When the first Butterfly Soup came out back in 2017, it was a surprise hit among queer gamers, who were enthralled by its diverse cast of gay teens, its anarchic humor and poignant exploration of the intersections between sexuality, gender, and race — all centered around Were. The Joys of Baseball. Games like this are still far from the norm and five years ago Butterfly Soup felt like a landmark game for those yearning to represent themselves and their experiences on screen.
A sequel arrived in 2022 and this time it was far from emerging out of nowhere but instead thrown into the waiting arms of an eager audience, I being one of them. But a lot has happened between the releases of these games, both in terms of events in the world and industry, with a somewhat bizarre representation of the time since the original Butterfly Soup. The sequel to this landmark game comes in a very different scenario from the first.
“When I started, I felt alone,” said Brianna Ley, creator of Butterfly Soup. “There was no Western visual novel that looked like what I was trying to make. The closest thing I had as a reference was Brendan Hennessey’s 2015 text adventure Birdland. I felt like I was wandering into uncharted territory . Or as I was driving. A restaurant I’d never been to before, without GPS.” By her estimation, things have improved a lot and she is happy that its sequel has come with more company. “Weird visual novels have become so common that some of them were released close enough to Butterfly Soup 2. It’s as if others had joined me in the woods I got lost in, and together we The footsteps have made a trail in the dirt. Don’t think of me any longer as some mad woman mumbling to herself in the woods!”
With the rising tide of diverse indie games, I asked if there were any quirky games in particular from the past few years that she was influenced by. “I’ve loved Brendan Hennessy’s latest text adventure, The Grown-Up Detective Agency! It’s a really cleverly executed short story about a gay private investigator who has to solve a case with his time-traveling twelve-year-old self.” is forced to resolve. It captures the heartache. Gay unrequited childhood love so good!” Brianna points to work beyond the game as well and I’m over the moon to find another companion for Gideon the Ninth fan in the woods. “I’m also a big fan of Tamsin Muir’s The Locked Tomb, a series of novels about gay necromancers in space. It’s not a videogame, but the author was influenced by visual novels like 999 and Higurashi, and it shows. Is!”
A lot can change in a few years. When I was growing up, gay media was scarce and treasured representation was often deeply imperfect. What influences helped Brianna create Butterfly Soup? Surprisingly, the TV show Skins. “It came out when I was in high school and I was shocked by how weird it was for its time. The show certainly had its flaws, but how it drew attention to its teenage characters something really stuck with me in I. Each episode focused on. A different character – episode 1 was Tony, episode 2 was how, and so on. The chapter format of Butterfly Soup was inspired by that. Yet the series’ shortcomings were its The successes were just as impressive.” My high school experience was completely devoid of the wild parties and drugs its characters were involved in, so a lot of their problems were foreign to me. And all the weird characters were white. It made me long to see a story where the lives of Asian-American teenagers were portrayed as vividly as the lives of white British teenagers were in Skins.”
Despite Skins’ influence, the direct inspiration for Butterfly Soup came during Brianna’s time in college. “I became obsessed with sports anime like Free!, Oofuri, and Haikyuu! Since I was majoring in videogame design, I thought, “I want to make a game about an all-girls baseball team! The idea was so dear to me that I didn’t want to “use” it on class projects, so I started developing it in my spare time. I would sketch characters on the bus or subway on my way to work and class. .
This act of making butterfly soup in his spare time was something that changed a lot between the development of the first and second games. “For most of the making of the first game, I had a super long subway commute that I used to sketch the characters,” she explains. In between games, she got a job driving a car. “Suddenly, I could only listen to audiobooks on my commute! My drawing time had completely evaporated. So unfortunately my drawing abilities reached all new lows at some point. But perhaps in return, I became smarter because of the audiobooks.” Done?”
Given its significance to Butterfly Soup, I had to ask an important question, perhaps the most important of all: Is baseball the gayest sport? “I’m going to say something controversial here: I think baseball is the funniest and most romantic sport in the world, but I don’t think it’s a contender for the gayest sport.” I am surprised! “In my opinion, softball, bouldering and soccer all have it beat.” With the recent World Cup, Brianna is more confident than ever. “I just saw a video of a soccer player hugging his opponent and sexily biting his neck.” As an avid climber myself though I am proud to see bouldering take on such a high rank. “I’m very curious what draws everyone to it! *Personally, I’m allergic to sports that highlight my lack of upper body strength, so I just stick with running ” And I asked but no, Brianna hasn’t seen the gay baseball show, A League of Their Own, yet.
