The video game industry has not always been as inclusive as it is today. Ten or even fifteen years ago you might not have ever seen a same-sex couple or even the mention of such topics in video games. Even today the industry has its moments of not being inclusive, such as multiplayer experiences where there exist players who often demean women, homosexuals, and even people of other races or faiths. Yet, the mainstream media has undergone a shift in what is and isn’t acceptable in film, television, and gaming. We’ve seen developers introduce voluntary experiences where the protagonist can maintain a same-sex relationship, we’ve seen experiences such as The Last of Us and its Left Behind DLC where a lesbian relationship is presented (even though the characters are young), and just this year a film with an LGBT-focused main character won the Best Motion Picture Academy Award in the Drama category.
Despite all of these blatant shows of progress, there is still work to be done. For example, our vice president has been interpreted as being in support of conversion therapy–at the very least, he has been in opposition of gay rights–which has been proven to be harmful to its “patients” and is more akin to torture than anything else. As a gay man myself, let me make it clear: there is nothing wrong with me being a homosexual. There is nothing inherently wrong with ANY sexuality, race, color, or creed.
With our current president, many things that we as an LGBT community have fought for could be rolled back. There are many people who are afraid, who are angry, and who are not happy with the way things are. It is important to point out that even if you support the current presidency and are supportive of the LGBT community, those people who are afraid and angry are still valid. These people are the ones who have to worry about whether or not their transgender status will cause them to not be able to use public bathrooms or whether or not, if their spouse gets sick, they will be able to visit them in the hospital.
“Will my marriage be legal tomorrow? What about a month from now?” These are questions people are asking. That isn’t exactly the point of this article though. We have seen lesbian relationships in television, film, and gaming. We have even had the opportunity to choose for male characters to romance other male characters in quite a few games (particularly ones by Bioware). However, there have been no real gaming experiences that provide a homosexual male as the main protagonist BY DEFAULT.
Don’t get me wrong, it is wonderful that Shepard, Ryder, The Inquisitor, the Warden, and other characters have been given the option to be homosexual or even bisexual, but where are the male characters that have a male spouse or significant other by default? Nathan Drake had female love interests in his games, Bayonetta had a male love interest of sorts, Dante had a female love interest, and the list goes on and on.
I know what some of you may be thinking “oh great, another place for men to dominate the gaming industry as if we don’t have enough male protagonists,” and normally I would agree with you. However, I think that my point is valid in stating that there have been plenty of strong female role models who could have male or female love interests. Is it too much to ask for the audience to have to consider what it is like to be gay, and want to see that representation in a hero? We’ve had plenty of strong male role models who save damsels and go on about their business, but what about adventurers who see a nerdy sort of guy being attacked by bandits and immediately come to their rescue (and possibly their tent afterwards)?
Geralt of Rivia had all the tits and ass a straight man could ever hope for, and Ciri followed suit as a bisexual woman (if you picked the right dialogue, though it has been confirmed as canon.) While I am on the topic of The Witcher and games like it, homosexuality isn’t really all that prevalent in many current IPs by AAA developers. Aside from Naughty Dog and Bioware, I can’t think of any off the top of my head that broach the subject, outside of indie developers.
Just to make sure I’m covering all my bases, I think transgender characters should get a bit more representation as well. I think Bioware did beautifully with Krem’s character in Dragon Age Inquisition, but as I previously stated, there are very few non-indie titles that have tackled the issue. I think it is time to have developers create fantastic stories and include these different sexualities, orientations, and gender identities.
Television has recently done a fantastic job of giving ample representation of the groups discussed, with shows like The 100, Shadowhunters, and an upcoming revival to the Will & Grace Series (which I am extremely excited about.) Though, transgender issues are still somewhat sparse in television–like the gaming industry–and that is something that needs representation in mainstream media.
Regardless, we as gamers have spoken up about what we want. Dragon Age Inquisition won numerous awards because it was a well-polished game in a world that felt good to explore. It is time that we see other games released that show off the diversity our world has to offer. I want more relationships between men that are more than just “I’m gonna grunt for five minutes, you’re my brother in arms, let’s fight” or “let’s not show emotion or care for one another–that might be offensive to people.”
For years the limit of male characters has been the strong silent type, the macho type, or the occasional gruff jerk. As unpopular as this might be, where is the fan-service directed at women and gay men? I want to see more well-rounded characters. I want to see more men in touch with their emotions, sexuality, and everything in between. If there has ever been a time to end stereotypes, it is now; I want to see what else writers and developers can do.
We’ve done very well for ourselves, getting this far with marriage equality, fighting for human rights, and tackling all sorts of issues. Because we live in such uncertain times, with a president whom I don’t believe respects the LGBT community, it is all the more important that the gaming industry makes strides in being more inclusive. We are resilient, strong, and will weather whatever comes our way. All we can do in the meantime is stand up for ourselves and love one another. Progress always wins out in the end, and I’m hopeful that the gaming industry will take notice as well.