Welcome to Postgame, Sidequest’s monthly Patreon-exclusive podcast, where the editors lay down hot takes on cold games. We’ll be posting short excerpts from the podcast to the site as we release new episodes—if they grab you, consider tossing us a couple bucks a month to hear the full episodes!
In this episode, we manage to warm up for a second and talk about one relatively spicy game: Supergiant’s recent blockbuster, Hades! More specifically, we talk about the widespread appeal of ancient myth, the humanity-long tradition of retelling, and how even a game we like as much as Hades can still drop the ball in pretty important ways.
Melissa Brinks: Yeah, I think that, as critics—to take a very slightly different tack—I think as critics it is worth it to draw attention, at times, to what the discrepancies are.
Zora Gilbert: Yeah, of course.
Melissa: Less because I think it’s fun to poke holes in things—because I don’t—and more because I can’t expect everybody on earth to have a grasp of what relationships between men were like in ancient Greece, especially because popular discourse suggests that Achilles and Patroclus were just gay, end of story. Now, that might that might be true, right? That might—I don’t fucking know, I’m not ancient Greek. For all I know, they really were just super in love with each other and there was nothing shady about the dynamics of their relationship whatsoever. But it is a good opening to discuss things like, hey, it’s more complicated than that in ancient Greece, right? Because a lot of times people will say something like, “Oh, well, you know, in ancient Greece, it was okay to be gay.” And it’s like it wasn’t actually. It was acceptable for men to be together in certain circumstances, but not all of them. And also, like, women weren’t allowed to do anything at all. So like, we can’t say it’s good.
Zora: Yeah. But and then also, at the same time, though, there is that queer lineage. Just because it wasn’t acceptable for people to express queerness in the same way that we express queerness and the associated identities and behaviors today, doesn’t mean that people that shared like, identity experience didn’t exist.
Melissa: And I think that’s something that is really wonderful about the amount of Greek literature that survives, because we do have like Sappho fragments, right, that do give us that lineage of queerness that we may not get as clearly from other source texts.
Zora: Yeah, I mean, I’m saying all this, but I edit an anthology of queer historical fiction, right? And every single part of that title is important. Like, it’s queer, it’s historical, and it’s fiction. And our guiding factors with Dates—Dates is the anthology—is that we don’t want tragic endings, which means, in some cases, being ahistorical, because our interest is not in telling history, but allowing people to access and like internalize that lineage of identities that we would now interpret as queer. Even if, you know, like, we don’t necessarily have lesbians being like—no, I’m actually I’m going to reference a different story. Maybe there aren’t a lot of stories about trans women doing train heists. Maybe that didn’t happen. But it’s fun to see it. And it’s similarly fun to see Achilles being like, a gay or queer character having a relationship that doesn’t make my brain scream in a modern game.
Melissa: Especially because there is tragedy in the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus in Hades itself, but the tragedy is not a result of their queerness. And I think that that in that level of interpretation, too, is important. The idea that like, it’s not sad because they’re gay. It’s sad because it’s fucking sad. And that also is part of the—that should be part of the fabric, I think, of queer stories that we tell, too. It’s not tragedy because they’re gay, it’s tragedy because sometimes the world is tragic.
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Theme music is Bass Thee by Alexander Nakarada, used under Creative Commons 0.
Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.