Great little webcomic for y'all today from the routinely entertaining Manly Guys Doing Manly Things by Coelasquid. This one is all about Poison...and the way her transgendered status is addressed is not only funny, but extremely trans-positive. In a surprising change of pace for the internet, even the commenters on the comic were largely trans-positive as well, though it seems that most of them aren't aware that "tranny" is usually used as a pejorative term in the same category as "faggot", so feel free to hop on over and respectfully educate them as they've just got incomplete dictionary definitions.
I don't think I'd qualify for more than a coffee date, but what about you, gaymers? Any of you think you'd have a chance with Poison?
Yesterday I wrote about XCOM's gameplay, but that wasn't the only thing that intrigued me about the 60's alien invasion game. During the game's E3 demonstration Jordan Thomas, XCOM's narrative director and the creative director of BioShock 2, made reference to a character "discriminated for his sexuality," and my ears perked up like corgi that just heard someone say "bacon."
One of the most often repeated, if utterly foolhardy, arguments against gay characters in games is that their sexuality is never a relevant detail to the plot. So I was more than a little curious and delighted to hear a developer put such a strong emphasis on a character's homosexuality in the game's second public showing. Thankfully, Thomas was gracious enough to sit and chat with me about the character of Dr. Weir, and how social commentary is a natural partner for the videogame medium.
"Weir is an Australian," Thomas began. "He's not a citizen of the States, although he came there to study particle accelerators, and already found himself an outsider on that grounds alone simply because of the paranoia of foreigners that was prevalent in the mid-century."
"But on top of that, he is also a closeted homosexual. He has both a sexual and a political opposition to the elite of the country, which are still very conservative - very focused on America as the best and the brightest - and he doesn't fit their paradigm. It is hard for them to acknowledge that one of the best scientists in the world is, in their minds, deviant. So he's struggled with that for a long time."
"But all of sudden this alien invasion hits and they need him and they have to put it aside. But then you see those tensions come to bear in the base. There are characters who don't like working with him. They are people of their time. And so you'll see different positions represented amongst the core cast. But he is - he is a man with true grit. He's able to weather it pretty well, and the player kind of gets to decide where they fall on that continuum. You can basically decide how to treat him."
Of course, homosexuality wasn't the only civil rights movement making headway in the 60's, and XCOM will explore other socio-cultural tensions of the time.
"As a narrative guy, it's the reason I'm excited to work on the game. The setting was chosen very specifically because I feel that the socio-cultural tension was about to come to a head. It was an old America and a new America kind of locked in a mortal combat, and it was very interesting for me to start exploring what was going on at the time."
"Agent Barns, for example, the African American guy who runs the agent operation and recruits for you, he was working COINTELPRO in the FBI - and that was a bureau program to run surveillance on the American people, not known by anybody - and Dr. Martin Luther King was his assignment. He was supposed to infiltrate that movement and discredit King by finding evidence that he was Red. He didn't find anything, and he was asked to fabricate it. He refused, and was almost going to be kicked out by J. Edgar Hoover and his cronies, but at that time the alien invasion happens and XCOM snaps him up."
I commented that it sounded like XCOM was really more of a 60's period piece that happened to use aliens as a catalyst to bring out the social climate.
"As a narrative guy, absolutely. To both mutate and express the inner conflicts of the period."
After the complex portrayal of BioShock 2's brute splicer, I am eager to see if Thomas and the team at 2K Marin can have lightning strike twice with a depiction of homosexuality that may hit closer to home for many gamers. But if they can pull it off with even half of the enthusiasm and passion Thomas had while describing it to me, then XCOM could be one of the most earnest examples of a gay character in a game yet.
I shall start this entry with a bit of an anecdote. Recently I was helping to babysit a nine-year-old girl who loves Nintendo's party games. This meant I played a fair bit of Mario Kart: Double Dash and various incarnations of the Mario Party games. She giggled whenever I chose Birdo, saying I was playing the girl. What I found curious is that there is a whole generation growing up who doesn't realize Birdo is anything but a woman. As it kind of should be, truth be told.
I already gave my review of don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story, but as it has two same-sex couples, I decided not to focus too in-depth on such in the review itself (though obviously it is a factor). Therefore, I wanted to more closely explore both Akira and Nolan individually, as well as how their relationship occurs.
On the one hand there is Akira: a precocious boy whose intelligence is marked upon by his being the youngest in your class. On the other, you have Nolan: a seeming slacker who starts off dating Taylor (the resident blonde Mean Girl), and while he isn't stupid, he lacks drive and motivation. The former is presented as a not socially awkward nerd from the start, while the latter would fill what we'd typically deem the 'jock' role, but falls more into 'spoiled rich kid' (which could be argued is the case for all but one of the kids in the class, from what we see).
When the game starts, neither is openly out, however. In fact, Nolan's 'outness' is a topic unto itself I wish to address.
The realm of Interactive Fiction is one I'm still exploring, and am always glad to have recommendations (and now that I'm temporarily distanced from most of my gaming machines, makes sense to play on my netbook). Over the weekend I was recommended Gun Mute for a very specific reason: you play Mute Lawton (an amusing poke at the nature of cowboys as we perceive them) who must save his male love interest, the latter point seeming almost incidental. Released in 2008, I have seen it bandied about in our own comments section previously, but had yet to ever try it.
The game itself is fairly straightforward, as you can move forward or backward, and that's it for changing scenery. Beyond such, you interact with your environments and the people around. It's meant as a Western, and this means there will be shootouts, there is ammunition (endless, but you do have to reload), and there is a cover system. The way the fights play out is much more dependent on figuring out puzzles; as the setting is both a bit post-apocalyptic and steam punk, you are fighting mutants, robots, and various mixtures that mean shooting at a plain body and expecting a fall won't amount to much.
