In my video game class in January, I had to do a group presentation about a video game with a rich storyline. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to talk about Undertale.
The story is the reason I fell in love with Undertale. Instead of talking about that (I’ll do that in another post I promise!), I want to talk about the diversity in the game and why I think it is so important. This is really where I think this game shines above other games with good plots. This game is progressive without shoving it in your face. It normalizes these identities. They aren’t the only points of personality for the characters. They aren’t used as jokes, they aren’t questioned, and they aren’t hidden.
To start; let’s talk about Frisk. Frisk is the child that you play as. Normally, protagonists in video games are either male or female. Sometimes you even get to choose which. When I started Undertale however, to me, it wasn’t clear to me when I first saw them. So, I personally didn’t assign a gender to Frisk after that. I think this is the first time I’ve ever done this while playing a game. In my opinion, I see Frisk as a non-binary gendered child. I honestly had no clue others saw them that way too until I began to talk to others about the game. I didn’t even notice that they are referred to with they pronouns in the game until someone mentioned it. Their gender doesn’t matter to the gameplay itself, but it’s the representation of this identity that we don’t see in many other games.
Secondly, there is a confirmed couple made up of two females. This relationship is awkward, cute, and healthy! It’s not used just for fan service! While I don’t really like giving identities to characters; Alphys is a bisexual character (as she has had a crush on a male character in the past) and Undyne is a lesbian character (or hasn’t shown interest in anyone besides Alphys). The best part of all of this is it’s not told in codes or implied, it’s explicitly stated.
As you play, at least in the pacifist and neutral runs, you actually help their relationship begin by accidently going on a date with Alphys. It’s a really cute and emotional story, and at the end of it, you see Undyne vowing to help Alphys work through her depression and low self-esteem. It’s not the perfect happy ending; it’s a realistic one. They have a lot of work to do but they want to work together. That’s how real relationships work. No relationship is perfect and no relationship can be a magic cure for the problems you face. Honestly, more female couples deserve endings like these two get instead of getting killed off (aka the 100, I’m still bitter).
Also, there is a character called the “one true hero.” It takes a while in the game until we find out that that hero is actually a queer fish lady, Undyne. With how ‘heroes’ are in most media that I grew up with, I was shocked to find out this character is female (a queer female too!). While more representation of females being their own heroes has been seen recently, I think Undyne stands out. For one, she’s queer. Two, we see her strong side, but we also see her loving and supporting side. She’s different, she’s quirky, and she’s strong but also caring.
Not just progressive in its LGBT+ characters, this game also addresses depression and other mental illnesses. There’s more than one character with depression and other illnesses, but I want to focus on Alphys for this post.
Alphys is depressed and suffers from anxiety. In the past, she did a lot of things she regrets now, and these feelings really affect her now. In order to avoid too many spoilers, I won’t talk about what she did, but it was morally wrong in many people’s eyes. She often questions her choices now because of it and has trouble talking to others. Her self-esteem is low, she hates herself, and she assumes others don’t like her. As I stated above, it’s Undyne who appears and doesn’t offer a cure, but rather offers her support to Alphys. I love that we get to see mentally ill characters in this game because we also get to see other character’s support and love towards their depressed friends.
In this post, I only talked about positives of this game and its representation. Of course, I know this game isn’t perfect. I could probably write another post just about negatives and problems, but I’m not going to. For now, I want to focus on the positives of this amazing game. This game proves you can have queer or mentally ill characters that are still interesting without having to use these parts of their identities as their whole personalities. Games with LGBT+ characters sell! What a shock!