IIn any other world he would be the bad guy: pretty, British, sarcastic, opinionated, queer coded. But not here. Not in Underworld. Zagreus is your hero, your anti-hero. And it was made like that. This self-confident – but strangely empathetic – prince of the Greek underworld is both irritating and devilishly kind. And he’s also bisexual. Sure.
“With Zagreus, he is not a character of our invention: little is known about the god himself – and some of the stories about him are quite contradictory and strange, such as his connection to the god of wine and wine. debauchery, Dionysus, “says Creative Director of Supergiant Games, Greg Kasavin. “But we had something to work with. With Zagreus, we were creating a “power fantasy” character, right? He’s a God, he’s faster, he’s stronger, he’s prettier than most of us, he knows how to say all the right things at the right time.
Zagreus was designed for you – the player character – to have fun with. Whether you’re rushing with the bow that pierced the hearts of three titans at once eons ago or just chatting with your staunch fan watching you from the seats of a crowded stadium as you stand at the- Above your fallen enemy, Zagreus is designed to be cool. He is suave, quick-witted and mean. He’s sexy without being dirty. Charming, but fallible. He is all that I truly aspire to be.
And he’s probably one of the best examples of a bisexual character in the game, too. There is a strange dichotomy when it comes to bisexual portrayal in the media; we are either completely ignored and neglected or portrayed as outrageous and greedy hedonists who value physical validation over emotional connection. With Zagreus, we see a sensitive and caring lover – motivated by more than mere carnal desire – whether you choose to romanticize Thanatos (the physical embodiment of death), Megeara (the first boss and one of the Furies) or Dusa. (apparently Medusa’s disembodied floating head). Seeing a bisexual character, and especially a bisexual male character, presented in this way is heartening – and maybe that’s one of the reasons the game is so successful LGBTQ +.
“Zagreus being bisexual has always been intentional during development,” says Greg Kasavin of Supergiant Games. “With the frame in particular, it makes sense; the values of the United States or the United Kingdom or anywhere else in 2021 are not the same as those of ancient Greece. As a work of fantasy fiction, essentially, we have the ability to create a world with values that are not necessarily the same as the ones we know. It would be boring. What good is a fantasy world with exactly the same rules and values as the one we live in? And I think the opportunity to create a world free from some of the same types of prejudices and apprehensions that exist in our world today is refreshing, as a creator.
Supergiant was not interested in making the archetypal antihero character with Zagreus, in the same way he was not interested in doing the supporting cast of Underworld neither are your typical non-player characters. The result is a vibrant and engaging cornucopia of gods and heavenly deities who each have their own defined personalities and deep veins of interpersonal history that dot each of your potentially endless parts with personality, mythological anecdotes and drama. You want to know these characters. Some of them you want to get to know intimately.
“It was really important to us that each of Zagreus ‘relationships throughout the game was different: the role of every unique character in the story is to present a different dimension of the world, as well as of Zagreus’ personality. With the combination of all the different characters, you hopefully get a rich sense of the setting – and the characters themselves can feel fully realized, ”Kasavin explains.
Bisexual portrayal in games is often criticized as being “gamer-sexual”; potential mates of different genders will be attracted to you because you are the gamer, not because they are gay themselves. Using broader interpersonal dialogues to flesh out Underworld“Supergiant Games sidesteps this issue and makes it clear that Dusa, Megaera, and Thanatos are specifically drawn to Zagreus, not you.
“We also have little moments where the characters interact with each other, not just Zagreus, right? It is very important for us to create the feeling that the world does not revolve just around you, the player. These characters exist; they are people and they exist in this world.
This is never clearer than in the various dialogue options that manifest if you choose to romanticize both Thanatos and Megaera, taking Zagreus down the polyamorous road. Megaera – known as the Fury who punishes jealousy, of all things – tells Zagreus to dismiss concerns about her love for both of them, that she is tough and independent enough to face his affection. being divided into two (or more) ways.
And given that Zagreus and Megeara’s relationship exists in a semi-sadistic ‘crush your crush’ setup in the first place, these lines all serve to strengthen her character and personality. Given that there’s even a narrative thread you can pull that leads to the healthiest trio in the game (if Zagreus plays his cards right), it looks like Supergiant has given some thought to his stance on his characters’ romance and sexuality. . These scenes don’t exist just to titillate; they advance everyone’s story. In a few simple lines of dialogue, Supergiant establishes some of the best polyamorous portrayals in the game. And it all feels so natural in the world of Underworld.
“When the time came for Zagreus to have a relationship with Megara and Thanatos – and how they interact at this point – it made sense to [go the polyamorous route], especially in this context. It didn’t make sense to do it any other way, I would say. They are Gods! Their value system is different, and they don’t face the kind of challenges that come with being the person they want to be – and being with the people they want to be with – in this world.
“This is how we eliminated certain stereotypes. […] Zagreus being potentially multi-marbled, as a particular detail it wasn’t necessarily there at the start of development, and it’s something that evolved as we developed the game, ”Kasavin explains. “And [his sexuality] also happens to be authentic to ancient Greece – one of the most compelling questions I have found while writing Underworld wondered “how has society changed in three thousand years?” How has that not changed? In what ways has he even potentially backed down? “
“[Despite these relationships], there is still a lot of conflict in the game, including interpersonal conflicts, between Hades and Zagreus. But it’s never a conflict based on who people like; it is something that does not concern the people of this world. It’s just accepted.
The nature of the stories in other Supergiant games, Bastion, Transistor and Pyre, spoke of acceptance and understanding, making the communities that come together around them warm and welcoming places for queer players. While Supergiant’s person-centered narratives can sometimes be driven by a more traumatic undercurrent (watching you, Transistor), the studio became known for its kindness. For Kasavin, this is not unintentional.
“As a person with a very pessimistic view of the world in real life, I have no choice but to find a hopeful future path in my writing. With something like Underworld, it was an exploration of how these types of terrible family issues could potentially be resolved over time. And there is irony in that: because these people are immortal and have unlimited time. We ask if, with unlimited time, you could troubleshoot and fix issues, and we assume so, you could. “
Representing polyamory and bisexuality without relying on harmful tropes made Underworld a game of the decade – not to mention the game of the year – for me personally, and I know a lot of other queer people feel the same way. Turns out what I really needed from a game all these years was a bisexual power fantasy that made me feel like god. Who knew?
Hades is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC. It will launch on Xbox and PlayStation on August 13.