering the idea of a traditional soccer game.  Playing soccer with a car results in a lot of erratic movement and passing.  This challenge the fluid and controlled movement of a traditional soccer game.

 

Rocket League isn’t in the business of catering to heteronormativity and masculinity.  As an example, look no further than the car customization system that sits at the center of the game.  

 

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As you play matches, you acquire gear to customize your car.  In most car games, you’d expect to be able to change the color of your car, add a huge muffler, maybe put some flames on the side, or improving the performance of your car.  In Rocket League, everyone’s car is the same.  The important thing is to stand out and be unique.  As a result, you end of with all sorts of crazy cars that are stellar exemplifications of self-expression.  These cars don’t have to be hyper masculine, bending to heteronormative expectation.  They also defy the expectation of conformity in sports like soccer, the idea that we have to sacrifice individuality for the success of the larger group.

 

And the developers didn’t hide this customization feature, it sits front and center. Customizing your car, being unique and standing out, are the only true measures of progression in this game.  There are no experience points or awards to be sought, the only thing you gain from playing matches is more cool gear to customize your car.  They clearly wanted being different to be a point of emphasis in this game.

Rocket League Slipstream GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I think that ultimately you can call Rocket League a queer game because of the way it subverts heteronormative expectations of what a car or racing game, “should be”.  The idea of customizing your player avatar is not necessarily new in games, but it’s presence as a prominent feature in a car/sports game, especially in such a way that emphasizes creative freedom and expression, is certainly something to get excited about!

Source: Game Log 2 – 3: Queering Soccer with Cars

Game Log 1 – 3: Rocket League: Explosions & Adrenaline

For my third category of game for my game log, I chose Rocket League. The game is pretty simple. You play a variation of 2 v 2, 3 v 3, etc soccer as a car. As you might imagine, controlling a car to volley, pass, and shoot like you would as a human being in a soccer game is difficult. In fact, somewhat similar to Peggle, this game uses a difficulty curve, albeit a much sharper one, to get you hooked. I’ve played Rocket League before, but I was pretty rusty. My first few games involved lots of me missing the ball, overhitting passes, and overshooting the goal with frustrating inaccuracy. Thankfully, I gradually become more competent and began being matched with better players. After a while, the gap between my play and that of my opponents became immense again, and not in my favor.

These guys were driving on the walls, speeding around the map, and essentially exploring dimensions of the game totally outside of my capability. I felt good enough to not feel inept at the game. However, there was a clear reward for putting in more time to refine skills. In other words, this game had a relatively low barrier to entry giving the player a sense of accomplishment when achieving a sort of basic competency, but there’s also serious depth!

This game also had some serious juiciness that made the action exciting. Whenever you score a goal in Rocket League, the ball doesn’t just hit the back of the net. It creates a huge explosion that blows all that players goals in the opposite direction of the goal with seismic force, all in SLOW MOTION. It was like playing an action movie….playing soccer…as a car.

The world of Rocket League takes place in a diverse array of arenas. These levels differ in not only appearance but also gameplay-impacting level design. This provided a sort of variety to the game as I honed my skills within the same gameplay mode. This awesome combination of gameplay mechanic design and visual juiciness and variance created an addicting experience, as I intended to only play for 30 minutes and ended up playing for much much longer.

Source: Game Log 1 – 3: Rocket League: Explosions & Adrenaline