222: Straight and Narrow

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Many games feature their character's sexuality as part of the story. How many games have a romantic plot/subplot. Almost all JRPGs do and JRPGs made up quite a big percentage of games last generation. Also it doesn't even have to be an actual subplot for a character's sexuality to be mentioned. Issun in Okami is obviously straight, just because he mentions how attractive he finds some of the female NPCs.

A good first step for "gayming" would be a supporting character having a homosexual subplot, or mentioning his homosexuality not through a "i'm gay" line but a more natural conversation or remark, perhaps about the character's romantic past with an antagonist, who just happens to be of the same gender.

I know I'd be a lot happier if I could play as a gay character. Most of the games I've played have stuck me with a female romantic interest... and I just wasn't interested. It was just boring. Then again, I do end up attatched to them anyways... I always go into a killing rage whenever they go and get themselves killed.

iriemage:
Many games feature their character's sexuality as part of the story. How many games have a romantic plot/subplot. Almost all JRPGs do and JRPGs made up quite a big percentage of games last generation. Also it doesn't even have to be an actual subplot for a character's sexuality to be mentioned. Issun in Okami is obviously straight, just because he mentions how attractive he finds some of the female NPCs.

A good first step for "gayming" would be a supporting character having a homosexual subplot, or mentioning his homosexuality not through a "i'm gay" line but a more natural conversation or remark, perhaps about the character's romantic past with an antagonist, who just happens to be of the same gender.

Heh, in most games something as simple as just adding another check of many game types in the list of questions: Are you a male or female? What kind of love interest you want? What is your class? What is your name?

Orekoya:

iriemage:
Many games feature their character's sexuality as part of the story. How many games have a romantic plot/subplot. Almost all JRPGs do and JRPGs made up quite a big percentage of games last generation. Also it doesn't even have to be an actual subplot for a character's sexuality to be mentioned. Issun in Okami is obviously straight, just because he mentions how attractive he finds some of the female NPCs.

A good first step for "gayming" would be a supporting character having a homosexual subplot, or mentioning his homosexuality not through a "i'm gay" line but a more natural conversation or remark, perhaps about the character's romantic past with an antagonist, who just happens to be of the same gender.

Heh, in most games something as simple as just adding another check of many game types in the list of questions: Are you a male or female? What kind of love interest you want? What is your class? What is your name?

Yes, this works in free roaming games but I was talking more about how homosexuality could be implemented in games with a fixed main character, plot, and supporting cast .

Who cares whether gaygamers want to play as a gay person? It's the same with all those other etnical minorities who don't get their 'own' games, sad as it is: those games won't sell enough, and so developers don't make them. And it's not as if this industry is an exception; that simple rule of the market works everywhere. Definitely not a subject The Escapist should have picked.

As long as Homosexuality is statistically abnormal, the games industry will stay largely the same.

Personally I don't think that they are being homophobic. Seriously it is used as an insult, not calling someone "gay." at least where I am from it is just a common insult like idiot or fool as horrible as that sounds >.<

What about Army of Two? They were gay weren't they?

I still believe to this day, that that game was an intentional parody of American and videogame macho-ness. The two main characters shared a parachute, liked wearing those masks, loved shopping and decorating their guns, touched each other a lot and never once hit on the only female (who was hot) in game.

Go into the game with this attitude and it's a hoot.

I am not so sure that I would call this homophobia. The video game industry, just like most of the entertainment industry as a whole, is pretty much based on iconographic characters. We simply recycle the same standards that have been recreated for ages upon ages. If you think about it, Achilles is not that different from Kratos, Odysseus is not that different from Gordon Freeman, however, I find it hard to remember an epic poem about an ancient "Tingle".

I am using Greek mythology on purpose, since their view on male homosexuality was quite different than what we think about it today. Still...

It's only natural that we don't have a AAA, multimillion dollar game about a gay main character, just like we don't have a AAA, multimillion movie about it (Horseback Mountain is the exception that proves the theory).

Who cares if their gay or not, its a video game, get over it

I think the real question is, "Are characters straight until extreme fans make fanart/fanfic about them being gay, but not outright saying so?"

I have no problems with homosexuality. I mostly have a problem with the small niche of fans that turn compelling characters I never found remotely gay and making them depressed lovers on Deviant Art. It just makes my fandom cry a little on the inside.

I think that perhaps it could even help move Society along a bit showing that a mainstream media is able to address it in some way.

Final Fantasy is filled to the brim with closet homosexual characters, especially in FF10 and FF7. It's not that they aren't represented, it's just that peoples sexual orientation isn't generally a major playing point in a game.

