The gaming world is often considered a man’s realm. A place dominated by misogyny and gay jokes. This leads to the general lack of representation in games — whether it be racial, sexual or LGBT. Except for a few key games and companies, LGBT content is barren and many times even the butt of a joke in gaming media.
There has however been a cultural resurgence in gaming as many companies that previously had little to no LGBT content — like that of Blizzard, the company that developed games like “Hearthstone,” “World of Warcraft” — are now making moves to be more inclusive.
Blizzard’s new cultural phenomenon “Overwatch” has received praise for its diversity and the cover character Tracer is openly lesbian.
One of the main characters in the “Last of Us” — a game that surpassed $7 million on PlayStation 3 and earned an additional million on PS4, according to gaming news site IGN — is a teenage girl named Ellie who is shown to be in love with her best friend Riley, a female, in the game’s expansion “Left Behind.”
Naughty Dog, the studio behind “The Last of Us,” is one of Sony’s biggest game development studios.
This is a new pattern for big game studios, however. Previously, the only games where there was gay representation were Bioware-developed games like the “Dragon Age” series of games and “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.” The “Sims” which is developed by EA, has also had a history of inclusivity.
Gaming companies gave gay men very effeminate mannerisms and made them less “manly” because of it — a walking caricature of the stereotypical gay man. The lack of representation in most video games was caused by the industry belief that the driving force behind video game success was the approval and endorsement of straight white males. The 2001 release of “The Sims,” which offered same-sex marriages, broke that mould. The game soared in sales and was the precursor to a whole genre of character management games.
Up until recently, LGBT friendly games were few and far between with the main serving of inclusive games coming from the developer Bioware.
Up until recently, LGBT friendly games were few and far between with the main serving of inclusive games coming from the developer Bioware. Games developed by Bethesda like “Skyrim” and “Fallout” have always had the option for same-sex relations but have had a feeling of novelty whereas Bioware displays natural feeling relationships and representation with through writing in their RPGs.
One of the most popularized LGBT Bioware characters was a mage named Dorian in “Dragon Age: Inquisition.” The non-player character was given an entire arc of quests designed around his coming out as a gay man to his noble family. Not only was it a well thought out and meaningful interaction, it also felt like a true part of the game world and made for a realistically complex character.
That is just one example of Bioware’s representation of LGBT content in their games. Until recently there were only handful of critically-acclaimed games that had any diversity on the LGBT spectrum whatsoever and that may be because of the corporate belief that straight white men, the largest player base, fear the “gay” content as if playing said games was a question to their sexuality.
In many games we see the opposite of progress: antigay sentiments and satirized LGBT content continue to leave their mark on LGBT perceptions.
Multiplayer games like “League of Legends” and “Dota 2” are notorious for their toxic fanbase which many times pokes, prods and torments those who they deem lesser or different. A perfect example is the outcry over the “Overwatch” character who was announced to be gay. Many of the comments read along the lines of “…pandering to the SJWs,” (Social Justice Warriors for short).
One of the biggest issues with the industry as a whole is that the game developers come from a relatively narrow frame of origin. Most developers are American born white men and as a whole dominate the industry. Without the diversity representing the world as a whole many topics are left uncovered like LGBT, race and gender. Until there is a more diverse creative workplace gaming world building will likely remain the same.