222: Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

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Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

For straight gamers, videogames can often be an escape from a painful reality. But for gay gamers, videogames offer little respite from prejudice and homophobia. Robert Yang recalls his experience developing a Half-Life 2 mod featuring gay characters and the response it provoked.

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hehe "why should i" good response

That's always been one of the things I don't get about homophobia: Just because they like men, doesn't mean they like YOU. Not every woman in the world is clamouring to have sex with every man, just like every gay man doesn't want to jump the bones of every other man. I liked this article a lot. Yet homophobia seems to be the most common intolerance around. A whole bunch of my WoW Guild Mates shat brix when I told them the Spartans were all homosexual, and got annoyed when I told them why. One of them even got quite hostile with me, and still won't use my name without adding some expletive.

I played Handle with care when if was first released.

Good fun, and doesn't make that big a deal of the whole gay thing, really.
Honestly, it felt about as gay as my gay relationship. Which, from my point of view, doesn't feel that gay. It's just love.

Although really, I don't see a need for gay characters in games. If a character is revealed to be gay in a game, it evokes about the same response from me as an easter egg with some cultural reference to, say, a band I like.

Angerwing:
That's always been one of the things I don't get about homophobia: Just because they like men, doesn't mean they like YOU. Not every woman in the world is clamouring to have sex with every man, just like every gay man doesn't want to jump the bones of every other man.

Took the words right out of my mouth there, mate.

Articles like this are one of the things that makes me damn proud of the Escapist. Mature and frank discussions of subjects like gender and homophobia on a gaming site? Say it isn't so!

While I doubt that the gaming community will become truly acceptant (as opposed to "tolerant", which seems to imply that gays are a nuisance) of openly gay people, it'd be great to see less hate speech while playing online.

I find nothing wrong with having gay characters in games, and I wish gamers in general could be more tolerant. Hell, I wish people were more tolerant.
As a straight guy, I still find homophobia one of the most disgusting things in the world.

Fithakk:
I find nothing wrong with having gay characters in games, and I wish gamers in general could be more tolerant. Hell, I wish people were more tolerant.
As a straight guy, I still find homophobia one of the most disgusting things in the world.

Well said my friend

You lost me at 'Weird, prentious Art-House mods for Half-Life 2'.

But seriously, Counter-Strike is the Halo of the PC. I'm suprised you didn't get a face full of terrorist crotch and a carefully worded (yet appalingly spelled) essay on why you're gay, who you're gay with, and the precise details of your sordid affair.

As for that postman, well, you're always going to get nutjobs. I personally know quite a number of people (not all old men, mind you), who think Women's rights are a joke, get back in the kitchen etc.

In fact, I get the feeling that as a gamer, you're more likely to be accepted as Gay: the majority of 'hardcore' gamers are in the 18-24/30 bracket, and as such are all memebers of Gen X/Y; the most accomodating and accepting western generation to date.

The point is, you're just as likely to get called a 'retard' as you are a 'fag'. I should find this offensive (I have Asperger's syndrome, quite acute-bird............................), but it's just part of the background noise when you're playing online. Usually nothing is meant by it, and (unless you're playing on that hive of idiocy, Xbox Live) if you explain that you take offence, most people will try to avoid using certain words and phrases.

A problem I have is that often, in game, a gay/lesbian/furry/woman/scatologist/all-of-the-above etc. will muscle their way in, and demand that we walk around of eggshells in the off-chance that we say something even slightly offensive. Not to mention they usually get huffy when we don't treat them with the utmost respect because "I'm gay, damnit, look at how brave I am to come out to people on the internet". But, I suppose the G.I.F.T. works on everybody, regardless of sexual preference.

... Bloody hell this is turning into an article all of itself, so I think I'll stop no, the hole is plenty deep already.

Great article. I've long said games should incorporate more gay characters, especially RPGs that love to go on about the player's freedom to choose (everything but romantic partners, apparently). My family has quite a few gay and lesbian members, and growing up we were all very close. It's probably why I'm so passionate about gay rights. I also you to game with my cousin when we were kids and teenagers. He happens to be gay. It really made the lack of gay characters in commercial games a very glaring oversight. For those of you without exposure to the gay community, you might not have noticed it at all. Or it might not seem like that big a deal. But it is. Because the undertone it sends is one of a lack of acceptance at the gay community.

