By its 2020 release after a long period of early access, indie game Hades immediately won the love of gamers and critics, hitting million sales shortly after the official release, collecting award nominations from numerous game shows and appearances on numerous lists at the end of the year. A roguelike from developer Supergiant follows the Greek demigod Zagreus as he tries to escape the underworld ruled by his titular father while interacting with a host of other Olympian gods and legendary characters drawn from Greek mythology. Apart from the intense and enjoyable gameplay and great art, what really makes Hades brilliance is his excellent and fine writing. This extends to the game’s romantic options, which cleverly and positively show elements of relationships that are rarely touched on in games, namely portraying polyamory and kinks better than many of his peers.
Hades includes three characters that players can draw to Zagreus: Dusa, a hovering gorgon head that dwells in the game’s rest area between runs; Thanatos, the Greek personification of death, who seems to offer challenges and rewards to Zagreus while on the run; and Megaera, one of Fury’s sisters, who appears alongside her siblings as a boss in the first part of the game. Players advance these romances between escape attempts by talking to each character and giving them collectible nectar, unlocking new scenes and deepening their bond.
While this approach to romance is a pretty standard video game gimmick, Hades presents a rarely seen story here, as Dusa will explain at the end of her storyline that while she tried, she has no romantic feelings for Zagreus and the duo settle for a more platonic but equally deep friendship.
Thus, Thanatos and Megaera remain characters with whom Zagreus can enter into a romantic relationship. Players can pursue both characters or neither at their own pace. If players enter into a relationship with both, after a while scene will occur when both Thanatos and Megaera appear in Zagreus’ room along with an offer for everyone to sleep together, after which Megaera states that the three characters “reached an understanding here”, effectively involving the three in a polyamorous relationship.
Simply put, polyamory means having a romantic or sexual relationship with more than one person, with all parties agreeing to an agreement. (It’s also important to note that while Zagreus, Megaera, and Thanatos sleep together, this is not a requirement for polyamory, which is not inherently sexual.) In the conversation they have together, this becomes a status Hades trio until the end of the game.
What’s remarkable about this image is how rare it is to this day in any media, let alone video games. In many romance games, choosing one partner ties you to that romance, and you can’t explore the other at the same time. Players can flirt with multiple characters at the same time, but at some point they will be forced to choose one partner and must break up with him in order to be with someone else, as in mass effect series or Stardew Valley. Manda Farow, co-founder F-square and Twitch streamer, who is herself a polyam, remembers collecting Hades and was amazed by the performance. “It was very, very wonderful to be able to look at these two characters and think that I don’t have to choose because they are both beautiful,” she says. “And they’re both weird and scary and wonderful in their own way.”
In other games where polyamory is possible, it has historically been seen as a joke or behavior deserving punishment (Trish and Yennefer tie up and leave Geralt alone). The Witcher 3 or girlfriends gathered to beat the main character in Persona 5) or completely ignored, with the game never acknowledging that the player is dating or sleeping with multiple characters at all in any meaningful way other than the fact that the player can if they choose to. (newer Assassin’s Creed games are especially guilty of this.) Faro notes the coverage Hades introduced gamers to these types of relationships, saying, “You can look at a number of really great visual novels that are strictly independent [like LGBTQ+ vampire story First Bite]but not many people played them. And they are certainly not as popular as Hades“.
If players pay attention during the aforementioned scene engaging in a polyam relationship, the crack of a whip can be heard after Megaera’s chuckle. This refers to another notable aspect of intimate relationships. Hades depicts that the Megaera and Zagreus relationship is largely coded as a dominance/submission dynamic. AT dominant/subordinate relationship, one person is the “house” and has power and decision making in the relationship, while the other is the “subordinate” and relinquishes power. (It must be said that, as with any relationship, a home/submission relationship involves explicit and active consent, a great deal of communication, and boundaries that are always respected and agreed upon, a point Farow lauds. Hades since the game allows players to opt out of any or all of the relationship dynamics that Zagreus represents.)
AT Hades, Megaera takes over the role of the house, while Zagreus acts as a stand-in. The dynamics are cleverly and naturally written in both the design of the gameplay and in Greek mythology from which the game is taken. As the first boss in the roguelike, Megaera serves as a major hindrance for players and is one of the more frequent bosses to encounter, and her ability to hurt the player naturally fits her characterization as a sadist or pleasure taker. from causing pain. This is also connected with the role of the Furies in mythology, the role of punishers of sinners. “Slapping you in the face is better than waiting to do it,” she tells Zagreus before one of their many fights. Farow notes that all of the characters involved in this dynamic are eminently well-written, allowing both gamers who know about perversions and those less familiar to enjoy the fully realized action and stories. As for Zagreus, he makes it clear that he enjoys their dynamic, putting him in the role of a masochist or pleasure in pain. And as stated above, Vixen clearly loves to use her whip in the bedroom. Having players control Zagreus and fail many times in a tough boss fight is a great way to tie their relationship to what the player is actually doing in the game.
It’s just as important that HadesThe depiction of these aspects themselves is how the surrounding characters react to them. In short, they hardly react. None of these dynamics are seen as unusual or uncouth, they are recognized and treated as undeniably authentic, which they are.
The characters may comment on the novels, but only to point out how happy Zagreus is, or to chide him slightly so that it doesn’t get in the way of his job of escaping the underworld. (No wonder Aphrodite takes great pleasure in all the romantic expressions that Zagreus can find himself in.)
Players from all over the world noticed and appreciated these positive images. Saya Pierce-Jones, a South African LGBT+ activist, says that although they were not aware of the romantic options in advance, Hades, they heard positive feedback about the breadth of the game’s presentation. (Apart from Zagreus’s bisexuality and several gay characters, the ancient being Chaos is non-binary and is always referred to by other characters with they/they pronouns.) This was the main draw for them and their partner, with whom they have a polyamous relationship. Pierce-Jones says the performance is “awesome”, explaining that “you can keep that polyamorous relationship going without getting in the way of the game, and vice versa. The options for exploring the game without prejudice and consequences echo the sentiment of the gay/poly community: as long as there is mutual agreement, you can have as much fun as you want.” They also highlight the game’s wide and unambiguous acceptance as a highlight, noting the importance of Zagreus not facing discrimination based on any of his romantic choices.
Farow agrees and says it also allows gamers to explore their own identities and paves the way for self-discovery. “It might feel like the flip of a switch; it gives them the opportunity to become more of themselves over time.” Farow explains the main conclusion she finds in Hades for other developers, it’s to allow weird and polyamorous characters to exist as fully written creations. “That’s what I love about Hades, and I think that’s something you can dive into in more narrative experiences,” she says. “You can have all these things and all kinds of characters, beautiful, strange, different and great. And all you have to do is just let them be human.”
Credit: www.wired.com /