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That doesn't mean designers have shied away from gay NPCs and supporting characters, however. Skleres cites Grand Theft Auto IV as a positive example: "There is a mission you have to undertake to save Florian, an openly gay character, from a homophobe that keeps harassing him in the park when he is running. I am really proud of Rockstar Games for including this content in their game. It shows that even bad-ass mercenary hitmen can be tolerant and supportive of gays. Not only that, but the next episode in their series is titled The Ballad of Gay Tony, which should prove to be interesting."
For Molyneux, the future of game design will inevitably be more diverse and inclusive. "The better we get at making games, the more opportunities there are to feature more characters from different backgrounds and cultures. Most of the characters in games up until recently have been very iconic - the iconic hero, the iconic villain and the iconic victim - and it's only now we can add many more aspects and personality to those characters," he says.
Skleres argues that bringing new perspectives into the development process will have a big impact on the types of games the industry produces. "Overall, I think the industry has matured enough to where everyone recognizes having a diverse team can only help make a better product" he says. "Entertainment professionals put into their creations a bit of their own personal experiences and beliefs whether they realize it or not. As a result, when you get a more diverse set of professionals, their experiences and beliefs diversify too."
"There are still echoing remnants of the 'macho' culture left, but companies are no longer putting up with the testosterone-overloaded work environment that used to dominate the industry," says Skleres. "They want to maximize their human resources and tap into demographic markets that aren't typical mainstream gamers, and to do this they need game creators that can think like their target audience."
While Skleres and Vizzini have both made a place for themselves in the industry and the gamer community, respectively, there are still problems to confront and barriers to break down. Every minority that does not fit the white-male-heterosexual mold has had to claw and bite its way toward acceptance and representation, and gay gamers are no exception. The general trend in gaming, however, is toward more honest and realistic representations of people in all their diversity, which makes gay developers and players alike more optimistic about the future.
"The perception of a macho culture in the games industry is slowly dwindling and will probably fade away entirely in the near future. I'm glad games are growing up," says Skleres. Hopefully we'll soon be enjoying games where all races, creeds, genders and sexual orientations are represented, and not just as token gestures or caricatures. For gay gamers, that time can't come soon enough.
Alice Bonasio is based in Bath, England, and is a regular contributor to GamesTM and 360 magazines, as well as www.the10poundhorrorfilm.com.