Television and film have been opening the doors for more nuanced gay characters in stronger, more important roles. But video games are lagging behind. I've said it before, I don't know how an inclusion of a gay character could possibly be a bad thing. It would attract another fan base, and even if it did generate controversy (a la Bully), controversy tends to sell units. And anyway, I haven't heard anything negative about The Ballad of Gay Tony thus far. So perhaps we as a society are growing up. A girl can dream, anyway.

I'm gay and that end paragraph using suggestive imagery based around modern male protagonists getting it on fills me with no end of horror and dread.

Gay main characters or just general gay characters knocking about in the background fixing things, operating computers or possibly beating the shit out of something, whatever, there's always going to be a paranoid closet-case freaking out because they fear that the gay character will come out of the screen, The Ring style, and dress them in pastels, make them wear a beret and stuff quiche down their throats.

You say that games wouldn't sell if they had gay characters but what if they were lesbian? Just plucking the most obvious example from the air here, but look at the porn industry, the most common male fantasy is the "threesome" and it's most accessible form is in lesbian porn (you + two girls behind a glass screen= threesome in your brain since it's too lazy to make much of a distinction anyway).

Now, don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying that all women are sex objects and we should exploit a profitable sexual orientation (lesbianism) for the benefit of making a quick buck, but if a game company were to make a game with a lesbian character I'll bet you that that's there area they'll focus on the most just to lure in the majority of the demographic (males between the ages of 16~30). Look at any other game with a female protagonist if you don't believe me.

I would like to see a game that merely suggests that your character is a lesbian and uses the stronger aspects of it to make her character a little less one dimensional. If the developers are smart they'd have just as much profit from it by making it a cult classic instead of a simple male fantasy. For example, imagine that the female (lesbian) character is a kick-ass bounty hunter, her sexual orientation would come in handy to suggest how she got into that role as one of the contributing factors, you could even have her girlfriend as the geeky character who handles all the tech, maybe the geeky girlfriend gets killed in a dramatic explosion and that's what powers the story into the rest of the game.

What I'm saying is, how is a straight relationship any different than a gay one? Pick up the comic "Love And Rockets" if you want a better understanding of it (which I recommend because it's really good) the only difference is superficial but if used in the right way can be a lot more effective in giving a more emotionally gripping storyline than the same old straight characters can.

If the female bounty hunter's other half was a guy it would have much less of an emotional effect than the geeky girlfriend since we've seen guys in games die all the time (and probably killed a few ourselves) but the happy, geeky, loving and friendly girlfriend would have more emotional impact because it's the whole "aww she's so cute" thing (obviously she'll be a cute, happy character, it's just basic character dynamics to balance a strong main character with an "innocent" secondary character, take Earthworm Jim and Peter Puppy for example).

What I'm mainly waffling on about is that the emotional ties between the main character and her side-kick cum girlfriend would be strong and easily explainable to allow for a smooth and uncomplicated storyline gumming up the game play, the main character can be female, therefore she'd be more awesome than your average male character because it's more exciting to have a female lead in an action game (look at the success of the first three (good) Tomb Raiders) and you can get a lot of mileage out of her back story to boot. But if she were straight and her secondary character were male you'd feel like you've seen it all before and quickly get bored no matter how well it's written.

(For the record, I was a pink-haired lesbian in Fallout 3, I dated Butterkip in Little Big Town, I was still the baddest mofo in the Wastelands and my dad loved me until the day he died. The story works no matter what sexual orientation you are, but doesn't it make it so much more interesting to add your own little twist?)

despite my 3 month relationship whit a guy i wouldn't call my self gay, gay means that i was physically attracted to him, which i wasn't, i was only whit him because he was sweet, smart, funny guy i had allot in common whit and could spend 20 hours talking whit and every second of would be heaven for me, but i am asexual and have no sexual desires (which was why he broke up whit me, perfectly understandable) and as such every sexual relationship in games annoy me, it wouldn't matter if the kickass awesome superhero fell in love whit a female whit close to no shirt that revealed her tremendous boobs or whit a male whit close to no shirt that revealed his amazing 6 pack at first glance, it makes no sense to me and annoys me.

if the game developers need their character to fall in love for them to live happily ever after, then they should give us a reason, and as long as they refuse to give us a reason to fall in love beside "boobs are awesome" its a long shot to hope for a gay hero, but who knows, maybe in the future we will see main stream games where the hero falls in love because "six packs are awesome".

I found your game pretty damn interesting. I still couldn't play more than 20 minutes. It was just so g--eh, gelatinous.

That was a poor joke, I admit. I just couldn't find a word that started with G and also meant really shitty gameplay. Nah, that's unfair too. I guess you said it yourself. Frustrating. I would've liked to finish it, actually.