Overall, the game is quite well-written, and the way it characterizes its duels and challenges seems quite apt to the setting. There is a certain attention to detail given that makes it easy to see why it was nominated for a number of XYZZY awards, winning Best Puzzle, but also being nominated for: Best Game, Writing, Story, Setting, NPCs, Individual Puzzle, Individual NPC, Individual PC, and Use of Medium. That is, it comes highly recommended not just on the gay content therein.
Rapture is a failed dream--an attempt at utopia. Such political and philosophical ideals intrinsically have high aims, and when remaining in the realm of dreams and words on pages, often seem as if they are an ideal that will solve peoples' problems. Unfortunately, a utopia starts falling apart as soon as human beings enter. Rapture then becomes a funhouse mirror, distorting an individual's image by building on what was fundamentally there.
Which is to say, everyone in Rapture has their own insecurities and identity problems. For me, however, that came into sharp focus with the character of Sander Cohen. Much as with any character in BioShock, what can be gleaned from his character is not told to us outright. I had the good fortune to speak with Ken Levine about Cohen recently, and as he stated about the game in general, "You have to trust your audience."
In this case, trusting one's audience means not treating them as if they need everything spelled out in exact terms. Much of the named cast is Jewish, for instance, but outside of their names, it is only remarked upon in the case of a few (Tenenbaum in particular). In Cohen's case, that means the game never explicitly says Sander Cohen is someone who likes members of his own sex. Of course, as Levine confided, "If you asked Sander Cohen if he was gay, he'd probably say no." It's in the details.
So, today's the day that Dragon Age 2 releases in some regions. Hence my realization that I started this Queer Characters feature, and had yet to actually outline the instances in Origins. The entries on Hespith & Branka, Wade & Herren, Leliana, and Zevran comprise the more robust content--that which has a bit more subtext and are the more present examples.
Therefore, this is just a rundown of some of the smaller instances in which you can encounter LGBT content--some of this is better handled than others, truth be told. In conjunction with the past four instances, these show that the Dragon Age team is not just content with tokenism when it comes to sexuality. Instead of just telling us sexualities other than heterosexual are not persecuted, even if they're found to be not the norm, these instances create content that assures us that we shouldn't assume everyone we meet is straight.
The fact that I've been able to write this many entries outlining more than one gay character/couple in a game? Unfortunately, that feels pretty rare. So, let's get to it.
Zevran Arainai is a bit of a touchy subject around many forum threads that discuss him, both regarding his sexuality and not. His hedonism tends to rub many the wrong way, in much the same way that Morrigan's cool, selfish, and pragmatic demeanor does. The counts against him in our community tend to go along the lines of: he's an elf, he's a rogue (albeit, specced to be dual-wielding and in the thick of it), he's promiscuous, he sounds like Puss in Boots (though only if you stick to the Shrek version of such), and the most pressing one being that he's not Alistair.
Taken from a distance, Zevran seems a walking stereotype, though one with a few complications. In some ways, he does fit the depraved bisexual trope; at the same time, his story has an arc that can move him beyond such, though if you don't like him initially, and thereby don't approach him looking to gain his trust, the opportunity likely won't present itself.
However, my first Warden happened to be a power-hungry mage who started off believing that both the ends justify the means and that might makes right.
Among the reasons my friends were able to convince me to pick up Dragon Age: Origins on launch was that I would be able to play out a same-sex relationship. Rather than Fable or The Sims, which allowed me to create my own stories, I would be presented with a scripted relationship. BioWare had tackled this before, but I hadn't played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic or Jade Empire at that time. As it stands, I am about to finish my second playthrough of Origins alongside all its DLC and the expansion (clocking in at over 200 hours right now), and I have yet to play a heterosexual character.
Therefore, today I want to look at the one on whom I've written nothing before: Leliana. An Orlesian bard who devoutly believes in the Maker, her plucky and optimistic attitude certainly fit well with my dwarf princess Warden.
Next Tuesday (or Friday in some regions)Dragon Age 2 releases. The original, Dragon Age: Origins is one I recall fondly, especially since it featured a world that had multiple instances of same-sex couples or attraction, rather than relying on tokenism. Yesterday I outlined the couple of Hespith and Branka, who were a pretty significant couple in the story found in Origins. Today's couple? Not nearly as strong in terms of driving the plot forward, but useful in the long-run, and also featured in the expansion, Dragon Age: Awakening, as well as the DLC The Darkspawn Chronicles.
Back in 2009, the choice for my favorite game of the year (something I don't equate with GOTY) was quite obvious, and I stated as much on Brainy Gamer's podcast: Dragon Age: Origins. The reasoning was quite simple for me. Beyond just allowing me romance options that were same-sex, the game had instances of varying sexuality throughout Fereldan. Given such, and given that its sequel releases next week, I figured now would be a good time to cover some of those characters.
One of those instances was with the two dwarven women, Hespith and Branka. What is notable about DA:O is that many of the more prominent relationships in the game are doomed from the start, or filled with lots of tension. Being in love in the land of Fereldan seems to be a gamble as to whether or not the characters will end up happy. The same can be said between Branka and Hespith, though it's at the crux of a somewhat complicated relationship.
When the character initially learns of Branka is dependent on the origin chosen. A dwarven commoner, for instance, will learn about her much earlier than anyone else, who will learn of her as Orzammar, the dwarven city, is reached. She is a Paragon, which means she was elected to be honored as an ancestor worth remembering in dwarven history for her accomplishments. Her specific accomplishment? Discovering smokeless coal--if you're going to be underground and using coal, the less smoke the better. Unfortunately, she herself is a bit cantankerous, which I've always preferred paired up with the word gnome.
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