222: Straight and Narrow

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Straight and Narrow

Hateful name-calling on Xbox Live isn't the only kind of homophobia that gay gamers have to endure; there's also the conspicuous lack of gay characters in single-player titles. Alice Bonasio speaks with Peter Molyneux, George Skleres and Chris Vizzini about how developers can include more gay perspectives in their games.

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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.

This bit sums up the whole article quite nicely. There's not very much in there that hasn't been said about a different minority too, is there? There has been plenty of discussion about the elitist culture of what people call 'hardcore games/gamers'. For a long time the majority of the gamer community consisted of white adolescent males. I happen to be (or rather, was) one of them. You're saying that the gaming community is maturing, and that's because video games are being made for a broader spectrum of people. We've got games now for everyone, but does that mean all games should be fit for everyone? Of course, we don't need any more of the horribly clichéd Hero-Man and Romance-Girl Adventures, but on the other hand, I don't see why homosexuality needs to be a bigger part of videogames.

Now for the obligatory n00b question:
Why do all the gay article discussion threads begin with 222?

Pararaptor:
Now for the obligatory n00b question:
Why do all the gay article discussion threads begin with 222?

This is issue 222 of the Escapist magazine. *looks up at the url*

LTK_70:

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.

This bit sums up the whole article quite nicely. There's not very much in there that hasn't been said about a different minority too, is there? There has been plenty of discussion about the elitist culture of what people call 'hardcore games/gamers'. For a long time the majority of the gamer community consisted of white adolescent males. I happen to be (or rather, was) one of them. You're saying that the gaming community is maturing, and that's because video games are being made for a broader spectrum of people. We've got games now for everyone, but does that mean all games should be fit for everyone? Of course, we don't need any more of the horribly clichéd Hero-Man and Romance-Girl Adventures, but on the other hand, I don't see why homosexuality needs to be a bigger part of videogames.

I don't think the article suggests that homosexuality needs to be shoe-horned into every type of game (As a matter of fact, that'd be dreadful. Even heterosexuality isn't talked about in a lot of games), only the character-driven games that would also have straight relationships in them.

In response to the OP, I definitely think that there could more gay/bi characters in games, and I'd be perfectly happy with that as long as they weren't the contemptible stereotypes I've grown so tired of seeing.

Most of the games that I play (Not on Live though, god no, I'm a legal adult who can venture outside without a fake ID) are either completely Ambiguous when it comes to couples, or completely ignore the problem toto.

I hear the word 'Cunt' thrown around a lot whenever I'm around at a mate's place on Xbox Live. Most of the people who throw around those words are often still... ahem, quite young... Young enough certainly to need reassurance of their own sexuality, if they've even developed it yet.

Using the word 'fag' has just about the same connotations these days as the word 'moron' or 'retard'; The word itself is more offensive than the meaning behind it, and it's only really used in a shallow, semi-offensive way (that is to say, using it because the word itself is offensive.

I'm surprised Jade Empire didn't get a mention, as a fairly mainstream game that gave you fairly free choice of who you romance in what aspect. Possibly because it had the best way of dealing with things that I've seen: You get to decide who you want your character to romance, and your options include both genders.

Granted, that's in the choice-based story gaming arena, which is a small subset of games.

LTK_70:

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.

This bit sums up the whole article quite nicely. There's not very much in there that hasn't been said about a different minority too, is there? There has been plenty of discussion about the elitist culture of what people call 'hardcore games/gamers'. For a long time the majority of the gamer community consisted of white adolescent males. I happen to be (or rather, was) one of them. You're saying that the gaming community is maturing, and that's because video games are being made for a broader spectrum of people. We've got games now for everyone, but does that mean all games should be fit for everyone? Of course, we don't need any more of the horribly clichéd Hero-Man and Romance-Girl Adventures, but on the other hand, I don't see why homosexuality needs to be a bigger part of videogames.