Even Final Fantasies which typically revolve around the main character being in love with another (or pretending to be in the case of Tidus) down play that a whole hell of a lot.

Same reason most leading characters aren't female or black; most gamers are male and white. The majority are also straight. They've got to target the widest audience possible, which is peeps like me.

It's not necessarily right, but I find it hard to blame the publishers/developers. We'd all do the same, it's business.

Wow this is an issue that doesn't deserve to exist. I don't care about my protagonist, it's the entertainment value of the game that I care about. If that means making him as flamboyant as Freddie Mercury, go right ahead.

I don't know what's dumber: homophobic teenagers, or people who are offended by others making money off of them.

What's with this PC entitlement? Everyone so far thinks they deserve something just cause they have a different sexual preference. "Oh wow I've decided I'd rather sleep with men instead of women, I deserve a cookie", well guess what you don't deserve shit. You didn't cure cancer or spread peace throughout the world. All you did was make a simple choice, the same thing as me deciding what I want for breakfast. If you must have openly homosexual characters in a game, then get to programming it. If I'm an author that's written say 30 books and doesn't include one gay character in any of them, I'm suddenly a raving homophobe out to destroy gay culture?

I personally would prefer that gay characters are not included in today's games if they are going to continue to portray them as ridiculous stereotypes. Take Enchanted Arms for the 360 for instance, there's a character that is just a so over the top flaming homosexual. It doesn't add anything to the game at all, just an annoying voice over.

high_castle:
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.

Unfortunately, that demographic isn't very important when numbers and percentages are considered. Obviously, there isn't any really solid numbers on the percentage of homo- verses hetero- males (nature of the topic and the number who are in the closet would throw off any polls), but even the most generous estimates puts homosexual males at what? Around 10% at most? When you only have X amount of time to make something, you want to cater to the 90% first, then you get around to the minorities. From a business point of view, I'd have cut it also.

I do find it positive that some of the largest free-style games, like the Sims and Fable, have been including homosexual options. Arguably, these types of games are really the only ones where it's important. Nobody really cares if Duke GunGuy of the FPS crowd is gay or not. All anyone cares about there is how many automatic rifles he can carry in his magic backpack. RPGs and simulations are a different boat, and the changes are coming there pretty nicely now. I would expect more games to follow in the vein of the Sims, now that ground has been broken. At least, I hope to see that.

Excuse me but most of the games I play have had distinctly Asexual protagonists, male or female they usually don't partner off nor show any sexual interest at all.

I mean just think about the subject matter: aliens, nazis, mercenaries and zombies attacking from all sides, who has time to stop for sex either of the heterosexual or homosexual variety?

Yeah, male protagonists are often partnered up with female characters but almost as often have a male comrade and it usually never goes anywhere.

Like all through Half Life 2, to spite Gordon and Alyx going on many adventures together their relationship has remained almost entirely platonic. The closest Gordon has ever gotten is a friendly hug after a reunion where she thought he was dead. Gordon Freeman could be gay for all we know. Same with Marcus Fenix, but more precisely they are completely asexual.

I don't remember in any of the Tomb Raider games Lara croft ever kissing a guy, looking at a guy sexually or partnering with a guy (except Angel of Darkness, but that game was shit, no one played it).

Hell, even Metal Gear Solid, to spite you're teaming up with Meryl, the alternate ending has her completely replaced by the geeky male computer nerd Ocaton, which just demonstrates just exactly how platonic the game relationships are if a guy can be replaced in the same roll and it doesn't end up looking like a parody trailer of Brokeback Mountain.

To be honest I don't want sex in my video games, or at least not the video games which are all about adrenaline fuelled action. RPGs are very different because that is way more about personal interaction of characters, but I don't have much experience with any of them.

Maybe it's just because all this adventure and excitement is about releasing the inner child who just wants to play 'cops and robbers' and not have to worry about girls or boys or whatever.

This isn't just about sex. It's about romance and companionship, two themes which are in a variety of video game genres.

Very few games that include hetero relationships include anything explicit about sex. They just assume that you, as the protagonist, will be more invested in the game's plot if they shove some girl/princess in there for you to save.

People who are saying "I don't want sex in my video games, either straight or gay!" are missing the point. Gaymers don't want sex added to games any more than you do. What we want is to be able to save the goddamn PRINCE for a change.

