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All the Recent ‘Disco Elysium’ Queerbaiting is Just a Front for Corporate Greed

The loading screen of Disco Elysium, as designed by Aleksandr Rostov.

If you’re at all interested in the video game Disco Elysium, you’ve probably seen a whole lot of homoerotic fanart lately surrounding the game’s two protagonists, Harry Du Bois and Kim Kitsuragi. This is because the game set up their relationship in a way that was beautifully subtle and effective, resulting in one of the most well-written dynamics in video games to date.

But maybe you’ve also seen the company that owns the game itself milk this relationship lately, to an almost obsessive degree. Maybe you’ve seen their recent announcement of a “Collage Mode,” where you can play around with the character models like dolls and make them say and do whatever you want. They specifically advertise this new feature as a means to create “completely new dramas from unforgivable punch-ups to fruity yet forbidden kisses.”

Even in normal circumstances, this would seem … incredibly weird, especially given the context of the game. Yes, we love being gay, and we love free love, but that isn’t the point here. The point is they’re milking the most marketable aspect of the game, which is only one part of it, and in doing so, they’re diminishing the overtly anti-capitalist themes present throughout the entire game. Why, then, are they doing this?

Because “Rainbow Capitalism” is a very quick and easy way to distract from your seedy legal troubles:

As we covered a while back, the original writers and artists behind Disco Elysium (the ZA/UM Cultural Association) were unjustly ousted from their publishing company at large (ZA/UM Studio), and thus lost the rights to this beautiful world THEY made after years of writing and plotting. Details have since come out that basically paint a grim, painfully disco image: The majority shareholders started investing in Elysium’s success in a way that’s reminiscent of a pump and dump scheme, and the original creators were unhappy with this as it robbed them of a great deal of control and financial compensation. When confronted, the studio seemingly responded by firing these creators and then alleging that the firing was due to instances of workplace misconduct.

There’s currently no way for us to definitively understand what exactly transpired in that studio, and we cannot rely solely on hearsay. Stripping away all of that, we’re still left with a story of financial recklessness that has resulted in an incredibly messy, fraught legal battle, one which the studio has gone to great lengths to minimize for the sake of optics.

Hence, Collage Mode drops on the same day that the creators make a statement that the legal battle is still ongoing. In an attempt to save face, they’re trying to distract and appeal to fans with the drooling candor of a hungry dog. It’s pathetic, as well as incredibly facetious.

You can love Harry and Kim, and their relationship—I’m not trying to take that away from anyone. I’m just urging caution surrounding this company and how we engage with it moving forward. By all means, make your own art, write your own fics, replay the game to your heart’s content. But this will likely not be the last stupid bullshit stunt ZA/UM Studio pulls, and allowing yourself to get swept up in their shallow attempts to milk this IP will only continue to cheapen what actually made Disco Elysium beautiful.

(featured image: ZA/UM)

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Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).