The reason why it should be is that gay men and women play video games, and homosexuality is part of everyday life. I'm guessing your a straight male. Would you like to do nothing else but play as a gay character? Even if you have nothing against homosexuality, wouldn't you get tired of never being able to pursue the love interest you're really interested in? That's what a lot of gay gamers deal with. And since most games are striving to be more realistic, they should be including homosexuality in games. If ten percent of the population is gay, then it stands to reason that ten percent of characters should be, too. But that's not the case.

I truly believe RPGs in particular--especially those that tout choice--should allow for a gay option. Most of them have multiple romance interests anyway. If you're going to allow your customers to play the way they want, they should be able to romance who they want to. It was one of the few things Fable II did right.

You know, there was just a debate about this very topic over at the BioWare forums. Traditionally, BioWare hasn't shied away from this option (Jade Empire was an early case of allowing a M/M pairing, and Mass effect famously allowed F/F, allow that was arguably to cater to a different demographic). However, in ME2, after announcing a M/M pairing would be added, said pairing was cut. The stated reason was time constraints. It sent a few gamers up in arms, because to many in the gay community it sent the message that "your demographic isn't very important." Now, Dragon Age: Origins is slated to have a M/M option, so perhaps BioWare should be cut a little slack. Still, ME is a game consistently advertised on the amount of freedom the player has...in everything but sexuality, I guess.

Personally, I'm disappointed that more games don't offer many gay characters, especially gay protagonists. Film and television seem to be more accepting these days, with non-stereotypical gay characters gaining larger and more nuanced roles, but the same can't be said of video games. It's a shame, especially in so-called "art" games that try to push the boundaries.

Pararaptor:
Now for the obligatory n00b question:
Why do all the gay article discussion threads begin with 222?

222 is the number of the Gays!

Because you see, Satan is made up of: One-third gays, One third Abortions, and one-third violent video games.

Thank you from the bottom of my boyish and boy-loving heart for writing this article.

Wait a sec, why would you want gay characters?

I'm not too sure about the Fable II; sure you could seduce either sex but I always felt that it was done that way primarily to make creating the game easier.

The amount of homosexual supportive games will always remain minimal. It isn't because a game studio is or is not homophobic, but because they think large parts of their customer base are.

Just because a game has a few homosexual characters in it, or allows homosexual characters doesn't mean every same sexual person is going to go out and buy a copy. However how many (warning incoming other stereo types): bible thumping, hardcore creationists, redneck... homo(phobe/hater) would not buy a game or allow their children to buy a game because it does allow same sex relationships?

No one knows however companies are placing their bets on what has worked for the last, well since video gaming kind of started, and they are placing their bets on what has worked.

What is a larger market share, gay gamer, or homo(phobic/hater) gamer...

And this does not only relate to action and RPG style games. What about games that fall into the Adult only gaming. What kind of market share would games see if they changed from their heterosexual focus, their market shares would drop compared to their hetero counterparts. Would leisure suit Larry sell as many copies as it does if he was chasing around other guys?

EDIT: It is all about the money

Right, I have classical music playing behind me so that I'm not going to be annoyed. Yeah, it's Mozart's Requiem but that's my choice.

As is the sexuality of your hero/heroine.

Of all the thousands of characters available to the player, I would count less than a hundred whose sexualities are inferred, and less than ten who are stated.

Especially given the idea that sexualities in games are far more diverse than simple hetero/homosexual. They can cover aliens, robots and other races. Problem with that is that a male human loving a male alien would actually be Heterosexual, as Hetero- comes from the Greek word heteros, meaning "different" or "other". Perhaps Xenosexual. Who knows?

3 years ago, this was covered in the gay papers with the GayHealer fiasco (Pay special note to the comments, some are from LGB players) and it's cringing backdown.

Now, given that a year ago we had an article on how there's no "black" heroes, followed by a list of all the known ones, who was the main villains then?

The white-male-heterosexual.