As anything worthwhile to be said has probably already been said, just tossing in my 2 cents...as a strait white female, I personally would love to see more variety in video games. Not because I personally feel a lack of desirable player-characters that represent who I am (I am perfectly happy to step into the role of whoever the main character is, provided that they are written well. It is the point of the game to feel like someone else and live a different life for a while) but because I just think it would be nice to spice things up and show support to people who genuinely need it. I've played plenty of white heterosexual males in games and that's fine, but I'm just as happy to play minorities/females/gays/aliens/animals whatever. Show some support during a time when both outward and silent discrimination is still running far too strong.

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? 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.

That is the thing though. There isn't characters running around announcing "I AM HETROSEXUAL HEAR ME ROAR". People mainly players label these characters as hetrosexual. There is no reason Master Chief can't be gay. None. Not in the story perspective anyways. Just because Mario keeps saving princesses doesn't make him straight. Players make the assumption he is straight not the developers. Our MC should be a counterpart of ourselves. We should be able to relate to them as individuals. To accomplish this the writer can't give you a whole lot of details about your character. This way more people from more and different walks of life can enjoy the game.

Cantfakethefunk:
Here's a question: Can you name ten heterosexual characters from a videogame - any videogame? How about twenty, or even fifty? That's easy, right?

Ok. Can anyone name ten heterosexual characters that are definitely 100% (even 95+%) heterosexual?

That's easy, right? Anyone want to give it a try?

Yeah why can't all deviant sexual behavior get equal representation? Don't like the word deviant? How about perverted? Seriously, the biological purpose of sex is procreation, so sex that is not for procreation is by definition perverted (which is fine as long as it's not illegal). I just want to see equal representation instead of focusing on homosexuality. Sex-preference when it comes to sexuality is so pre-60s; don't you know decadence and hedonism is all about self-pleasure? Where's the bisexually themed games? Where are the games that cater to dominants and submissives? I want games about Masters and Slaves. I want to see a Gimp in leather searching for his/her lost Master and vice versa. Where's the equality?

The_root_of_all_evil:

Cantfakethefunk:
Here's a question: Can you name ten heterosexual characters from a videogame - any videogame? How about twenty, or even fifty? That's easy, right?

Ok. Can anyone name ten heterosexual characters that are definitely 100% (even 95+%) heterosexual?

That's easy, right? Anyone want to give it a try?

You're all set up for a hair-splitting crudsade, but making this debate about percentages of heterosexuality (how would you even measure that? Are there Kinsey Scales in game manuals now?) was never the point.

Still, since you asked:

Mario/Princess Peach
Sonic/Amy Rose
Link/Zelda
Prince of Persia/Fara/Elika
Duke Nukem

Well that's 10, but I think I'll keep going. How about 90% of all fighting game rosters everywhere? Find me a kickass gay character in a fighting game who just happens to be gay, rather than it being absolutely central to their backstory/outrageously camp outfit and/or sashaying fighting style. (No, Zangief doesn't count.) Or games that throw gratuitous boob candy at your character when their sexuality isn't even part of the plot e.g. Overlord, Ninja Gaiden, Alone in the Dark. And even Indie Games are going for this now, e.g. Castle Crashers and Braid, tossing princesses in willy-nilly and forcing your faceless protagonist to go after them with no plot-centric reason to do so. So I ask again, why not let us choose and appeal to an even wider demographic?

Optimystic:

You're all set up for a hair-splitting crudsade, but making this debate about percentages of heterosexuality (how would you even measure that?

Hardly hairsplitting, I'm just trying to make a point that sexuality is undefined most of the time.

Are there Kinsey Scales in game manuals now?) was never the point.

Really? Let's take the ten you stated.

Mario ( Appearance: Stereotyped "Bear": Forever chasing the unattainable woman who's actually a toadstool)
Princess Peach (Appearance: Femme: Is a toadstool)
Sonic (Hedgehog: On a quest to save animals and fight a robot eggman)
Amy Rose ("She is a pink, female, anthropomorphic hedgehog who plays the part of Sonic's self-appointed girlfriend.")
Link (Seriously? Link?)
Zelda (Elven)
Prince of Persia (Good old sweaty, shirtless Prince rough and tumbling with those male guards)
Farah (Chemistry with the Prince but ignores him after his infection, there to be given away to a husband who she has no interest in)
Elika (Trying desperately to die but the men won't let her)
Duke Nukem (If the word overcompensation doesn't even figure in your mind, then something's wrong. Not to mention he's too busy fighting with those sweaty man-hogs to look at those near naked women)

Well that's 10, but I think I'll keep going.

I would, you've not given one who couldn't be gay/lesbian/bi. I'd have picked a few like Dhalsim (married), Gen-An (married). It doesn't mean they can't be, but it's more unlikely.

How about 90% of all fighting game rosters everywhere? Find me a kickass gay character in a fighting game who just happens to be gay, rather than it being absolutely central to their backstory/outrageously camp outfit and/or sashaying fighting style.

