Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Hotel Dusk is more than just a game. It is billed by its creators as a mystery novel that you interact with. More than that, it is near to the epitome of the interactive narrative. The story comes to one of several possible outcomes, some which are considered “good” and some which are considered a failure.

The Game and the Novella

The game is not that complex in design. Like most hand held games it has a simple interface. A player/reader uses the DS stylus like a finger, solving some fairly intuitive and clever puzzles which seems to be a hallmark of recent Nintendo outings. Aside from the roaming and puzzles, the game requires some deductive reasoning as well, figuring out who or what is really going on in the Hotel. This is a high level of autonomy for a standard narrative, and is somewhat refreshing when compared to this story minus the interactive aspects.

Like most novellas, or any piece of conventional literature, there is some heavy-handed foreshadowing and often times the main character asks questions of people that you might not have thought to ask. He also might see or not see something you may or may not have. While this makes the game feel pushed, as the developer and writer points things out for you, this is exactly what would happen in a real book, and is perhaps a failing to be addressed in future titles.

Plot and Character

Hotel Dusk is populated by a bunch of shady characters. Each of them has something that they are hiding and eventually the protagonist gets to the root of it. Miraculously, almost all of these side stories are intertwined, which drives forward a primary plot arch. While perhaps too convenient, this central arch would not be served by irrelevant plot lines.

The main character is one Kyle Hyde, a former police detective who is proud of his name, but who is running from his past. His partner on the New York Police Department, Det. Brian Bradley, went crooked and Kyle confronted and then shot him. Though presumed dead, Bradley’s corpse was never recovered. In the back of Kyle’s mind, he regrets shooting Bradley and is convinced there were extenuating circumstances to the case. Kyle is now a salesman for an enigmatic man named Ed, whom he sends out to do jobs to find things that have gone missing while he sells his various wares. Kyle was sent to Hotel Dusk to find specific items and as it would turn out, to unravel the mystery behind everything.

Kyle Hyde: Gay Hero? – Arguments in Favor

It has become almost standard procedure to ponder over the sexuality of video game characters. Some web sites have gone so far as to list out homosexual, bisexual, or otherwise ambiguous characters from games. I am surprised that in all the press, reception, and reviews of this game thus far, Kyle has not yet been labeled as gay.

As for arguments in favor of this, the first, most obvious one is that Kyle is a man presumably in his late 30’s, who is unmarried. No mention is given to a previous wife, and he makes it clear from his lifestyle of roaming around the country, that he is not attached to anyone. Secondly, Kyle expresses very little interest in women. He is presented by three women who are attractive, single, and all of whom express some interest in him, yet he reacts either with disdain, apathy, or oblique interest in some other thing. The first woman is Rachel. She is Ed’s secretary and is depicted as being a beautiful girl who incessantly flirts with Kyle over the phone. He deflects every one of her advances and despite her calling him “sweetie” repeatedly, he treats her as more of a nuisance or colleague.

The second woman is Iris, an up and coming actress who appeared in what is presumably a pornographic magazine. She attempts several times to get Kyle’s attention to no avail. He is outright rude to her, turning down an offer to buy him a drink or share a conversation. It is not until she becomes entangled in the affairs of another person in the hotel that Kyle becomes at all interested in her. The magazine in question is another point: an acquaintance of Kyle’s from New York named Louis DeNonno works in the hotel and finds the magazine, which was one of the things that Kyle was supposed to find. Louis comments about the beautiful women in the magazine and even spends his time loafing in the utility closet whistling at the girls. Kyle expresses no interest in the magazine at all, never even opening it. He simply pockets it as it was part of what he was supposed to recover.

The third woman is Mila. Though Mila is an adult, she is still only 19 years old. Kyle expresses the most interest in Mila over any other character in the game. This, however, is not a sexual or romantic attraction, but because she is a compelling lead on finding his former partner– Bradley. The only women Kyle actually compliments and flirts with at all are the three other female characters in the game– Rosa, Helen, and Melissa. Two are much older than he is, and one is a child. His interest in them is simply part of his charm. It is interesting that he reserves his flirtation for them and ignores the rest.

Kyle’s conversation with Louis also references several times how he isn’t like other people. Though Louis chides Kyle with constant friendly ribbing, he at one time says “I know how you are,” to which Kyle, surprised, responds “How am I?” Louis goes on to comment about his anhedonic demeanor. Though this was probably a coincidence, it was an interesting choice for the localization team to make that particular statement worded that way.

The final argument in favor of this, is Kyle’s fixation with Bradley. In any other sense, Bradley being Kyle’s “partner” would carry a romantic connotation. Though the mystery behind Bradley is what is pushing the story forward, Kyle stops to ponder his friend numerous times, pining for him as one would a lost love. Kyle feels betrayed by Bradley and now that he is over the initial anger, he wants to know what happened and wants to believe that there was some misunderstanding. While in all likelihood, Bradley and Hyde probably were simply colleagues, how the game presents his attachment to his partner reinforces the idea that Kyle becomes attached to men, and does not like women.

Hyde’s sexuality is totally irrelevant to the story. That is what makes the possibility of it so compelling. Other original gay characters in games are presented as strict stereotypes. They are usually flamboyant in dress and have perverse motives. Kyle is a character whose sexuality is incidental– gay or straight. Because the game takes place in the 1970’s, he is unlikely to be very open about it, and is likely to be an expert on concealing it.

Kyle Hyde: Gay Hero? – Arguments in Opposition

All the aforementioned supposition could be true and still allow for Kyle to be a heterosexual. Kyle’s disinterest in women could be put more succinctly by saying that he is disinterested in these women. Furthermore, his relationship with Bradley is likely platonic, and is just a case of hurt feelings. Finally, when DeNonno decries him as being too serious, this reinforces Kyle’s image as a hard ass with little interest in socializing with anyone unless it suits his objective at the time.

Finally, in a bit of a spoiler, Kyle leaves the hotel with a girl– Mila. Though Mila was described as being too young for Kyle by several characters who were suspicious of his interest in her, they leave together– thus leaving open the possibility that they will find some romantic connection, despite the fact that all through the story Kyle’s interest in Mila is a proxy for his interest in Bradley.

Predictions & Verdicts

On the topic of his sexuality, Nintendo is highly unlikely to pursue making an issue of this. The game has a lot of adult content, but such a move would run the risk of alienating many potential players. In fact, would there be a sequel, Kyle is more likely to get a female love interest than to go without one again, just to clear up the “misconception.” Either way, Kyle is an interesting and compelling character. Much of his past is still a mystery and a sequel would be most welcome. Hotel Dusk pushes the boundary between game and literature, compressing both together to form a hybrid narrative that was as pleasurable to read as it was to interact with. If titles like this are any example of the genre’s potential, then many great titles are still yet to come.

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