Now, I fall into that category, and, as far as I am aware, have NEVER acted against a gay person and have not received special treatment above what I achieved under my own merit. While I can already feel the hatemongering shower down on me telling me that "YOU ARE PART OF IT SO YOU ARE GUILTY!", please tell me what I'm supposed to give up just because of my low-melanin, XY gene, girl-liking heritage.

Perhaps what you're looking for is the rich, powerful, ignorant, white male heterosexuals? or even the people pretending to be white-male-heterosexuals? Because if you believe that a non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual is incapable of exactly the same amount of prejudice, then I suggest you look a lot closer at the world.

If you're in a single player game, make the character whatever sexuality they want to be. It's not as if people have misrepresented their sexuality to get what they need before, and that's all your character is doing.

Or you can pop down to the slash sites where I can assure you that Gordon Freeman, Master Chief and the others will be deep in rampant action.

The_ModeRazor:
Wait a sec, why would you want gay characters?

Um...you know, I can't tell...is that a serious question?

What a dreadful vision of the future. "Diversity" trumping competence in the case of game developers; "diversity" trumping story in the case of game design.

If it helped make better games I'd be all for an eternal ban on gay protagonists. I play to have fun; not to be subjected to tirades about persecution and shoehorned "moral lessons".

Susan Arendt:

The_ModeRazor:
Wait a sec, why would you want gay characters?

Um...you know, I can't tell...is that a serious question?

Does this mean every minority must be represented now? Asians, Atheists, Unicyclists, Geese Jugglers, Pirates, Ninjas, Sentient AI etc? Oh wait

The_root_of_all_evil:
*Snip*

Let's turn it the other way then. If there wasn't a single white heterosexual lead character, how would you feel? It's one thing to say "Well it just doesn't matter" and another thing entirely to experience the sense of being ignored in media. For example I'd quite like to play a female Alex Mercer-type character. I'd have LOADS of fun dancing around some quarantined city slicing people to pieces and generally being the biggest dick I could. Pity there's yet to be a game like that in a similar spirit.

A shout out to Vampires! The Masquerade: Bloodlines though. Doesn't matter the sex of your character, you can still sleep with Jeanette whenever you like.

No you're not necessarily racist, sexist or homophobic by benefit of being a white heterosexual male. Doesn't mean that the rest of us shouldn't have a slice of the market for our own representation, or be treated with due respect in the face of people who use "fag" like punctuation.

This article had some very good points, and was an interesting read, thanks!

I think it's about time the entertainment industry as a whole stopped using bland archetypes for their heros/heroines. The strong, straight guy/chick thing is completely overused, and is making so many games and movies feel so 'samey'. Variety is the spice of life, and I agree wholeheartedly with giving players in RPGs the option to choose their character's personality traits right down to the sexuality.

Not that we'd want the industry to suddenly go out and make homosexuality their new gimmick or selling point, but it would be nice to see some games/movies where we weren't Generic Straight Action Guy who seduces Generic Sassy Female Sidekick at the end etc etc (yawn).

heyheysg:

Susan Arendt:

The_ModeRazor:
Wait a sec, why would you want gay characters?

Um...you know, I can't tell...is that a serious question?

Does this mean every minority must be represented now? Asians, Atheists, Unicyclists, Geese Jugglers, Pirates, Ninjas, Sentient AI etc? Oh wait

So, you're ok with ignoring the opinions and feelings of everyone who isn't the majority?

LTK_70:

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.

This bit sums up the whole article quite nicely. There's not very much in there that hasn't been said about a different minority too, is there? There has been plenty of discussion about the elitist culture of what people call 'hardcore games/gamers'. For a long time the majority of the gamer community consisted of white adolescent males. I happen to be (or rather, was) one of them. You're saying that the gaming community is maturing, and that's because video games are being made for a broader spectrum of people. We've got games now for everyone, but does that mean all games should be fit for everyone? Of course, we don't need any more of the horribly clichéd Hero-Man and Romance-Girl Adventures, but on the other hand, I don't see why homosexuality needs to be a bigger part of videogames.

