Question of the Day: Do We Have Enough LGBT Characters in Video Games?


Does the LGBT community have enough exposure in the medium of video games?

I’ve seen a lot of LGBT characters in video games lately. For example, Samantha and Lonnie from Gone Home is a good example and it painted a beautiful love story between the two teenagers. I also didn’t notice that Bill from The Last of Us was gay, but Naughty Dog confirmed it. Heck, there are games like Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Fable wherein we can be gay or bisexual if we want to. There are surely a lot of lesbian and gay characters recently as the world gradually becomes more progressive. However, I do have to say that I hardly see an transsexual characters.

I believe that video games are on the right track when it comes to featuring LGBT characters and writing them like real people. Having two girls kiss in the most gratuitous way possible in a game like Playboy is hardly a realistic and satisfying depiction of LGBT relationships. I don’t think that all games need to have them if it is unnecessary. If it is a game that is more grounded and draws from modern society, then I do think that developers should consider including LGBT community to make representation accurate and diverse. At the same time, I’m against the idea of adding LGBT characters simply because it will make the game more interesting. It’s insulting to the community because it makes them seem like magical unicorns. They are people. One person (I forgot who) once said that it’s important to write a character first and figure out their gender after.

Anyway that’s what I think. How about you?

 

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There are 13 comments

  1. jdh5153

    I think the community is underrepresented in both film and video games, even more so in video games. Sure there are games that give you the option to behave how you choose, but I can’t think of any with a gay main character. It would be refreshing to see more diversity in video games.

    -jonathan, avideogamelife.com

  2. Nick Verboon

    I think they are certainly on the right track. Giving players the choice to make the match-ups they’d like to see regardless of conservative social conventions is obviously a big plus in every way, and massive strides have been made this past gen in naturally incorporating gay and bi characters. The tricky thing will be getting transgender characters into circulation effectively without it coming off as random and tokenish.

  3. Nick D.

    I think part of the problem is so much of the representation is in games with heavy dating sim elements. It’s much better to have a character, such as Bill from the Last of Us as you mentioned, who is a fully fledged character that happens to be gay. It’s the same that Joel is a fully fledge character who happens to be straight. The issue I have with choose your own romances as the primary representation is that it lets players choose to avoid, or sometimes change the sexual preferences of characters. While it’s nice for the player to be able to choose whatever gender they’re interested in (a practice I’m totally for), it does sometimes undermine the characters themselves.

  4. Stan Rezaee

    Yes and no. No as in its really lacking compared to television, cinema and literature. Yet compared to social progression of Hollywood, gaming culture has done a better job of better representing LGBT characters in a positive manner. Unlike Hollywood stereotypical depictions, LGBT game characters breakaway from the stereotypes. This op-ed goes into better details about what I mean – http://www.gamersprogress.com/opinion/2014/1/16/gamer-culture-is-more-progressive-about-the-depiction-of-lgbt.

  5. Savannah Winter

    How did I miss this?

    “Do we have enough?” is, frankly, an awful way to phrase the question. Will there ever be enough? No. Representation isn’t a one and done thing, it’s a forever thing. So we need more QUILTBAG representation always.

    Now, as for whether or not the industry has done a good job of providing gay representation, I’m on the no side. Like Nick D. said, most QUILTBAG characters are optional. Way back when I wrote a piece on how optional portrayals are not the same as deliberate design and I hold to that.

    Furthermore, bi representation is almost invariably awful, as it tends to be portrayed as a gay-straight hybrid instead of its own thing. Trans representation is worse. As for Nick Verboon’s concern about it coming off as tokenish, it’s not really a significant concern at all. Minority representation will always come off as random and/or tokenish. It’s why we don’t ask members of the majority about their opinions on minority representation. Even when they’re not wrong, their opinions are irrelevant to the need for representation.

    I’m also torn on the narrative choice where queer characters are incidentally queer. In our society, we are partially defined by our sexual orientations, gender identities, and so forth. As such, it’s really difficult to provide an incidentally queer character without stripping them of all social contexts within which they have derived. It’s an idealized image for the majority who won’t have to consider the actual circumstances of people like that character in real life. Which means it’s not all that great at all, imo.

    1. Nick Verboon

      It’s pretty hard to declare the majority’s opinion irrelevant when they are the ones tasked with doing the representing. If devs aren’t allowed to partake in relevant discussions how could they possibly be expected to attempt to portray LBGT characters with real depth? This attitude is likely the reason most devs would rather avoid the topic together. When you feel your opinion is irrelevant or unwanted it doesn’t exactly breed the confidence required to go against the grain and change the industry.

      1. Savannah Winter

        Nobody likes being held hostage.

        Devs can listen. They can seek advice. They shouldn’t be allowed to decide what is and isn’t appropriate with regards to adequacy and quality of their presentation. My point was that “it might seem tokenish” is always a god awful excuse by non-marginalized people to exclude representation. Which is inane as all get out.

        If devs are afraid of doing a bad job, then perhaps they should consult people so that they do not.

      2. Nick Verboon

        ‘Kay. So allow me to take that advice and ask you how exactly you would portray a bi character as being “its own thing” and not just a person who is attracted to both genders, which is the practical and literal definition of said people and my own experience with the half dozen or so of them in my personal orbit. Be specific. Your reputation as a giver of reliable advice is at stake.

        Also, “tokenish” implies a shallow and unnecessary shoehorning in of a character to meet a perceived quota. For example, Cloud Strife is about to lead the party to the final battle, so he stops and tells them “By the way, I was born a woman. Now let’s go kick Sephiroth’s ass!” Technically, Square could say they included a transgender character, but did it really add anything of value to the story other than an awkwardly forced moment? I’d say this approach is useless, but what the hell do I know.