Vega (almost certainly), Earthquake, Ryu?, E. Honda, The coughing guy in Samurai Showdown, the ENTIRETY of Final Fight, Juni/Juli/Cammy (clones)...that's way over 10 already. Then we can add Gordon Freeman (The delta symbol is also part of the gay movement), the entire base of Evil Genius and almost all games that feature a totally male lineup.

(No, Zangief doesn't count.)

Why not?

Or games that throw gratuitous boob candy at your character when their sexuality isn't even part of the plot e.g. Overlord, Ninja Gaiden, Alone in the Dark.

Boobs could be indicative of appealing to the Lesbian market if you want to get picky, but I agree there's an overabundance of them. That's not due to homophobia more than selling to hormone soaked teens. All those muscley Halo marines, slick martial artists or hairy fighters are appealing to someone though.

And even Indie Games are going for this now, e.g. Castle Crashers and Braid, tossing princesses in willy-nilly and forcing your faceless protagonist to go after them with no plot-centric reason to do so.

It's a Fed-Ex Princess Quest. Those have been around since Homer.

So I ask again, why not let us choose and appeal to an even wider demographic?

Because exactly who is going to buy a game because the main character is gay? Seriously?
If they happen to be gay, whooppee? Does it matter? No

If a characters raison d'etre is his sexuality, then he's a dull character. Be it homo/hetero/xeno or whatever. What makes a good game is a good character, and his/her sexuality shouldn't really enter into it.

That's what this whole argument is about. I honestly don't care if the character I pick is white/black, gay/straight, male/female as long as I have fun playing. In fact, 99% of the time I'm playing something that isn't me.

I just wish other people could have as much fun playing games where they're someone other than themselves.

If you sit down at a table to write the background for a character and you want him to be gay, how exactly does that change how he reacts in game? Because if you get it wrong, Stonewall will want your guts; and if you get it right, Fox News will condemn you.

While Wiki has a nice list of characters confirmed to be LGBT, who really knows about the rest?

If you really want a openly gay character, then MMOs/MUDs have been happily flying the rainbow flag for 20 years now, and woe betide any homophobe who tries to break up that little world.

EDIT: And that's just reminded me. Final Fantasy 7 (The good one), Cloud Strife can go on a date with Barrett. Fair enough?

Interesting article. I wonder if some of the old-style office machoism accounts for video games' failure to develop as a respectable artform.

Compare the mainstream outlook towards video games with the West End/Broadway scene. One is incredibly sexually liberal. The other apparently isn't. Yet theatre and musicals (a great deal of which are just as puerile and/or offensive as any video game you could name) are considered high culture. Video games are still regarded as brain-rotting entertainment of the worst kind.

There's probably more to it, but there might well be something in the staffing.

Interestingly, I'd say the more intelligent comments on both "sides" (however they may be defined) have managed to prove the article's core message:

Unlike other entertainment mediums, video games are far less representative of the world.

If an alien race were to study every video game currently made now, they'd get a far different idea of how the human race exists over what books, television, and movies would give. For the most part, video games thus far indeed mirror young, white, heterosexual male culture, with with any deviation from that only being the young, white, heterosexual male perception of another culture.

I'm not so concerned with any one culture's representation as much as a more realistic representation of our world, at least in those games were "our world" is applicable. And by this, I also mean not having certain traits overstated for the purpose of saying "Look, this person is like this!"

Honestly, I believe all any minority wants is matter-of-fact acceptance. Not to be ignored as they are mostly now, nor to be cow-towed to just to appease a some lobbyists. Hell, especially not the latter, because 1) ultimately that simply becomes another form of prejudice, and 2) it continues to primarily identify the person not as a person but as a trait. . .

. . .and I myself identify as "me" first and "transgendered" a distant second (and even then only when relevant).

EDIT: Punctuation, spelling.

Daethus:
As long as Homosexuality is statistically abnormal, the games industry will stay largely the same.

It's funny you should say that. Yes, the gay population is only 10%. But are games aimed at population base or sells base? As far as frivolous spending goes statistics show that the gay community makes up 39% of total frivolous spending of money in the US; most likely the result of having the least overhead. That's followed by other minorities, predominately blacks, at 37%. Heterosexual caucasians only make up 24% of the average frivolous spending market. On top of that, across the ethnicity board females outnumbered males by almost 2 to 1 on everything except electronics.

