Bertil Hörberg

Queerly Represent Me spoke with Bertil about his work as an indie developer.

QRM: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do in the games industry?

Bertil: My name is Bertil Hörberg, creator of the Gunman Clive games. I'm a 34 years old gay indie developer, living in a small town in Sweden called Skövde.

QRM: How long have you been involved in the game industry, and what projects have you worked on? What are you working on currently?

Bertil: I've been in the games industry for 12 years. I started off as a programmer, working at various studios and on different games, most noteworthy Bionic Commando Rearmed in 2008. In 2011 I started my own indie studio, creating the Gunman Clive games as a solo developer, and I'm now heading a small team creating an as-of-now unannounced action platformer for Nintendo Switch.

QRM: What inspired you to get started in the games industry?

Bertil: Video games has been my biggest passion since I was very young and I've been wanting to create games ever since I was kid. I started programming and attempting to do so when I as around 11 years old. Back then there wasn't exactly a clear career path into the games industry, which barely existed in my country, but that didn't stop me from dreaming and trying to make way too ambitious games for my abilities. When I left high school there were a few newly started university programs in game development in Sweden; I still didn't quite believe it was very realistic to work with video games but somehow it worked out.

QRM: In what ways do you feel your experiences as a queer person manifest in the games you work on, and influence the work you do?

Bertil: To be honest, so far it hasn't been a huge influence. For most of my life I've identified more with the general nerd culture than with the gay scene and seen my sexuality as something secondary. It's only in the last few years that really I've started to realize that I have a need to embrace that part of me and started getting tired of heteronormative storytelling and lacking diversity.

QRM: Do you have a favourite queer character—in games or media more generally? If so, what is it about them that makes them your favourite?
Question asked by @kamienw.

Bertil: I think Bill from The Last of Us was very well written. I'm hesitant to call him a favorite when his sexuality was only relatively subtly mentioned, but I have a hard time thinking of anyone else that I really liked right now. Outside of gaming I have a soft spot for Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who/Torchwood.

QRM: Have you ever encountered roadblocks in trying to include queer characters in games? What do you think is preventing greater diversity within games?
Question asked by @dustinalex91.

Bertil: As an indie developer I have complete control and can only blame myself for not including more diverse content. My games have not been very story focused and in Gunman Clive I simply opted for a damsel in distress story as the absolutely simplest way to get the game going. It was only in the fifth release of the game (Gunman Clive HD Collection for Wii U) that I finally included a gay kiss.

I think a lot of the time it's just easier for developers not to do it. I do hope that the time when it was avoided for fear of homophobic backlash is over (at least for secondary characters).

QRM: Why do you think it is important that queer audiences are able to see themselves represented in the games they play, and in the developers who make the games they see? What can we do to improve the industry for queer audiences and devs?

Bertil: The media we consume helps shape our view of the world so it's important not only for queer people to see good representation of themselves, but for other people as well to see that we exist.

It's also important for queer nerds who don't necessarily feel at home in the more traditional gay scene, like myself when I was growing up, to feel they have a place in the gaming community without having to conform to a fully heteronormative worldview.

QRM: Have you ever mentored somebody in your role in games, or been mentored? If so, what made these experiences worthwhile for you?
Question asked by @pepelanova.

Bertil: No, I've mostly been finding my own path, but maybe it's time to start passing down some of my experiences to the next generation of developers.

QRM: In what ways can non-queer folk increase and support queer diversity present within games, as well as in the industry more broadly? How can we all work to support intersectional approaches to diversity, and why is this important?

Bertil: I think it's in the best interest of every developer to be as inclusive as possible in order to create richer stories and reach broader markets, and it can't just be up to the queer people on the team to push for representation. Unlike some other minorities, queer people exist in every country and in every culture, so it's hard to ever argue that the inclusion wouldn't make sense (though it's portrayal will vary greatly depending on setting). And in every market you're selling the game there will be queer people looking for representation.

QRM: Is there a message that you would like to share with the queer game players, game studies researchers, and other interested folks who comprise the Queerly Represent Me community?

Bertil: Keep supporting queer content and queer creators, and demand better out of developers; there is still far too little queer representation in games.


Find Bertil on Twitter.