Here I sit on New Year's Eve, scouring the interwebs for something, anything at all, that piques my interest enough to report on - but this is the wrong frakking day for that. The web is alight with Best-Of lists and predictions of what's yet to come.
And then, lo and behold, I light upon a couple of editorials that feel like nothing I would have read five years ago; opinion pieces that speak directly to what makes GayGamer unique.
Make the jump for the rest - and beware of delightfully NSFW language.
Can you name three homosexual characters in popular videogames that were NOT made by BioWare, Bethesda, or Rockstar?
I guess it doesn't matter though. We can shoot kids, and we can mass murder civilians, but we can't have "fags" in our games, right? Why is that? Are we afraid of fucking offending anyone? Guess what - people are already offended by our very existence. Is it because we can't relate to homosexuals? I don't know about you, but I can. I have so many homosexual friends that I can't even put a number on them - and I doubt I'm in the minority on that.
This paragraph. I've written it and rewritten it over and over again. I'm getting fired up, wondering where we're at as a collective of people, and why a major group of people is excluded from our fun and games, and the only thing I can think is that we're just scared. What's there to be scared of? The Fox News piece about how we're corrupting our youth? Are publishers gating us? What's the deal here?
Firstly, my apologies to Mr. Meade for picking out the soap-boxy-est bits, as he was clear that was not the direction in which he wanted to go. But I feel they capture the brightest part of his argument: Essentially, when it comes to inclusion of LGBTQ people in video gaming - WTF is going on? It's something I know I've wondered for a long time, and I've laid it at the feet of an easy target: Systemic homophobia. Frankly, that's been my attitude since I started thinking about the issue in the mid 1990s. Gamers are homophobic. Big corporations are usually run by homophobes. Those that aren't fear losing profits due to gamers' homophobia. Now, before I complete this paragraph, I want to acknowledge that painting such huge swaths of humanity with one brush is my own baggage. Not all gamers are homophobic - not by a long shot. Not all corporations are run by homophobes, and not all corporations fear the recriminations of homophobic customers. I am cognizant that my knee-jerk reaction, my blaming a lack of representation on systemic homophobia, comes from a lifetime of fearing it - and sometimes being proven right. And, as any behavioural psychologist could tell you, un-learning something is hardest when you've learned it through intermittent positive reinforcement.
However, as time has marched on the black-and-white attitudes I've held for so long have become harder and harder to maintain. It's a wonderful feeling - I'll never forget the first time I made two guy Sims make out - but it foments in my mind the same consternation that Mr. Meade expresses:
Tomorrow is 2012. WTF, guys?
If the aforementioned column made me happy, Jim Sterling's op-ed at Destructoid made my heart grow three sizes today: It's a "deathly serious" case for making Nathan Darke come out of the closet. And, frankly, it's a great one. Laying out point-by-point what makes total sense about the move, he concludes by laying down the gauntlet to homophobic gamers:
I bet the most insecure ones would even start to question themselves and wonder why they liked Nathan so much. I mean, they've just spent three games staring directly into the ass of a gay man for hours at a time, cooing over the PS3's impressive graphics as Nathan's shirt gets all wet and clings to his toned, glistening torso.
Why were you looking at Nathan that way? Did you feel it? Just a little pulse ripple along your shaft? Just the once? Did you? You can't be sure, can you? What does it mean if you did? If Nathan Drake just started stroking your face, would you stop him? Would you close your eyes? Oh God, you don't know. Why don't you know what you'd do? Why does it feel like Old Snake's wearing nothing at all? Nothing at all? What are you going to tell Mom and Dad now?
Let's be clear here: This kind of op-ed would have sounded like it was from Mars even five years ago. Not only advocating for LGBTQ representation, but lampooning the thought processes of homophobic gamers?
Colour me happy.
But as fantastic as it is to see all-audiences gaming sites advocating for the inclusion of LGBTQ characters - interesting characters, not offensive, mincing charicatures - I can't help but feel like we're a long way away. There are people who are trying. We've featured them here on as heavy a rotation as we can. But it still feels like there's a long way to go between where we are and respectful representation.
The thing is, despite any Eeyore-ish sentiment I may have, these guys are right. What is going on? Whom are we afraid of offending? With all the violent, misogynistic, borderline-pathological qualities that we have become convinced sell games, how the hell is including LGBTQ people a step too far?
And to all of you who have made steps in the right direction, to all of you who are advocating for more: Thank you. If it makes a difference: This queer thinks of it when he spends his money.