I resisted playing Arkane Studios’ Dishonored series for several years. I dislike playing games in the first person — I prefer a little distance. In 2018, I do a favour for a friend, and make an attempt anyway.
Here’s a fact about Dishonored: it really, really thinks I should care about straight people. Here’s another fact about Dishonored: it really, really wants me to invest, in the first person, in an aristocratic revenge story. Corvo Attano takes revenge for the death of his lover, Empress Jessamine Kaldwin. Empress Emily Kaldwin fights to retake her throne.
Dishonored and Dishonored 2 are, on the whole, pretty straightforward and often uncomfortable power fantasies. I read myself instead into the gaps, into all the liminal places left by the sorcery that powers the games’ action. I feel, intensely, that I’m reading against the narrative. I think of the Outsider, the human representation of the void beyond Dishonored’s world, as a queer figure, unknowable, acting in ways that feel arbitrary when looked at straight on. …