Mmm, big thick railguns.

The only thing that pissed me off about his game is that someone would put their time to use the source engine for a FREAKING MARRIAGE SIM! Gay or not!

...Unless, it's the story of a man with such a bad marriage life, that he kills his husband/wife and goes on an office shoot-out...

...I would play that...

Characters and Story have almost no place in games. Maybe in twenty-years time the technology will be there to simulate interpersonal drama in the form of a kind of improvisation theatre, where theme and character biographies can be leveraged off of the back of sophisticated AI and the graphics can animate the subtlest, half-suppressed, human hurt - but the phenomenal expense of creating an interactive Ingmar Bergman whilst ordinary, passive, Cinema already satisfies audiences, makes this seem unlikely to ever happen.

Ryokugax:
I'm gay and that end paragraph using suggestive imagery based around modern male protagonists getting it on fills me with no end of horror and dread.

Gay main characters or just general gay characters knocking about in the background fixing things, operating computers or possibly beating the shit out of something, whatever, there's always going to be a paranoid closet-case freaking out because they fear that the gay character will come out of the screen, The Ring style, and dress them in pastels, make them wear a beret and stuff quiche down their throats.

That description of closet-cases' fears was hilarious, and I am now hoping someone uses it as inspiration for a flash animation. You may want to suggest it to Landover Baptist or other satire sites - but then, their party line would be that most if not all computer games are for wimpy godless gays who will surely burn in hell for all eternity.

Great article, thank you for writing it.

Well, everybody else has already said "great article", but... it is!

(Plus, if I had wanted to complain about gay rights and the pervasiveness of homophobia, I wouldn't bother with building an entire videogame to send a message; instead, I'd write a long-winded article and publish it on a well-trafficked online website about videogames ... well, all hypothetically speaking, of course.)

^hehe.

Good article. I think that as soon as we stop main a big deal out of putting gay characters in games its going to stop being an issue. Characters in games should not be gay for the sake of being gay, or to promote gay rights or to piss people of, they should be gay if it fits with the story. Simple as that. I think people will find it much easier to accept a character if he is gay because it's just who he is, rather than a flamboyant queen who is just there so some gay developer can give the finger to bigots. Am I making sense here?

It's not just gamers that have problems with homophobia, I think some of the people that make ratings for games are the same people who would put "Gay sexual content" on a game rather than "sexual content" and they'd probably make a whole other rating for it too. Homosexuals are the least of my worries, I'm more concerned with my AP World History homework.

I guess what I'm saying is that, I could really care less if you are gay or strait as long as you don't sound like an annoying 9 year old through my headset.

It's sad that the only gay characters in games (and many, many movies) are just caricatures of gay stereotypes. Sure, many homosexual (mostly) men I met openly brag about their sexuality as a means to deal with all the bullshit they have to endure. But there are so many homosexuals who you'll rarely think of as such, until yo meet them with their partner.

I think that a homosexual character should be as subtle as described in the article, not as extreme as in most media. Remember, it'S just their sexual preferences, and as long as you are not attracted, they don't even matter to you, or do they?

TheRealCJ:
You lost me at 'Weird, prentious Art-House mods for Half-Life 2'.

But seriously, Counter-Strike is the Halo of the PC. I'm suprised you didn't get a face full of terrorist crotch and a carefully worded (yet appalingly spelled) essay on why you're gay, who you're gay with, and the precise details of your sordid affair.

As for that postman, well, you're always going to get nutjobs. I personally know quite a number of people (not all old men, mind you), who think Women's rights are a joke, get back in the kitchen etc.

In fact, I get the feeling that as a gamer, you're more likely to be accepted as Gay: the majority of 'hardcore' gamers are in the 18-24/30 bracket, and as such are all memebers of Gen X/Y; the most accomodating and accepting western generation to date.

The point is, you're just as likely to get called a 'retard' as you are a 'fag'. I should find this offensive (I have Asperger's syndrome, quite acute-bird............................), but it's just part of the background noise when you're playing online. Usually nothing is meant by it, and (unless you're playing on that hive of idiocy, Xbox Live) if you explain that you take offence, most people will try to avoid using certain words and phrases.

A problem I have is that often, in game, a gay/lesbian/furry/woman/scatologist/all-of-the-above etc. will muscle their way in, and demand that we walk around of eggshells in the off-chance that we say something even slightly offensive. Not to mention they usually get huffy when we don't treat them with the utmost respect because "I'm gay, damnit, look at how brave I am to come out to people on the internet". But, I suppose the G.I.F.T. works on everybody, regardless of sexual preference.