Humor is an essential part of Butterfly Soup and it is something that seems innate. As someone who finds comedy difficult to write, I thought, how does Brianna find the jokes to write for these games? Easier than being serious, it turns out. “For example, when Noelle lashes out during the game, I thought Krissa would feel very self-satisfied if she managed to pull out a wise, encouraging quote like a coach in a sports movie,” she says. “But really, she’s a kid and only wants to do something for a second, so she says, ‘Did you try that? Yes. But did you fail? Also yes.” If I hadn’t made a joke of the moment, Chrissa would have said something really profound… which means I must have been thinking deeply. The game would probably still be in development if I wrote that! Me To be able to handle it would require a new brain.” For Brianna, she’s more impressed with people who can manage a serious tone. “I think it takes a lot of courage to tell an honest story without even a little bit of humor to hide behind.”
So much of the humor comes from the chaotic teenagers of the game. What attracted Brianna to that time in people’s lives? Why this young man? “When you’re a teenager, everything feels so intense because you’re experiencing so many situations and emotions for the first time. And because they’re so new to you, you react to those things in completely boisterous ways.” do. The first time your crush calls you cute, it’s the best thing on earth. The first time someone confronts you for saying the wrong thing, it’s the end of the world. There’s really no other time in life Yes, it’s devastatingly messy and it’s a lot of fun to explore as a writer.”
The four leads represent a whole spectrum of queerness, in a way that feels totally organic. How did she arrive at writing them in the context of their diversity? “I intentionally tried to make the four main characters opposite each of the other three on at least one axis. For example, Dia is a star athlete while Noel is an out-of-shape nerd. Dia is big and anxious. while Min is petite and brave. Diya is scared of being thought weird while Akarsh is intentionally weird because he is desperate to attract attention.” The characters constantly being able to challenge and push each other with different world views was an important part. “I think I was particularly successful with Min and Noelle, who are polar opposites in many ways (how much they tolerate risk, how much they value following the rules, how much they love their cultures and mother tongues). How many are in contact with, etc.).” Yet there was the other key ingredient: dumb. “For every way that a character is smart, they need to be outrageously mind-blowing in another way. For example, Noel is a math contest champion, but has an elementary school-level understanding of sex.”
The games, especially the sequel, touch on a wide range of sensitive topics but always with a finesse. Whether it’s family abuse, homophobia or racism, many games stumble upon or avoid all of these issues. Was Brianna worried about dealing with them? “I really try not to write for fear of further upsetting Internet strangers. The original Butterfly Soup was criticized for a variety of things, including Akarsha joking that Communism made it a useless word to use.” Sucks to be able to. The most intense negative reaction. This was from someone who was genuinely disturbed by the depiction of child abuse. First of all, this stuff got to me and I was playing the literary equivalent of Twister writing Butterfly Soup 2 and trying not to upset more people. But eventually, I realized it was an impossible task. My games aren’t for everyone. Stories that explore subjects that traumatize people will always appeal to people. uncomfortable. So yeah… In the end I completely ignored what people said about my first game and just wrote what I wanted to do”
That didn’t mean there wasn’t additional panic though. “I was horrified when Taiwanese sports devotionals were pulled off steam after an outcry over the inclusion of art mocking the Chinese president! Kept in, but I was really on the fence for a hot moment.”
For all the potential controversy, at its heart, Butterfly Soup 1 and 2 are games about queerness, something the world has felt increasingly hostile to lately. How does Brianna feel about making queer art in the present day? “As a creator, the worse things get, the more determined I feel! It’s going to sound weird and cathartic, but I think of writing my games like writing propaganda, but it’s all propaganda that Normalizes being LGBTQ. I am trying to make my next game bigger and more mainstream to control more people.” See it straight, it seems videogames are out to hijack your mind with their homoeroticism.
,[Writer’s note: The buff women. It’s the buff women.]
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