These two comments sum up my thoughts pretty nicely. With time as gays become accepted in society we'll see more gays and gay issues in videogames and other forms of media. Like with every other minority in history, it is just a matter of time.

insanelich:
What a dreadful vision of the future. "Diversity" trumping competence in the case of game developers; "diversity" trumping story in the case of game design.

If it helped make better games I'd be all for an eternal ban on gay protagonists. I play to have fun; not to be subjected to tirades about persecution and shoehorned "moral lessons".

Movies can be enjoyable whilst also containing 'moral lessons', why can't games? And that's not to say that all games have to contain startling social commentary, in the same way that movies like Zombieland are still being released and enjoyed.

Labyrinth:

The_root_of_all_evil:
*Snip*

Let's turn it the other way then. If there wasn't a single white heterosexual lead character, how would you feel?

This argument has been used before, and it just doesn't work. One of my favourite characters is the Pyro from TF2 and we don't even know its race/sex or orientation. Why? Burning.

It's one thing to say "Well it just doesn't matter" and another thing entirely to experience the sense of being ignored in media.

Again, there's a very dangerous sense of prejudice there. I do not directly relate to a single white heterosexual lead male because he is that. I relate to people for who they are. Funk's article talks about being a "'Net-tranny" and I've been one for some time. A lot of my characters are female, have a race different to mine and I really don't care who or what they boink.

For example I'd quite like to play a female Alex Mercer-type character. I'd have LOADS of fun dancing around some quarantined city slicing people to pieces and generally being the biggest dick I could. Pity there's yet to be a game like that in a similar spirit.

City Of Villains/Champions Online. Female bodytype. Snowdrop was working her way towards being part of Ghost Widow's entourage.

A shout out to Vampires! The Masquerade: Bloodlines though. Doesn't matter the sex of your character, you can still sleep with Jeanette whenever you like.

While my female Malk thought it'd be far funny to seduce Damsel and leave Tourette to continue sleeping with the Nosferatu.

No you're not necessarily racist, sexist or homophobic by benefit of being a white heterosexual male. Doesn't mean that the rest of us shouldn't have a slice of the market for our own representation, or be treated with due respect in the face of people who use "fag" like punctuation.

But I think this is where there's a huge leap of anger where there might not be an agenda.

As we've shown, or as the Japanese have stated, you have a character "do a hot chick" and sales shoot up, and it doesn't matter if the character is a woman or not.

Yosuke Hayashi has said that men love tits, and men don't have tits. (usually: Edmund Honda might be an exception) So having a male/male relationship doesn't have any tits. We can't have that if we want to sell to men!(!)

However, look at the recent crop of vampire, yaoi or slash media. Boy on boy/Girl on girl action to the extreme. Even Twilight plays around with the gay stereotype in order to appeal to women, where Interview with the Vampire went right ahead with it.

Now, let's say that I want to see a married couple in game, and I'd like to play the husband. Name me a game that the happily married husband goes off, doesn't get involved with someone else and then returns to a happy (non-murdered) wife.

I honestly don't think it's about who's boinking who, it's about who sells, and if you had a publisher producing games about gay men then it'd be mostly women buying them.

As for lesbian games, one word: twing-twang.

If we assume that the gay gaming community have the same ratio as average homosexuals (10%) then that would mean there would be a risk that the game would only appeal to 10% of their usual target audience. Im not sure how much money it generally costs to develop a game these days, but I think developing a game knowing that it will only bring up roughly 10% of the profit it could otherwise make is a bad idea business wise.

But typing this down leads me to another question: How would the protagonists sexual preference show? Few games have romance in them. What if Master Chief, Solid Snake or Mario was gay. How would the game be different? How would it show?

Final Thought for the day:

Zoey, Bill, Louis and Francis.

Which one(s) is gay, how do you know and why would it matter?

The_root_of_all_evil:
*Snip*

Of course it's about what sells. The whole thing is about what sells. However, there's still an untapped audience.

