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Hard Lads is a short meditation on masculine fragility and deck chairs

Sometimes you’ve just gotta take off your shirt, light up a smoke, and get your best mate to smack you in the back with a stool. The latest game from Radiator 2 and The Tearoom creator Robert Yang, Hard Lads is a brief tale of alcohol, furniture, and cigarettes, all in service of adapting the viral tale of two English lads trying their hardest to assert their heterosexuality by stripping down and getting physical.

Hard Lads is a painstaking recreation of viral 2015 video British Lads Hit Each Other With Chair – wherein one lad kisses his eventual attacker, downs his drink, smashes it on the group, lights up a cig, and is promptly clobbered with a deck chair. You’ll want to watch that first, yeah?

A self-described “masculinity simulator”, there’s a beautiful simplicity to Hard Lads’ interactive recreation. Yang’s rendition of a grim, dreary English backlot is shockingly accurate, populated by action-figure analogues to the video’s topless blokes. The phone camera is used both to capture and direct the action, pointing at contextual clues to have the lads smoke, drink, kiss, and fight. Even the wee lad who fetches the dropped cig makes an appearance, appearing and disappearing in a literal puff of smoke.

More than just a quirky physics gag, however, Hard Lads is an attempt at ripping apart the bizarre homophobia at the root of British Lads. In an artist’s statement, Yang notes that “practically everyone in this video has failed this public test of masculinity”.

“The real insult is that they think queer energy can be dispelled so easily! The video shows how straight mate energy is actually quite fragile. It just takes one minute to utterly destroy the lad’s masculinity on video. In the end, I argue that queer love is also the force that honors masculine vulnerability, and so only we have the power to reclaim these lads.”

Hard Lads is a little softer than Yang’s past work, with its own store page reckoning it would be “considered PG-13”. Having previously released public bathroom cruiser The Tearoom and (incredibly NSFW) penis photography sim Cobra Club, Yang’s work has often fallen foul of platforms like Twitch consistently blocking his gay games – a problem The Tearoom solved by replacing genitalia for a more “acceptable” object. Guns.

This time, though, there’s no nudity. No sex. Just two bros sharing a kiss, a smoke, a beer, and a little bit of physical violence. Hard Lads is free / pay-what-you-want over on Itch.

Disclosure: In between making raunchy queer games and teaching game design, Robert Yang occasionally writes for us at RPS. If you’re interested at all in level design and map-making, check out his two-part retrospective on Counter-Strike’s infamous fy_iceworld.

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Natalie Clayton

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