Dust: An Elysian Tail (www.elysiantail.com) is an independent endeavor that has been steadily gaining hype within the gaming community, most recently earning XNA award honors at the Penny Arcade Expo.
As more and more press have paid due attention to the title, however, I notice many of the responses tend to be two-fold:
1. “You absolutely must check this game out! It’s beautiful! Fluid! A marvel of independent game creation!”
followed almost immediately by:
2. “BUT IT DOESN’T MEAN I’M A FURRY LOL!”
This is seriously the state of things? A game has been discovered that is impressive in both the level of its design and the means of its creation, and some of the people held in highest regard for getting the word out are afraid their audience will think they dress in fuzzy suits and hold dubious relations with strangers behind hotel doors because the artistic style features anthropomorphic characters?
It’s true that the “furry” label carries some heavily negative connotations and stereotypes in many corners of the Internet, so a touch of paranoia may be understandable. And yes, a quick search of the game does yield that the furry community certainly has an eye on it.
But here’s the thing: If a video game has enough merits to qualify it as a potentially great production, then saying so only means that you know potentially great games. Saying Sly Cooper titles are good — or StarFox, Ratchet & Clank, Klonoa, Sam & Max, TMNT, Sonic, I could go on — does not make you a furry, in the same way being a guy who can admit the strong points of Super Princess Peach doesn’t make you a transvestite.
“Furry,” anthropomorphic stuff is not uncommon in professionally made games, many of which are in perfectly accepted gaming canon. The fact that Dust feels to some like it has to be praised while simultaneously maintaining a safe distance from it is nothing short of backhanded.
You know those people who are too quick to equate playing Guitar Hero to playing a real guitar, so they trash on people who simply want to have some fun? Games, like other forms of media, are sometimes best enjoyed when viewed intrinsically and not extrapolated to real-world experience. I’m not saying expanded analysis is never beneficial, but a game should first and foremost be given the benefit of being true only to itself.