It Will Be Hard is an independent, choose-your-own-adventure, interactive comic about two men falling in love. In a year that has already seen a gay, single dad dating simulator, as well as a subversive BDSM power fantasy visual novel, video games are now representing more diverse queer communities than ever before. In the same vein, this unashamedly queer narrative about two men and their relationships to their bodies looks to help reinvent body image and conventional attractiveness in the queer community.
For It Will Be Hard’s comic artist Hien Pham and developer John Kane, representation is everything. A story for people separate from the “default settings for everything,” It Will Be Hard is told in a sex-positive tone that promotes all lengths of sexual and physical expression.
“There’s not enough stories presenting diverse bodies in physical or sexual intimate situations,” Pham tells SBS Sexuality. “Right now it’s just a story where diverse bodies get to be sexual and men get to be vulnerable. It’d be really great if we could be a part in pushing these ideas forward.”
“There’s not a lot of media telling larger bodied people that they’re accepted, let alone attractive,” he continues.
“It’s still surprisingly rare to show men having complex emotional relationships [with] each other,” adds Kane. “Men with non-Hollywood body types even more so. It’s something complex and realistic that I’m keen to see more of in games, comics and other media.”
In this way, the main characters of It Will Be Hard, Harold and Arthur, reflect polar opposite attitudes to intimacy, sexuality and relationships within the queer community. As a grey asexual, Arthur struggles with control of his body, while Harold, a burlier man, enjoys sexual intimacy. That duality, Pham says, is at the core of both their relationship and the narrative.
“The big theme is control of your body and your identity, and having respect for other’s bodies and their identities,” says Pham. “They love each other and for it to be emotionally and physically fulfilling, they need to figure out the middle-grounds and how to make it work.”
“Arthur’s story involves him not feeling like he’s in control of his body because people dismiss that part of his identity as non-existent, or that he’s just making up excuses not to have sex,” he continues. “As a grey ace myself, it’s not uncommon for people to think aces don’t exist because ‘sex is natural’. Yes, some asexuals don’t have sex at all, others can and do participate in sexual activities; that’s entirely up to the person.”
Meanwhile, Pham continues, “Harold likes being able to share his body with his partner and being able to connect in this way. Being a dude with a bigger body comes with a lot of unprompted comments and complaints from other people. His journey is knowing that he has value as a human being and that he’s perfectly fine. For him to improve himself in any manner he wants, he needs to love himself first.”
The game – which is just finished a Kickstarter campaign - has been welcomed by enormous support from the LGBT+ community, who are humbled to see depictions of themselves portrayed as attractive and sexually exploratory.
Pham first showed the comic to friends at a local comic-making meetup in Perth, recalling that the game began a lot of conversations about how sex is depicted in pop culture. After exhibiting a demo at Blushbox Collective’s XXXhibition - which provides a space for games that promote sex, love and intimacy - Pham recalls one player’s description of sex in the game as “luxurious” with pride.
“They really loved the way it unravelled kind of slowly with the light interactivity in it, [and] thought the intimacy was treated with kindness and preciousness,” he recalls. “They said that they kept falling in love with the characters, which was a comment that really warmed my heart.”
“Even showing characters in a relationship is more interesting than just showing the start of one,” adds Kane. “Hollywood and mainstream game romances tend to end at the first kiss or sex scene. They don’t go into having a relationship at all, let alone with enough depth to talk about what it means when those people want or need different things and need to work together.”
After a successful Kickstarter campaign ending on the 4th of September, It Will Be Hard crowdfunded more than double the pledged amount of $3,500. As such, Pham says the comic won’t be ready till April next year.