RuPaul on drag, games, and those who fear a changing world


Also, Sonic

RuPaul has taken just about every form of media by storm. Film, music, talk shows, reality shows, live performances, comedy, drama: You name it, Ru's tried it. Now she can also scratch game development off the list as well.

Dragopolis 2.0 is a "drag puzzle-action game filled with stunning fashion, challenge, levels, outrageous humor, and more." Yes, in a move that few expected, Dragopolis 2.0 combines aspects of pinball, Bust-A-Move, something akin to Street Fighter X Tekken's gem system, and an evil super villain who hatches a plot to steal all the cutest outfits in town. This may be the closest thing to a Bayonetta puzzle game we ever see.

No one would accuse RuPaul of shying away from self promotion. Thankfully, she was willing to take the time to answer a few of our questions regarding her game, the parallels between videogames and drag, and her similarities with Sonic the Hedgehog. Her answers were relatively brief, aside from the one about Sonic. That one seemed to strike a chord for some reason.  

Ru grew up in an era when arcade gaming was huge. She said her favorites back then including "the usual suspects, but Ms. Pac-Man really stands out for me," which doesn't come as a huge surprise if you've played Dragopolis 2.0. It's simple, like many classic arcade games, but with an aggressive coat of blush and lip gloss affectionately applied to the surface. 

In addressing one of the greatest drag performers in history, my mind naturally wandered to the appeal of drag and what it shares with the appeal of gaming. Both allow you to shed the roles you were born into and take on an identity more reflective of your internal sense of self. Both are about going beyond what reality handed you and reinventing reality as you see fit. Both are often a refuge to "sissies" or "nerds" or others who don't meet our culture's standards around "normal" masculinity, and give them a place of empowerment and belonging.

Ru didn't seem as hot about that idea. When asked about the parallels between drag and gaming, she replied, "The obvious parallels between being a drag performer and a gamer is you get to choose your persona and perfect it by your level of skill. Skill is a huge factor, but the ability to accessorize your identity is also a huge factor."

Ru made a strong point, but I could tell she was more interested in gameplay mechanics than social constructs, which makes sense given her new foray into game development. Maybe the parallels between being in drag and being in a game are only fascinating to someone like me, a permanent resident in the world of gaming, a tourist (at best) to the world of drag.

She showed a little more spark in our discussion of how both gaming and drag have faced their share of xenophobia. I spoke to her with disdain about how changes in gender roles, the content of popular games and seemingly any other challenge to convention can so easily trigger death threats, hate campaigns, or other outpourings of fear.

She seemed all too aware of this process, stating, "Yes, and something tells me that those people live in constant fear anyway. The world is changing and those who are willing to adapt will not be left behind." This is a conversation I'm guessing Ru has had many times over the years, though that steel rod of defiance kept her from becoming slack in her reflections. Standing up to hate is something you should never grow bored of. 

At this point I decide to go for my Hail Mary pass and ask RuPaul, world famous entertainer, drag legend, and budding game developer, this question:

"You've made a career from singing, modeling, acting, judging, hosting, and so much more. But through it all, you've maintained your spot in the public eye through the expression of your unique personality. Some might that say you're the Sonic the Hedgehog of the TV world. Would you take that as a compliment, and would you be interested in starring in a Sonic the Hedgehog-style platformer?"

"This may be the stupidest question anyone has ever asked another human being," I thought to myself, fully expecting for RuPaul to either cancel the interview or politely pretend that the question never happened. Instead, she responded with a thoughtful, playful comment.

"I'm crazy nuts about Sonic the Hedgehog, always have been," she said. "Stickwithitness is my middle name and I've always admired anyone who can persevere against all odds. Life is a game and videogames offer a taste of what it's like to strategize in the big mean world of real life. I love games that challenge you to be all that you are and more, and I think we succeeded with Dragopolis."

They say there are no small roles, only small actors. RuPaul may have just proved that there are no dumb interview questions either, only uncreative responses. "Stickwithitness" indeed. It was a fitting end for an interview with a performer who has succeeded against all odds, even in the face of one of the worst questions ever put to print. On top of that, she also managed to throw in a plug for her game at the last minute, a game that also succeeds against all odds. It's a lot more fun than it probably has any right to be.

Chalk up another win-win for team RuPaul. 

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Jonathan Holmes
Jonathan HolmesBad Joke Uncle   gamer profile

"Where do dreams end and reality begin? Videogames, I suppose."- Gainax, FLCL Vol. 1 "The beach, the trees, even the clouds in the sky... everything is build from little tiny pieces of stuff. Ju... more + disclosures



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