        Lastly, let’s play a round of The Marginalization Game:Social Handicap Edition. I’ll name as many specifically LGBT game characters as I can in a minute and then I’ll give you a full year to name as many specifically ADHD and straight edge characters. You game? My marginalization stories from the first half of my life make gay and bi girls cry. Not hypothetically. Literally. Thankfully, I enjoy being unique and am secure enough in who I am to not give a shit that nobody else is like I am, likes what I am, and sure as hell is not going to spend money to portray someone like me in a medium meant to make money. Personally, even I’d rather see the time and money spent portraying less invisible folks like you and yours. Seeing me in a video game would freak me out.

      3. Savannah Winter

        You make the bi character point of view and have dialogue or thought reflecting it. Or just have people talk in general. Or any number of things that mirror real life. I feel like the people who struggle most with this are the ones who either know no queer people IRL or have really bizarre, stereotypical, or wrong perspectives.

        Um. Then don’t have him come out as trans like that? I mean, I don’t know what to tell you. “Quota” is a shitty allegation anyways because the answer is never a set number. It’s always more. I’m working on writing a novel. No straight people as far as I know. This isn’t tokenish or whatever people want to call it. It’s what I want to see. Because, as it is now, all I see is cisgender heterosexual people almost 99.999999 of the time. Suddenly I flip the script and it’s a problem?

        Give me a break. You know where LGBT people get representation? Homeless shelters and the morgue. I’m not insecure for wanting to see positive representations of people like me on TV, because all we get so far is stereotypes and dead bodies. You know what we get in real life? Stereotypes and dead bodies. They’re connected. Representation is important.

      4. Nick Verboon

        Writing a novel is awesome! And frankly, I think that making an all-LGBT cast is a great idea. Flipping the script is not a problem, it’s a solution, and it’s one I support. But let’s not get crazy. Gay/lesbian is literally an entire film genre. There’s a whole cable network dedicated to their programming. There are parades and festivals in every major city, a national special interest organization that is such a household name that I don’t even need to name it, LGBT specific award shows, comics, celebrity advocates, and on and on. The war for representation is pretty much won in every possible brand of media. Now it’s just a matter of conquering more territory, which is fine.

        I’m just saying there are struggling groups out there so unrepresented in any form of media that you may not even be conscious they exist. If social justice or compassion was really the name of the game, you’d think they’d have at least a few public advocates out there. Wanna talk about morgue representation? 90% of suicides have a diagnosable mental disability. That’s a lot of percents, and it doesn’t speak well of the experiences of someone who is stripped of the ability to control their own mind properly. It’s a minority of a full quarter of the population, but I think you’ll find less than adequate representation in mass media. And the rare shows that do bother with representing this as a fact of life (Girls) get torn apart for being unlikable the same way the people being represented do irl. No Will and Grace or L-Words for these pitiful creatures. Not sexy enough. Just the occasional cartoon sidekick whose stupidity is played for laughs. Them’s the breaks.

      5. Savannah Winter

        Do you know why all of the media is separated? Because the majority of the population does not want it touching their stuff. That does not sound to me like a war has been won. We shouldn’t just expect media that offers us representation solely in our own sphere. And to be frank that’s only scraps of representation for white LGBT celebs typically because queerness in the US is painted as white. And male, too.

        I’m conscious of a lot of things. Typically (decent) people champion for representation of their identities while supporting others. And there’s a reason characters in my stories aren’t all neurotypical. I struggle with anxiety and depression, so I’m quite aware of the misrepresentation in mainstream media. I’m also aware that the trans population has about a 40% suicide rate. Suicide ideation’s something I struggle with frequently. It’s also a non-sequitur to bring it up as an excuse of sorts for a lack of good LGBT representation. So, why are we talking about this again?

        Also, the only criticisms I’ve heard of Girls is that it’s another All White New York TV show with jacked up casting calls and junk. That and some of the people on it are just awful people in person, too.

      6. Nick Verboon

        But all of the media is not separated. Where exactly did you get that hypothesis? It suggests you are either unaware of the existence of games like Mass Effect (in which there are multiple straight, gay, and bi characters), and shows like Orange is the New Black (in which straight white people are universally devilish -not complaining, just observing- and the cast is dominated by LGBT folk). It’s not a matter of separation, but inequity. Using extreme terms that are demonstrably untrue hurts your cause more than helps it because it makes you seem insincere. There’s more than enough facts to support a bump in minority representation across the board; hyperbole is often seen as deliberate untruth and is not necessary.

        Anyways, I brought up the mental health thing because you cast a lot of allegations regarding privilege my way and I’ve lived my entire life with society standing on my neck without them even noticing so I figured I’d point out that if media representation and death is your barometer for how much life sucks, you ain’t anywhere near the bottom of the barrel.

        I can’t say I follow the personal lives of the people who entertain me. It makes it pretty impossible to enjoy anything given that the entertainment industry (and every other industry) is a cesspool of scum any way you look at it. And I’ll watch a show about white people as quickly as I watch shows about any other. I never had a problem watching Family Matters or In Living Color or Chappelle’s Show or Lip Service or BET’s Black Panther cartoon (which was pretty terrible, but still), or Orange is the New Black along with any number of blaxpoitation or Bollywood film, or anything else dominated by not-me’s. Bring it all on, separate it, mix it back up, set it on fire, whatever. Just entertain me. I think it was Chris Black who said something along the lines of “If you’re counting the number of black people, you’re racist as a motherf…”

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