Now these statistics could probably explain why there's a rush of light-skinned minority characters showing up in games - heterosexual white men, their perceived core spenders, can still relate to him because they aren't too dark while using them to draw in closer the other ethnicities. But if that's what they're doing then shouldn't we be seeing more gay people since they show to have the most frivolous spending habits of all? Though where's the proof that we don't already? Most games I've played seem to do things in the same way they did to appeal to the minorities, by mudding it up. In most games they tend to leave sexuality pretty ambiguous, hinting that he's probably straight for the heterosexual audience while not setting it in stone for the gay audience. They know how to work the market.

Orekoya:

Daethus:
As long as Homosexuality is statistically abnormal, the games industry will stay largely the same.

It's funny you should say that. Yes, the gay population is only 10%. But are games aimed at population base or sells base? As far as frivolous spending goes statistics show that the gay community makes up 39% of total frivolous spending of money in the US; most likely the result of having the least overhead. That's followed by other minorities, predominately blacks, at 37%. Heterosexual caucasians only make up 24% of the average frivolous spending market. On top of that, across the ethnicity board females outnumbered males by almost 2 to 1 on everything except electronics.

Now these statistics could probably explain why there's a rush of light-skinned minority characters showing up in games - heterosexual white men, their perceived core spenders, can still relate to him because they aren't too dark while using them to draw in closer the other ethnicities. But if that's what they're doing then shouldn't we be seeing more gay people since they show to have the most frivolous spending habits of all? Though where's the proof that we don't already? Most games I've played seem to do things in the same way they did to appeal to the minorities, by mudding it up. In most games they tend to leave sexuality pretty ambiguous, hinting that he's probably straight for the heterosexual audience while not setting it in stone for the gay audience. They know how to work the market.

So...Your point is what exactly?

Oh please, it's an unwritten rule amongst geeks everywhere that all fictional characters are inherently bisexual, especially females.

You know I'm right.

quite frankly im usually annoyed by sexuality in games im a guy and i played as a girl in fable 2 and was disgusted by the crap i get from every male villagers asking me to i quote go behind the barn and have a romp in the hay every time i walk past or Shepperd from mass effect 2 stops trying to save the universe while trying to sleep with half his or her crew i dont think it really matters in a game book sure i love Mercedes lackey the last herald mage book(gay main protagonist)but a game should be about the story and excitement not bogged down bye back story of what the persons preferences are thats pointless material

What I'd love is a story where you've been playing for four hours, are invested in the character and only then is there a scene where - in passing - you see your character kiss someone of the same sex. It's not made a big deal of (at least not right away) but there it is - without even realising it, you've been playing and identifying with someone who bats for the other team.

Of course, another cool option would be the ability to choose before you start playing - which changes the main 'love interest' in some games. I'd love the option to pursue multiple different types of men and women. Flamboyant or non. Butchy or non. And so on and so forth.

Wait a shit, this thread is a year old?

And anyway, sexuality is rarely depicted in games anyway. I think that will have too change before we Gay protagonists can occur.

I mean, I don't think a love interest has ever appeared in CoD.

"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,"

..imo, kind of missing the point. The reason you see the macho-worship (which is the gayest thing I have ever seen, by the way) in US culture at large, is a need a lot of people have to create an overt identity for their group.

For example: I know a few gay people who live in the US. I know they are gay, because they go out of their way to tell me. I don't really care, because it doesn't quite matter for the type of political work we do. But they still insist on making sure I am absolutely clear on their sexuality and their choice of lifestyle. Why is that my business, I ask while playing dumb. And they get kind of annoyed. So I say, well, I respect your work, I respect your intellect, and you're one step ahead on the curve.. and have a real skill at carrying people on your back, figuratively speaking. Etc. So why does it matter that you're GAY!!

But that's not what defines the guy. Oh, no. Because it's brave being gay, you see. It's taking a stand for self-expression against oppression.

Which is of course true. But it's still blergh. I don't care if you want to have sex with someone's bum, or that you find someone's whiskers attractive. I can be happy for you if you develop feelings for someone special, and laugh together with you over a beer about the stupid stuff you do when you're in love. But for the love of God - how does being gay define your worth as a human being? Seriously, just...

That's the same way I feel about gay protagonists in games. If you're doing a role-playing game, then the character you play should be able to be anything you want. Your character in Phantasy Star Universe could be gay.. or just have a serious obsession with oversized pastel coloured swords. I don't know.

And the thing is that outside of the US, and away from that part where people try to create their own identity shell like that from scratch - I don't really know either. So is that really a problem? Is the solution to the overly sexualized "open" US culture expression worship that focuses on "macho" attitudes - to make another one, just more expressively homosexual?

..actually, don't answer that..

Great article. Thanks for that.

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