... Bloody hell this is turning into an article all of itself, so I think I'll stop no, the hole is plenty deep already.

This a million times over, people are way too sensitive these days, I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins, but that doesn't mean I'm need to go postal over a zombie Jesus joke, infact sometimes I laugh myself if its actually funny and not just done out of hate.

Well,i would like to see more games with homosexual protagonists. I fail to see what's so wrong about *fingerquotes* "alternative" sexuality (fingerquotes are there because i consider homosexuals/bisexuals completely normal).

Its awesome to see this article and everyone's comments are some fresh re-spit from the world of people you sometimes meet on the internet.

personally from a gay gamer's view, it doesn't matter to me if the characters are gay or not in a game, 99.9% of the time that's not why i bought a game. sure there are some characters that would be fun to see as a gay guy *couch* SPY .... *couch couch* but that wouldn't change the game play AT ALL!!

I don't think things will change soon and if they do i will take it very slow in seeing if things really have changed or its just a guise.

But thank you all at the escapist for renewing my faith that not everyone has totally lost their sense of brotherly (humanly?) love.

Nice article. Makes some good points.

I'm sorry that you or anyone else has to live with prejudice and abuse.

And by the way there are straight white males out there who are interested in playing games where they get to explore other people's perspectives: I think in this video games have a tremendous potential to be a force for good. I think getting a chance to walk an interactive mile in someone else's shoes could be a great way to bring awareness to issues that minorities (including women, GLBT, ect.) deal with every day that "privileged" white males never even have to think about.

Gays need to take back the f word but in a different manner than the way blacks took back the n word: which hasn't exactly diffused the word.
I think gay people should start referring to lame homophobes as "fags." Really overuse it too so it loses all meaning.

It won't stop the real hard core right wing homophobes from coming up with something new (or more likely, recycling another old term) but I think anything that follows wouldn't be as strong.

You want to make a popular gay game, make it an exclusive. All the homophobes on xbl are salivating for Gay Tony.

I'm gay and a gamer so i've had to put up with all the comments and jibes throughout my life, but I've found that gamers are actually some of the most accepting people you could find, even the ones that shout fag and teabag your corpse probably at that moment forgot what the word actually ment, their's no real hate behind it, so escapism has never really been unattainable for me.

Angerwing:
That's always been one of the things I don't get about homophobia: Just because they like men, doesn't mean they like YOU. Not every woman in the world is clamouring to have sex with every man, just like every gay man doesn't want to jump the bones of every other man. I liked this article a lot. Yet homophobia seems to be the most common intolerance around. A whole bunch of my WoW Guild Mates shat brix when I told them the Spartans were all homosexual, and got annoyed when I told them why. One of them even got quite hostile with me, and still won't use my name without adding some expletive.

It's in part because there's a lot of stigma and culture baggage loaded into homosexuality. And also, a lot of men in society are themselves more sexually insecure and busted up than they understand or would ever admit, since traditionally, society has conditioned men to be "tough" and closed, and made them just not talk about a whole range of things.

In short, gay people make a whole lot of straight men feel confused just by existing, and they hate that.

For the folks downthread who think gay people are just oversensitive and whiny:

It is quickly becoming a new straw man, this image of the flowery, delicate, politically correct gay advocate who squeals at the slightest imagined offense. And yes, there are some ultra liberal, terribly shrill GBLT crusaders out there who help prop up this straw man.

However, as a gay male, here's a different perspective. The vast majority of gay men I've ever known who do not come from the background of what are really only a couple major pools of concentrated gay culture in the usual suspect cities, hardly fit the shrill and delicate stereotype. In reality, off the Internet and off of network television, the insidious thing about the Gay Male is you cannot tell what he looks like! Oh my.

But here is a slice of life for the actual, authentic, average gay male who is not made of straw.

I live with my partner in a pleasant college town. It's not overly whitebread. It's quite used to a rainbow coalition of ethic types due to the college campus; students of every stripe fill the town half of the year.

However, homophobia is quite rampant in America, and deeply ingrained. It is also quite hostile and threatening when you're the target. Things /always/ look different when you're the target; they can look very different indeed.

See, the road that we live on happens to be a popular route for students at the uni to take on the way to a town park where, to be frank, they meet to get laid, sell dope and meth. The favorite American pastimes. My partner and I have learned to be very wary on the road where we live, because if we happen to be in front of our house, or walking on the road, when carloads of students pass by - not the same few troublemakers, but a random and ever changing variety of people - they typically swerve at us, wave bottles out the windows, honk constantly, and roll down their windows to scream "FUCKING FAGGOTS" before speeding off again.

