Tuesday, April 6, 2010

gays in games

Despite the traditional fanservice, sexual innuendo and lustful voluptuous women, I never considered videogames in general all that sexual. The oversexed imagery and female exploitation was mostly catering to the wide audience of sex-starved virgin nerds – actual sex has historically been a fairly rare occurrence on games not specifically created to have sex as a selling point. While there has always been the usual share of romantic relationships, references to sexuality were mostly indirect. Things might be changing this last decade, when storyline became a major part of most gaming genres and adult games seem to be well-received. Admittedly, those aren’t my favourite type of games, but they exist and are displays of a modern trend that brings videogames closer to other medias, movies in particular (and not only in the sense that you watch more than you play).

However, it bothers me how even with the "newfound adulthood" of videogames, references to homosexuality in mainstream gaming has to be shown either a deviant behaviour or as jokes, or ways to generate awkward moments for the straight dudes holding the controller. Not necessarily offensive (personally, I don’t recall being offended – maybe I’ve forgotten), but seldom usual. There are examples of gay-friendliness, usually in games with an open-ended bent. Funny how whenever I play one of those I do as a gay character... I wonder why. Fable II’s way of handling homosexuality is probably my favourite of the bunch: you can flirt with guys and even marry one. As a matter of fact, this fact about this game was one of the deciding factors that led me to buy an Xbox 360 instead of a PS3 (a shame I found out most of the gay guys are bald and ugly). I also heard in Bully you can be romantically involved with another kid, but I never played it. There’s always The Sims, which to me is more asexual than gay-friendly, but that might be too subtle a distinction. In Dragon Age Origins you can fuck an elf, but he’s a morally ambiguous bisexual elf, which by itself carries all sorts of connotations. There’s Volgin in MGS3 who fucks an effeminate dude, but he’s a nasty sadistic Russian villain, and so on. These might be welcome signs that things are changing, but I don’t think it would hurt if the homosexual characters didn’t have those negative undertones.

In the most social gaming genre ever, MMORPGs, homosexuality is a touchy issue. There has been major media backlash related to World of Warcraft when Blizzard threatened to ban people who were advertising a LGBT-only guild, a telling anecdote that shows how even major studios aren’t certain of the best way to deal with gays on MMOs. But honestly, I think most of the problems aren’t the developers’ fault: you have to blame the (mostly horrible) community. As long as the word "gay" is used as a swear word, things will stay that crummy way in MMOs, and I doubt developers could have any influence on that.

I wish there were more games of whatever genre that featured gay heroes – not necessarily "gay games" (although I would certainly love 100% gay games - gimme more Japanese gay dating sims!), Fable 2 isn’t a gay game and there’s a fair amount of gayness in there. The gay characters need not be main characters, but necessarily need not be oddities or psychos or whatever mental disturb people associate with homosexuals. You don’t need to show guys fucking other guys in order to have gay characters. Gays in games have already been done in a tasteful manner, and I see no firm reason other than prejudice for them not to be more widespread. We most certainly have more than enough straight heroes already.

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