Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sexuality In Video Games

My friend Burley asked a question on Facebook the other day that got me thinking about sexuality in video games. He asked, "Aren’t we far enough along to have openly gay video game protagonists?" We as consumers constantly asking video game developers for better graphics, more control, deeper stories and more characters development. But what about sexuality? Is a video game character's sexuality important if it's not relevant to the story?

As to Burley's questions, I believe that, considering the large number of Gaymers out there, society SHOULD be progressive enough to have openly gay protagonists, However, I do believe it will be a WHILE before a game developer is brave enough to make a [serious] game with a main protagonist who is openly gay and is advertised as such. I believe the exception to this would be a Lesbian protagonist...let’s face it, that'll happen first. ;) Part of me feels that Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII could be a Lesbian and that Fang is DEFINITELY a Lesbian (with a love interest in Vanille), however, the latter could be because Fang was originally scripted to be male. These are only speculations because the subject never came up in the game. But that's why i asked the questions, is a video game character's sexuality important if it's not relevant to the story?

On the surface, most commercial video games are not about sex, or the exploration of sexuality, so having a main character be openly gay seems as relevant as the character's favorite color. In Halo, would it matter if Master Chief is gay? What if Luigi is gay? What about Samus? If sexuality isn't relevant to the overall gameplay, then should we know, or care about it?

In most games, you are playing a distinct character in their own world with their own story that you are experiencing with them, but with RPG style games (and a few other genes) there is a heavy emphasis on experiencing the game AS the character. Game designers have gone to great lengths to allow players to create their own in-game avatars so that they can truly have a personalized experience within the game. But in games like these where the focus is on character development, heroic journeys and role playing, can the player truly have a personalized experience when their character’s sexuality is not taken into consideration. In these games, there is usually a love interest driving the plot, be it kidnapped royalty, a murdered loved one or someone you meet during your journey, who the character now wants to protect. When that love interest is geared towards the opposite sex, it potentially disconnects gay gamers from the character they have personalized/customized.

Here is a scenarios to consider. A young lad, leaves his village, which has been destroyed by a band of goblins. When traveling to a neighboring kingdom, he discovers the Kings son has been kidnapped by an evil wizard and is being held ransom. The young lad is charged by the king (for WHATEVER reason) to liberate the young prince from his captor. The lad seeing a portrait of the handsome prince sets off on his quest. 5 hours of leveling and grinding later the lad finds the prince. After a tough fight with the wizard the lad rescues the prince. Instead of remaining at home, the prince decides to join the lad on his journey. Throughout the next several hours of cut scenes and in game conversations (or arguments) the two characters begin to fall in love with each other. Speed forward through disaster and an quest to save the world (we all know how these go) and the lad and the young prince live happily ever after…or not, if there’s a twist death right before the final boss fight.

We’ve all played this game…probably MANY games like it. Take the same situation and make the lad a lass and the prince a princess. It’s the same story, falling in love and saving the world from destruction. If the player change choose their face, hair, name, job class, fighting style…why not let them decide who their character falls in love with?

But times they are a changing. Sexuality options within modern RPG/Character building type games are starting to become more and more progressive. Some games now allow gay players to flirt and explore relationships with same sex partners. Games like Dragon Age, Fable, Mass Effect and The Sims have crossed that line and more games probably will in the future. Again, it goes back to whether sexuality is important to the game or not. I would like to see future developers approach sexuality like the approach a games difficulty level, let the play choose. "Is your character Male or Female?" "Are they Gay or Straight?" This way the player has the option make a character that best represents them. That’s not asking too much, is it?

Post a comment and give your perspective. Dialogue equals change!

This picture was too funny not to include. I mean, REALLY?

For a listing of current LGBT characters in video games check out this LINK.

This is just the world as I see it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's fun useless trivia. This isn't one of the serious games you're talking about, but one of the Diner Dash spinoffs - I can't remember which, but it involves you casting a soap opera as you play through the levels, actually allows you to pick whoever you want as the lead love interests. Being that I'm me, I tested guy-guy and girl-girl right away, and it didn't cause any changes to the game whatsoever. Not exacty the same as a gay protagonist, but still pretty forward thinking. (Or, who knows, maybe it was a glitch and they "fixed" it.) I don't think it was soap opera dash, though it might have been, but it was one of those Playfirst Flo games. (And the hard core game builders should take note- this is a family game. So that says to me that GLBT issues are family friendly issues. My real question would be why the hell everybody else is lagging behind.)

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