It's not that we're walking down the street in leather chaps, folks. We most insidiously look like everyone else. However, the key is, there are only two of us; not a group of four or five college buds. Two men alone? This is America. They're probably gay, so the wisdom goes. Ironically, in this case, the average students guess correctly.

Now, let's be realistic here. Hormonally overloaded 18 year old male Americans, drunk, constantly going back and forth with carloads of meth. Yes, this is not at all a recipe for disaster if they see a couple of faggots on the street one evening. We're not even in the deep south or anywhere stereotypical like that. We're in one of the "good places".

We don't have to do anything to feel threatened or get people to scream at us and serve their cars within inches of us every day. We look "normal". But Americans are well trained to smell the gay at this point. All you have to do is stand outside. That's about it.

This is a bit more of the reality of the situation. It's not about people being "too sensitive" when someone tells a stupid joke in his office cubicle. There are actually reasons why gay people are /slightly concerned/ about homophobia than mere foppish sensibilities. You might want to forgive them if, having to live with this all the time in real life, they're just kind of tired to hear more of it when they log on to Xbox Live. It's just a little matter of saturation. Silly I know!

Well, I'll shut up now.

The internet is a mixed blessing, on the one hand, it's the INTERNET

On the other, I bump into a lot more bigots, as we're all in the same "space", as it were, rather than spread across the planet.

Thank heavens for the rest of us,

Good article, very meaningful

squeakthedragon:
Snip

That's unfortunate that you live in such an intolerant place. I have a good friend who is gay, and at our school that's fully accepted. A bit of background: Our school is a Catholic private school with one of the best schoolboy rugby teams in Australia, and we have a lot of country boys and generally rough guys. Yet not one of them appears to have a problem with my friend, or has ever said anything harsh against him. He's just one of the boys. And that is what I am damn proud of.

Edit:

swaki:
despite my 3 month relationship whit a guy i wouldn't call my self gay, gay means that i was physically attracted to him, which i wasn't, i was only whit him because he was sweet, smart, funny guy i had allot in common whit and could spend 20 hours talking whit and every second of would be heaven for me, but i am asexual and have no sexual desires (which was why he broke up whit me, perfectly understandable) and as such every sexual relationship in games annoy me, it wouldn't matter if the kickass awesome superhero fell in love whit a female whit close to no shirt that revealed her tremendous boobs or whit a male whit close to no shirt that revealed his amazing 6 pack at first glance, it makes no sense to me and annoys me.

With. With. WITH.

Interesting concept! Not really my kind of thing but that's more to do with the genre of the mod than anything else. The sad fact is that the media of a society is mostly a charicature of that society's views - and homophobia is very much prevalent in Western culture still.

I'd like to think that my generation has made some progress... However the internet is where viewpoints are polarised and made more extreme apparently as a result of the human lust for taking sides in any area of conflict. It's way to easy nowadays to sit smug in anonymity and make hateful comments. Or write a stupid article in a tabloid newspaper.

As for my own behaviour, I'm guilty of occasionally using inappropriate words as insults. But I like to think I can justify that by saying that I'm not homophobic/racist/generallyagainstanyparticulargroupunlesstheypissmeoff in the slightest, and that these terms are more the result of negative historical use rather than today's societies in general. I've used some terms occasionally for shock comedy value. Still I feel a bit guilty.

At least homosexuality is being taken in a more sympathetic and reasonable direction by some makers of TV programs/films and this seems to be filtering through to previously ignorant people (like my grandmother).

If any of this doesn't make sense I apologise as I'm very tired and seem to have contracted verbal diarrhoea :P

*Claps hands*

Good for you.

I read and enjoyed this article. Discrimination against gay people needs to stop.

One thing though, why does being effeminate seem to be a gay stereotype? They are two different things.

I love the response to the not just request but demand that the author release their own work "without the gay."

"Why should we?" is the most common response to the question of "Will you release a game with a gay protagonist?" put to most game developers. Usually it's followed up with "it wouldn't sell," but the truth is that they don't know that. They've never tried. A "gay protagonist" doesn't need to be a limp-wristed caricature of course. Marcus Fenix could easily be gay and have a picture of his partner in his wallet that he shows to someone just to dare the plot gods to try and kill his invincible badass self. That small a gesture is all it takes. A short conversation with a marriage counselor, playing on some of the jokes of the "mute protagonist" is all it takes. It's not so hard.

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