This article considers the cultural politics of frustrated potential for diverse representation in games by examining developer comments on the 1995 digital game I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, adapted from Harlan Ellison’s 1967 science fiction story of the same name. While Ellison’s story featured a gay man named Benny among the protagonists, the game developers adapted Benny without his original sexual identity. In a 2012 Game Informer magazine article, however, the developers reflected on their version of Benny as a “lost opportunity” for exploring gay identity. Rooted in discussion of this frustrated potential for a gay in-game Benny, this article interrogates a logic of lost opportunity for diverse representation present in game-development discourse, which manifests in a longing for more diverse characters that could have been but never came to be. This logic suggests particular ways that developers might conceive of diverse representation as simply a design issue under neoliberal logics of economic opportunity, commercial risk, and fetishized innovation—without meaningful consideration of political significance. Opposing this instrumentalization of frustrated diverse representation, this article draws on queer game studies and speculative design and literature to explore the possible contours and implications of diverse characters that never were more seriously than such comments typically do. Doing so demands more than romanticized longings for lost opportunities for diverse representation that treat this longing as the end in itself.

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