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Fallout creator Tim Cain on his past and future as a gay game developer
Cain looks back on how his experience as a gay man in video games has changed over the years.
June 5, 2023
3 Min Read
Image taken from Cain's YouTube.
[Note: This story contains recollections of homophobia and a brief mention of transphobia.]
Tim Cain, the designer and programmer for InterPlay's Fallout 1 and Fallout 2, uploaded a video on Friday where he spoke candidly about his experience as a gay man in the video game industry. And speaking to his time at InterPlay, he called it a "near-constant level of homophobia."
"I don't think a day went by where someone didn't use 'gay' to mean 'stupid,'" he admitted.
The 20-minute video gives a candid look at how LGBTQ developers were treated in the early days of the industry, and how things have progressed since. Split across his time before and after coming out, Cain recounts how his coworkers at various studios reacted to out developers over his 42-year time in the industry.
At the start of the video, Cain admitted media coverage of the AIDS crisis in the '80s (which would often demonize gay men specifically) made him worried about coming out. The fear of being stigmatized continued into the 2000s, where he was working at Troika Games, the studio he co-founded.
"I was very worried. A lot of the people in the game industry were liberal, but the industry itself was conservative," he explained. "If I come out and Troika doesn't get a contract, it's always gonna be in the back of my mind: 'did we not get a contract because I was out?'"
Even before then, witnessing homophobia made him more reticent about revealing that he was gay. He recalled an instance where, while he was in college, a fellow college student lost financial support after coming out to his father.
"I’ve never before seen a more absolutely dejected and demoralized person," he said of this unnamed student. "Now he had no idea what he was going to do with his life. I don't know what happened to him. [...] That kind of reinforced to me, 'okay, nothing’s safe.'"
Despite everything, Cain is optimistic about the industry's acceptance of the LGBT community
Cain joined WildStar developer Carbine in 2005, and it was the first studio where he was out from the beginning. That felt like a sign of change for him, and he recalled how NCSoft president Robert Garriott once asked him if he experienced any bigotry at the company. "If you do, call me," Garriott apparently said. "We don’t put up with that.”
At Obsidian Entertainment (which he left as a full-time employee back in May) he said he experienced no instances of bigotry at the Outer Worlds studio. He called it "the single-most diverse, inclusive place I ever worked at."
Beginning in 2017, Cain made a dedicated effort to expand his public appearances and talks at game development conferences, in part to show younger LGBT developers how inclusive the industry has become.
"I realized I never once had a mentor who went through what I had," he recalled. "I've never met anyone gay in the industry older than me. I had no mentor, no one to ask questions to. [...] I wanted to at least be out there and talking about things."
While he acknowledged the renewal of widespread homophobia and transphobia in the United States, Cain believed that things have gotten "a lot better" for the game industry in recent decades. He's found that the growing number of LGBTQIA+ game developers has led to an improvement in the industry overall.
"Everything's better," he concluded. "Nothing's worse because of this, and I like that."
About the Author(s)
Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com
A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.
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