The issue of LGBTQ representation in any form of media is an issue that is very close to my heart for a variety of personal reasons and, since I have a passionate love for video games, you could say that LGTBQ representation in gaming is doubly as important for me. Not only is it important to me, it is important to countless other people who consider themselves to fall under the LGTBQ umbrella and take up an active part in gaming.
As more and more countries are legalising gay marriage, actively discussing trans issues and in general, society is moving closer towards acceptance; it is important that video games follow suit. Offering a host of both straight and LGBTQ characters, both playable and NPC - as it is becoming normalised within society, so too should it start to become commonplace in gaming. As gaming continuously tries to paint itself as a serious art medium by both game developers and fans alike, it is important that as a whole, the gaming industry tries to move in this direction. Not only does greater LGBTQ representation with games mean that the industry will help to further reinforce the fact that people of non-straight sexualities and various genders are becoming more common place, but more LGBTQ representation means more inclusive games that will appeal to a broader audience. Whilst on paper, more representation of any kind, not just LGTBQ characters (female and more racially diverse characters too, both of which could be topics for their own features) will appeal and draw in new players and a bigger audience, the gaming industry as a whole hasn't really deviated from focusing upon games where a straight white male is the main driving force. However, there are some game developers and games that buck this trend and it’s a shame that more don't follow their examples as it mostly up to the game developers, and their companies, to decide to include more diverse characters as they are, ultimately, responsible for the content of their games.
For instance, Bioware is a game developer that has become known for its inclusivity - with a host of characters with different sexualities, allowing players to choose the sexuality of their player characters and having a host of both homosexual and heterosexual relationships portrayed within their games.
Probably the best example would be when David Gaider, the lead writer of Dragon Age 2, reacted to a particular fan's criticism of the same sex relationship dynamics within the game. The fan in question wasn't happy that a male NPC could make advances on his male player-character without prior instigation and felt that too much had been done to cater to minorities instead of the straight male gamer. It’s important that game developers are willing to take the time to interact with their fans and find out what they want in terms of representation like Bioware have, instead of making assumptions. When it comes to making new characters, whether it is for a new IP or a sequel to an established franchise, a development team can't be afraid of losing that one demographic when there are more out there waiting to be attracted. They have to be ready to make the choices to be more inclusive and include more LGBTQ characters and be ready to defend their choices, even if it's as simple as saying "Hey, why not?"
For too long game developers have been trying to attract the same demographic of players, the white male player in between the ages of their early teens to their late thirties. Since many developers and companies are making games that largely cater to this demographic, characters within gaming largely reflect the audience that play them - the white male; and since we still live in a largely hetero-normative society, the characters are straight more often than they are not.
To end, here is a list of my top 5 (in no particular order) LGBTQ characters in gaming:
Mass Effect 3
A tough and loyal soldier who isn't afraid to stand up for what he believes in, his bisexuality is just another facet to his character and the same-sex relationship on offer is one of most touching in the Mass Effect trilogy and is one of my favourites.
Good on you, Gearbox!
And in Saints Row IV, you can make your Boss as gay, straight or bisexual as you choose.
Dragon Age 2
As far as I'm aware, Anders is the only male character that can make advances on a male Hawke without prior instigation - he was the character at the centre of that particular fans' displeasure that I linked to earlier. How dare a male bisexual flirt with male characters like anyone else with a sex drive... how dare they!
The Last of Us
They even share a kiss suggesting something deeper to their best friend relationship. The normality of the act and the relationship, coupled with the fact that Ellie and Riley are still comparatively young teenagers, make this and the characters all the more important.
How do you feel about LGBTQ in gaming?
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