I know Link's always off to save the princess, but I think we've all understood that he's not exactly on the straight and narrow. I was once camp counselor to a bunch of 10-year-old boys, and they asked me if Link had a boyfriend. They knew. I even knew, 10 years earlier. Link hasn't even had to come out of the closet. He's always been out and proud.

Biek:
But typing this down leads me to another question: How would the protagonists sexual preference show? Few games have romance in them. What if Master Chief, Solid Snake or Mario was gay. How would the game be different? How would it show?

This is a very good point. There are so many games out there with voiceless faceless cardboard cutout protagonists that could as well be a homosexual as a raging homophobe frothing at the mouth. As such all of these games don't count. Then there is the big chunk of games that simply does not take a stand on the matter. These don't count either.

So we have left with a (rather big) group of games that have a heterosexual main character. Now I am gonna cut away the ones that depict raging psychotics as the protagonist right of the bat as I am pretty sure that your average active gay (as in gay who is very high on the whole social equality thing) will scream murder when they saw this proclaiming that it is homophobia in diquise. Fortuantely these are in the minority but there are enough of them to make the debate ONLY about the insignificant fact that the psychotic protagonist is gay.
So now we move into the numbers game (with a dash of creativity). If you want to tell a story of tragic love or happy endings (or lack thereof) you are going to reach a far greater demogrphic with a heterosexual approach. It kinda comes down to this: Do you want to risk that 10% of your customers feel left out or that 90% might feel uncomfortable playing your game.

However I can see that it would probably be fitting for more rpg's and sandbox games to offer the possibility of a gay protagonist but again it depends on the story the creator wants to tell. In most other games however it is far more profitable to ignore the issue

All that being said I can't help looking forward to having your sandard dark, ruggedly handsome protagonist agree with his obligatory female sidekick when she comment on the butt of men in uniforms.

/Jakob

Labyrinth:

The_root_of_all_evil:
*Snip*

Of course it's about what sells. The whole thing is about what sells. However, there's still an untapped audience.

Agreed. But it's not just about HATE HATE HATE.

Let's take a quick example, Half Life 2.

Now at the end,

Susan Arendt:

heyheysg:

Susan Arendt:

The_ModeRazor:
Wait a sec, why would you want gay characters?

Um...you know, I can't tell...is that a serious question?

Does this mean every minority must be represented now? Asians, Atheists, Unicyclists, Geese Jugglers, Pirates, Ninjas, Sentient AI etc? Oh wait

So, you're ok with ignoring the opinions and feelings of everyone who isn't the majority?

Well, as long as they aren't being represented in a bad light, why would this be homophobia?
I just don't get it.

I remember hearing/reading that enchanted arms had some very intersting character interactions (OK its a JRPG so we're expecting androgynous sexually confusing characters) but they included and openly gay/bi relationship between 2 NPCs and a young girl dominating a Large macho male.

I think that we will start to see more favourable homosexual representations in games but as much as developers may want to start working with Gay lead characters a 10% demographic will keep it to low budget/Indie games and the fear of the homophobic gaming community boycotting any future games (which as per xbox live may mean a big loss of custom!)

Also did anyone else question themselves after finding out Kuja was actually a guy....?

* I agree with the notion that most game characters could be gay.
Why is it offensive to be saving a princess? (Are you saying gay men would not save a princess? what?) All of the left4dead characters could be gay.

* the article seems to be saying: "just let us save a prince now and then. We don't need sex. It's disturbing that we haven't been given more of a nod."
(though I'd argue that Wario and Tingle are pretty clearly out. And if dumbledore and gandalf are identified with the gay movement in pop movies, aren't they also thusly identified in games?)

* I think the really tricky part of this is: most games revolve around violence.

If you make more gay leads, then you open the gay movement up to more criticism from anti-gay organizations.
I think it'd be awesome if marcus fenix just tore off his armor and had some grisled hard core sex with his buddies as the credits rolled. But then gears of war would be attacked for portraying gay men as crazed murderers.

