Every June the world gets a little more colorful as corporations and people come out to show their pride for the LGBT Community. Rainbows start to appear on clothing, buildings, and just about every type of product you can imagine. This year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, seems to have a bit more rainbows than previous years – which, as a gay man, is an amazing thing to see.
So many things have happened since that first marches for equality. LGBT people are not only able to live out and proud lifestyles, but we’re represented in ways that even during my formative years, I never would’ve thought we would be possible – including representations by characters I grew up loving – like Rainbow Brite.
Growing up as the only out gay kid in my small Montana town, there weren’t many things that could bright up my world, but Rainbow Brite was one of them that did – and quite honestly still does. She was a constant source of color and happiness at a time in my life when there just wasn’t much of it. She was so important to me, that even now, a million miles from the scared little boy I use to be, I still hold to the lessons and joys she brought me as a child. She’s a big part of why my personality is permanently set to sparkly princess explosion.
This June, like the rainbow flags on buildings, and businesses, I found Rainbow Brite in an area I’ve never really seen her before – the world of handheld electronics. Coleco, the gaming company behind some of the games I grew up loving, has released a very special hand-held mini-arcade game called Journey to Rainbow Land.
Based off Rainbow Brite’s origin story, The Beginning of Rainbow Land, the game follows Wisp as she arrives on a dark planet with a quest to restore its color. I first heard of the game just over a year or so, when Coleco announced a kickstarter to promote the game, and have been eagerly waiting ever since. After discovering its release, I was able to sit down with two representatives from Coleco: Chris and Robert (the games programmer), to talk about the release.
What brought Coleco to the idea of doing a Rainbow Brite themed game?
Chris: When we re-issued the mini arcades we where very concerned with maintaining a true ‘retro’ feel of the device itself. Toys are just not made like they use to make them and we wanted the same design and durable quality. We also wanted era-specific games. One trend over the years has been for gaming companies to market primarily to male gamers whereas in the early days games where gender neutral and family oriented. We set out to be more inclusive with our brand. All assumptions aside, and i say this with a gentle heart, we chose one game that would typically be marketed towards those identifying as boys and one game to include those identifying as girls.
How long did it take to create?
Robert: Approximately a year; but I had help. I recruited a Graphics artist (Illya Wilson) and a Music composer (Bobby Clark) to help speed things up. We all worked on it at the same time. Illya also did most of the level layouts. He and Bobby are VERY talented people.
The game is called Journey to “Rainbow Land” is it based off of the episode “The Beginning of Rainbow Land” or a new story entirely?
Robert: The game is completely based on ‘The Beginning of Rainbow Land’. I had to watch a few episodes to get familiar with the character, and decide which episode would be the best translation to a game. That was the one I came up with.
Which characters will we be introduced to in the game?
Robert: Well of course there’s Rainbow Brite, Twink, Starlight (the horse), the ‘Red’ color kid, the ‘Sphere of Light’, Murky and Lurky, the Boss Centipede, King of Shadows, the Two-Headed Dragon, the Gloom Machine and other enemies found throughout the game.
What goes in to creating a game like this? How many levels are there?
Robert: There are six levels: Dark Forest, Mountain Pass, No Return River / Docks, Tangle Forest, The Cave, and The Castle.
It’s time consuming. I actually had to lay this all out first. I love to code, so this was a restraint on my part. I just wanted to get right in and start writing it. It started with just being able to go from room to room, and having a way to link them together. Once that was done, we could start actually building each entire level. Then check them all to make sure there are no incorrect links (we didn’t want the player to end up in la la land somehow). There’s even an ‘easter egg’ area. 😉
Rainbow Brite has always been a favorite of the LGBTQ community. Was the June release intentionally planed to coincide with pride month or just a happy coincidence?
Chris: When we first signed on with Rainbow Brite we were astounded by the LGBTQ community support over the Rainbow Brite character and the game. We quickly realized that we stumbled onto something big. When we learned that the shipment was coming during Pride Month we where ecstatic! We had internal discussions as to whether or not we should push the promotions in that direction, but we decided that we didn’t want to directly exploit and commercialize the connection itself. Our hopes where that the community would organically support the game and we are grateful that you are recognizing us in Proud Times.
What has been the response to the game so far?
Robert: Mostly good, with some criticism thrown in. For instance, a complaint I was hearing was about the length of the game (i.e. too long). But it’s expected; most of the response has been kind and positive.
What goes in to creating the characters for a game like this?
Robert: Luckily I did not have to go too deep with this one. Illya came up with the character graphics, and I used them in their respective sections of the game.