“I knew I was a gamer before I knew I was gay.” writes user Jadis232 of The Dead Hamster forums, a Lionhead Studios community site.
It’s a sentiment that many queer gamers can relate to. For many video games became a safe space in a world where they felt different. Our own Jesse once wrote how the fighting game genre gave him a way to fight back against those who would judge or bully him. Samantha Allen shared with me how character creation systems allowed her the freedom to idealize her gender presentation before she transitioned. The RPG genre in particular has had a profound resonance with the gay gaming community at large.
For Jadis232 it was Fable, Peter Molyneaux’s 2004 Fantasy RPG that famously included same-sex romance and marriage, that taught him how to accept himself as a gay man.
“I can recall a specific day in school when two boys had bullied me consistently for the entire day. They made fun of my choice of clothes, that I hung out with mostly girls, and the fact that I was just different. When two thirty finally came around I couldn’t wait to escape the relentless bullying and just go home, but things weren’t much better there either. After I arrived home from school I decided to come out to my parents, because it was something I felt needed to be done. Like many conservative parents, they didn’t like the idea of having a gay son. Once the initial shock faded they started to blame a number of things for my ‘condition’. It must have been the divorce that had done this to me, or maybe it was that one movie they let me watch, and of course the D was probably in on it too. Ultimately, it was a dangerous and disgusting lifestyle in their eyes, and so their demands were simple; if I didn’t agree to therapy to “fix” my condition, I would be dead to them. I’ll be completely honest with you, there is no way I can accurately describe the pain one feels when their own father lashes out at them in homophobic slurs and physical attacks. In time you may forgive the pain, but you certainly never forget it. Everyone always understands the pain, but no one ever really knows it. Not only was that the day I came out, but it was also the day I stopped believing in magic. Confused, scared, and alone, I turned to the one thing that had always given me peace, video games. I didn’t know how to deal with all of the chaos going in my life, so instead I ran from it using this alternate virtual life.
After passing some time in the small village of Oakvale, a random male villager whom I had helped carry some crates for and given a few gifts to (if only it were that easy) began showing a romantic interest in my character. Suddenly this game was no longer just a casual pastime; it was a simulated world where I could assume the role of a character safe from judgment. Not a single person in all of Albion treated my character any differently for my decision to marry another man. Sure, they didn’t appreciate the fact that I was terrorizing their towns with fireballs or kicking their chickens all of the time, but the idea of two men being together was nothing out of the ordinary. It appeared that in this world, love was love, regardless of whom it was between. The game didn’t treat homosexuality as if it were a choice, at least not one that should have any kind of consequence. If you were gay, great! If you weren’t, also great! I remember looking all over the game case and manual for any mention of same-sex options, but there was nary a mention. It may sound odd now, but I literally spent days wondering why a game company would include something like that in their own game yet never really make a point to promote it anywhere. When the answer finally hit me that was when I started to believe in magic once again. Lionhead had never made one single mention about the option of creating a homosexual character. Why? Because Lionhead had no interest in making a political statement. They just made a game that they wanted people to enjoy and get captivated in. That was my wake up call. If this game didn’t treat homosexuality like something to be ashamed of, then maybe I really wasn’t as damaged as everyone had led me to believe.
I admit it sounds a bit over the top to say that games like Fable help individuals accept themselves, and encourage them to be the person that they want to be. For most people, Fable is just another game; something to pass the time and move on from once they’ve completed it, but for others like me, it has been a principle of acceptance, hope, and courage. Since that very first play through of Fable, I’ve only grown to admire Lionhead even more for their decision to include same-sex romance options in all of main Fable titles. I am grateful to these amazing people for not only showing the world that one game can make a tremendous impact on a person’s life, but also getting me to believe in magic once again. So while I may not believe in Santa Claus, and sadly still can’t shoot lightning from my fingertips, I do believe in the magic of positive change. Sometimes it just takes something as small as a video game to remind us that, no matter how difficult reality may be, you will always have a home within your own imagination. To me that is real magic, and something worth believing in.”
Be sure to read the full article over at The Dead Hamster where fellow users, in a refreshing change of pace for comment sections, are all showing their support.
Do you have a story similar to Jadis232, Jesse, or Samantha? Has gaming helped you come to terms with your identity in some way? If so we would love it if you’d share it with us in the comments!