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Opinionation: A Little Push For Representation

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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.


According to Andrew Meade, writing for AltDevBlogADay and reprinted by Gamasutra:

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?

Nathan Drake Uncharted 3.jpg

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.

12 Comments

Nitsud said:

I don't know about you, but don't Fang and Vanille count for something? It made me happy to see them, (homos in my final fantasy? Yes please!!!) but yes as far as having a lead/main homosexual character we are still pretty far from that because big business might think it would hurt a games sales. Maybe indie developers can rectify this. But I don't really see I coming from the big developers.
About the whole 2012 thing too, where the hell is my jet pack, flying cars, and cities in the sky??? let alone my rights as a human being, and a homosexual.

Gamescook said:

Motomu Toriyama wrote Final Fantasy and The Third Birthday. If you saw anything going on between Fang and Vanille, it was probably for the writer's own fantasies. Just look at The Third Birthday and tell me that his writing isn't the worst thing to happen to feminism since the concept of foot-binding.

Gamescook said:

wrote Final Fantasy XIII*

Caleb said:

Much of the freakishly messed up things in games you mentioned are things that keep me from playing those games in the first place.

What I want to see in terms of gay characters is something more serious than Tingle in a Zelda game, or gay marriage in Rune Factory, or just SOMETHING in a game that's not otherwise totally messed up.

Come to think of it, though, the games that (somewhat ironically) fostered my video game fandom featured very prominently our very beloved, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore himself. ;)

Duriel said:

I can tell you right here and now one of the biggest reasons? maybe not the biggest but its got to be up there that gay characters haven't really penetrated popular culture just yet (although theyre starting) Puns intended! would be Rick Berman. for years lots of people campaigned in the hope that just once one of the characters on trek would turn out to be gay. But Rick Berman kept pushing that back into the closet, everything I've read on the reason for gays not being on star trek has all led back to Rick Berman. Now what does this have to do with games you ask?

Well I don't know about you guys but I've watched alot of sci fi and I've played alot of games! Like the Interracial kiss between kirk and uhura back in the 60's, 90's trek was screaming for something like this to happen. Imagine the controversy! if we could have delt with alot of that in the 90's I get the feeling we would have probably seen alot more than we are seeing now in relation to tv and games.

I am hoping for the day that I and my friends don't have to be worried or scared about bringing up feelings we have for others to them without fear of rejection or ridicule. Its going to take a long time to get rid of the pathetic protests of religion but at least where there wasn't much light before, there is a speck at the end of the tunnel, its called hope for the future! I'm going to hold onto it because theres no going back! I hope all you gay gaymers had a good year last year and that 2012 is going to be better!

RDM said:

In my head, Nate is already gay, and in my bed.

Chris said:

I have to admit, I'm a little sick of this issue. People clamor for gay representation, but complain about "over the top" gay characters like Tingle or those dress makers from Shadow Hearts. The fact is that 99% of all video game characters have no discernible sexuality. They live in a shack in the woods waiting for some kid in a tunic to wander by looking for a wooden sword. Or else they tend a shop that is constantly in need of delivery people. Or else they respond to an alarm and a spy shoots them in the face. We don't see anything aside from this very small part of their lives, the part that directly relates to our quest at hand. Could the old man in Zelda be gay? Could henchman #7 go home to his husband every night until you thoughtlessly gun him down while trying to save the world? It doesn't matter to the story, so it doesn't come up.

Don't get me wrong, it's cool when a sim or and RPG lets me decide my character's sexuality, but the rest of the game's world? There's usually nothing to stop me think that everyone's gay.

Gamescook said:

We have to realize that our society at large is nowhere near the ideal where you never need to take someone's sexuality into account. A possible slippery slope is that if you don't take into account a character's sexuality, assumptions can be made that they are simply straight "by default" as it is the most plain and normal thing to be. I think we would just like the times that alternative sexuality does happen to be brought up to NOT be bigoted in its portrayal.

Even for village NPCs, it wouldn't be hard to have two villagers be girlfriend and girlfriend or have two men be as close and bickering doting as an old married couple. One or two lines of NPC dialogue suggesting such relationships would honestly go a long way in just about most games.

Nexus said:

I wish games were more like comic books. Those really seem to be trying to push gay representation. Not that it's perfect, but there's currently a decent number of gay comic book characters.
Something we just can't say of videogames. Yet.

Mikey said:

Chris, imagine a Zelda type game where the "Zelda" that the hero is on an adventure to rescue is a guy. That is something that would be amazing.

gia said:

Good points. What annoys me, however, is the constant assumption (perhaps not yours, but it does seem that is what the people you quote assume) that LGBTQ characters = GAY MALES. What about having a lesbian character who isn't there to fill the lesbian porn fanservice role, or a transgender character who isn't the constant punchline of a joke?

Alpha said:

Nathan Drake? A homosexual?!

......... I need a cold shower...

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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Alpha on Opinionation: A Little Push For Representation: Nathan Drake? A homosexual?! ......... I need a cold shower......

gia on Opinionation: A Little Push For Representation: Good points. What annoys me, however, is the constant assumption (perhaps not yours, but it does seem that is what...

Mikey on Opinionation: A Little Push For Representation: Chris, imagine a Zelda type game where the "Zelda" that the hero is on an adventure to rescue is a...

Nexus on Opinionation: A Little Push For Representation: I wish games were more like comic books. Those really seem to be trying to push gay representation. Not that...

Gamescook on Opinionation: A Little Push For Representation: We have to realize that our society at large is nowhere near the ideal where you never need to take...

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