(why is it that straight men never complain about heterosexual men being portrayed as blood crazed maniacs? Why is this kind of celebrated with a macho smile?)
...part of me thinks gay men would be better off if they said "hey, we like murder almost as much as straight people." ... but it's dangerous water to tread.

* It would be interesting to see an investigation into "how much gay" is needed to:
- cause a national outcry
- hurt sales

(seems like there are these swirling gut-feelings about controversy helping sales, controversy only being pursued against major publishers, etc. but has this been settled? If Gears of War had a notably gay character, would it sell less? or is that a homophobic supposition?)

What would an 'openly gay' character be like, exactly?I have one or two openly gay friends, and I didn't find out about their orientation for months. It's just something one tends to overlook when talking to a person, because it really doesn't/shouldn't matter.

Sure, Bernie from GTA4 is gay. Very inclusive and so forth. But it's hardly an accurate representation of gay people in general, is it?Almost like a parody, I found..
I mean, they used the Euphoria engine to code and custom run for him..

Including same-sex relationship choices in RPGs is great. It adds verisimilitude, can let players who happen to be in the closet to come to terms with things and so forth, but having an openly gay protagonist would most likely end disastrously, unless the game itself was themed around a stereotypically 'gay' topic.

The_ModeRazor:

Susan Arendt:

heyheysg:

Susan Arendt:

The_ModeRazor:
Wait a sec, why would you want gay characters?

Um...you know, I can't tell...is that a serious question?

Does this mean every minority must be represented now? Asians, Atheists, Unicyclists, Geese Jugglers, Pirates, Ninjas, Sentient AI etc? Oh wait

So, you're ok with ignoring the opinions and feelings of everyone who isn't the majority?

Well, as long as they aren't being represented in a bad light, why would this be homophobia?
I just don't get it.

I didn't accuse you of being homophobic. To say you don't care about a group that doesn't include you isn't the same as saying you hate or fear them.

But again, I ask, are you ok with games ignoring the opinions and feelings of everyone who isn't part of the majority? Because that's what you're suggesting. You're absolutely right that it would be at best ungainly and at worst impossible to cater to literally every minority group out there, but does that mean the correct answer is to ignore them all? It's easier to go with the majority, so let's just do that, and if you don't happen to be part of the majority, then, gosh, I guess it just sucks to be you? Pretty unfair.

Not being cast in a good light is sometimes just as bad as being cast in a bad light. In other words, it doesn't really matter if you're not the villain if you also never get to be the hero.

Susan Arendt:

The_ModeRazor:

Susan Arendt:

heyheysg:

Susan Arendt:

The_ModeRazor:
Wait a sec, why would you want gay characters?

Um...you know, I can't tell...is that a serious question?

Does this mean every minority must be represented now? Asians, Atheists, Unicyclists, Geese Jugglers, Pirates, Ninjas, Sentient AI etc? Oh wait

So, you're ok with ignoring the opinions and feelings of everyone who isn't the majority?

Well, as long as they aren't being represented in a bad light, why would this be homophobia?
I just don't get it.

I didn't accuse you of being homophobic. To say you don't care about a group that doesn't include you isn't the same as saying you hate or fear them.

But again, I ask, are you ok with games ignoring the opinions and feelings of everyone who isn't part of the majority? Because that's what you're suggesting. You're absolutely right that it would be at best ungainly and at worst impossible to cater to literally every minority group out there, but does that mean the correct answer is to ignore them all? It's easier to go with the majority, so let's just do that, and if you don't happen to be part of the majority, then, gosh, I guess it just sucks to be you? Pretty unfair.

Not being cast in a good light is sometimes just as bad as being cast in a bad light. In other words, it doesn't really matter if you're not the villain if you also never get to be the hero.

Ok I guess.
But I think the way Lionhead pulled it off was just fine. (well except it wasn't because marriage in Fable means friggin nothin, but still)
I might be a homophobe for this, but I really can't see the reason behind making the gamer control a gay protagonist.

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