Independent game company Bloom Digital Media is bringing their flagship title LongStory, an LGBTQ+ inclusive game, to the Nintendo Switch in North America and Europe on December 6. LongStory was first released on Google Play and the App Store in 2014, and has since received one million downloads worldwide and was featured on the App Store during Global Pride Week 2018.
The dating sim game has an eight episode story arc, set at the weirdly lovable Weasel Heights Middle School. It lets you pick your gender designation and pronouns, as well as who, or even if, you would like to date any of your romanceable friends. In addition to the pains and pleasures of romance, LongStory offers players the chance to reflect on complex issues including consent, coming out, social anxiety, and bullying – all in a safe environment.
Miriam Verburg, creator and executive producer of Bloom Digital Media, says most relationship games reinforce negative stereotypes.
“Teens need a game that feels authentic,” says Verburg. “They are living in the twenty-first century and they need a romantic game that reflects their reality. LongStory provides an opportunity for players to take control of their choices and their experience.”
According to the National Post, 10% of young Canadians aged 18-34 identify as LGBTQ+, and according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, those who identify as LGBTQ+ face higher risks for some mental health issues due to the effects of discrimination and the social determinants of health.
Bloom Digital Media announced their second title at the Queerness and Games conference in Montreal last September, Later Daters. It is an inclusive interactive romance game featuring a cast of quirky seniors in search of love at an independent living residence. It is as a humorous and narrative-driven game that explores lessons on love, life and loss. Much like how The Golden Girls has experienced a renaissance amongst a whole new generation of viewers, the lessons in Later Daters will resonate with gamers of all ages.
Bloom Digital Media was founded by Miriam Verburg, who has won several awards for their innovative games, and has been featured in publications such as VICE, Huffington Post, attn, and the Globe and Mail. Verburg is a strong advocate for promoting female talent within Ontario’s game industry, through her participation in organizations like Dames Making Games, Interactive Ontario and as a sessional faculty member at Centennial and Humber College. Despite comprising 50% of the game consumer population, women are still underrepresented as game developers.
“Bloom Digital Media well represents how Peterborough’s startups are staying ahead of the game for technology innovation,” says Michael Skinner, President & CEO of the Innovation Cluster. “Tackling social issues within the games space raises the bar for the industry as a whole.”
According to Newzoo’s Global Games Market Report, 2.3 billion gamers across the globe will spend $137.9 billion on games in 2018. This represents an increase of +13.3% from the year before, or $16.2 billion. Digital game revenues will take 91% of the global market with $125.3 billion.