Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Homosexuality in video games - idle thoughts

On December 30, 2011 Andrew Meade wrote an opinion piece on gamasutra.com (one of these best gaming sites out there) titled "Awful Lot of Heterosexuals Around Here" that posits the question, "Can you name three homosexual characters in popular video games that were NOT made by BioWare, Bethesda, or Rockstar?" which cause a mountain of responses (ranging with internet predictability from troll to thoughtful).  On the second of January Anjin Anhut wrote, "A Case For a Gay Protagonist".  I was reminded of Samantha Xu's article I linked back in January 09 about Persona 4's Kanji Tatsumi (also from gamasutra.com).  After reading and rereading these pieces and skimming comments I felt the need to write down a few thoughts and possibly (hopefully) hear what your thoughts were.

My initial response to Mr. Meade's question was Perfect Dark - which had a lesbian protagonist as a selling point.  My second response, and the comment I left with the link on FB, was more sarcastic, "Oh so the sweaty muscle bound meathead protagonists aren't as homoerotic as "Top Gun"volleyball? A "relateable" gay character is going to be as rare, if not more so, as a relatable female protagonist."  I had to laugh because I remembered playing Gears of War co-op with my wife during which she constantly made sweaty burly man-love references and joked about the lack of a smooch button (I can only imagine what she thinks of Vin Diesel's relationship). These other random thoughts appeared in not particular order:

  • In most RPGs in which I can choose my gender I play a female character.  In games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect I am pretty much a libertine.  During a second play-through I play a male character who is equally licentious - even though I play an "evil" character as a male.  I was disappointed I couldn't get into Alistair's pants as a male character (almost as much as I was that I couldn't get into Morgan's pants as a female character).
  • Part of the reason I avoid most online gaming (particularly on XBOX Live) is the constant stream of homophobic (and racist) noise pollution that is uttered by other gamers.  
  • As I jokingly posted on FB a large number of hyper-masculine protagonists in games seem to have escaped from some beefcake homoerotic bondage website or been torn from a Tom of Finland erotic comic.
  • There's also the stereotypical double standard of same-sex relations apparent in games.  Two hot chicks = oh yeah.  Two hot guys = Westboro Baptist Church response.
  • Does it really matter what the sexual proclivities of your protagonist are?  I suppose that if games are used as fantasy fulfillment then yes it might matter to an individual.  However this raises the question about a how player role plays a game like Dragon Age or Mass Effect.  How often do you or I actually play a character in a video game (especially a RPG)?  It's easy enough to pick the good or bad choices during play in most games and exploit NPCs for material gain.
  • One thing I don't understand, and this is perhaps a stupid thought, is the concept that playing a gay (or any other type) protagonist some kind of personal affront?  ZOMG my character is attracted to members of the same sex that must mean I am blah blah blah hyperbole.
I suppose that in the end the mainstream gaming market is still heavily based upon sales to heterosexual white males (in this country).  Less than a handful of games with female protagonists who aren't all T&A exist and those do well with reviewers but make shite for sales (e.g. Between Good & Evil, Hydrophobia).  Black protagonists of either gender are virtually nonexistent (unless you count Elder Scrolls  Redwalls and Borderlands  Soldier).  Personally I'd be happy to play a game that was well-written, with excellent and dynamic character development, and the ability to draw me into an experience that was new, refreshing, and challenged both my gaming abilities and my preconceived notions of what a gaming experience can be.  

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