When we play video games it’s common that we want some kind of portrayal of ourselves in an epic story fighting monsters or solving important quests. At least we would want to be able to relate to the characters in one way or another. For a long time the most common main characters in gaming has been heterosexual white males with the occasional big breasted teenage girls. News flash! Not all gamers are ripped, white, adult, or heterosexual.
It is true that we have come a long way since Infocom portrayed the first gay video game character in Moonmist in ’86. Since then we have both had awful comical parodies of queer people and good realistically portrayals of normal people who happens to be gay. I would go as far as to say that we are in a truly revolutionary time regarding gaming and that gay characters no longer is a comical shtick.
In relation to some game testing I’ve been doing for the Norwegian LGBTQ-centre, I researched some LGBTQ positive games and made a little list for you all to enjoy, so you’ll know what game to play next.
I had some basic questions I was supposed to answer and in addition I’ll give a general review based upon my own experience. That said, I have not played all the games I want to mention (my reason: zombies and gaming preferences), but I’ll do my best. So without further ado:
The big gay gaming guide!
The Last of us: Left Behind
The Last of us is a third person survival/horror game about ZOMBIES. Yeah, I’m out. Buuut I did some digging and watched some let’s plays and discovered that behind all the growling, human eating monsters, there’s a really beautiful game. You fight, run and try to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have been infected by a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus. The main character of the main game is Joel, who is escorting young Ellie across the United States.
Now to the interesting part. After a very successful game realise, the developers Naughty Dog, made a downloadable expansion focusing on Ellie’s back story and a prologue to the game. The Last of us: Left Behind follows Ellie and her relationship with her childhood friend Riley.
“Left Behind shows just what it’s like [to be a teenage girl] , post-apocalyptic military state and deadly fungal outbreak notwithstanding. It’s unbearably intense, confusing, frustrating and conflicted – much like being a teenage boy, I’d presume.”
– Keza McDonald, IGN.com
As you may have already understood Ellie and Riley are trying to figure out their feelings for each other. We don’t know what their sexuality is, not even after Ellie kisses Riley in a moment of passion. It’s probable that they don’t even know themselves. The only thing we can be certain of is that they are two people who love each other deeply. For all people who are or have been teenagers, queer or straight, this is a story you can relate to. We all remember the intensity and awkwardness when we truly felt we loved someone as teenagers be it romantically or as a close friend.
With the following comic book, The Last of us: American Dreams as well, this isn’t just some video game anymore. It is a living story that could just as easily have been a book. I think that sometimes in all the action, we forget what a powerful medium video games can be. We are not presented with a story as a passive part. In this growing relationship between the two young girls you are one half of it. What better way to be told a story than to experience it first hand?
Availability: This game is strictly PS3/4 and can be bought in different game shops and online.
Outdated/Newer editions?: They are teasing with a Last of us 2, but the director has said the chances are 50/50
Full price: 17 € at Amazon
Gayness: The original game can go home but Left behind can get a nice 7/10
Awesomeness: It looks really cool, but I haven’t played it.
I recently started playing Dragon Age: Origins and I am almost frighteningly hooked already. Origins is the first in a series of, so far, three games: Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Although I have currently only played the one I will do a general overview of the series (cause’ it’s awesome!).
All the games have a lot of similarities. They are action adventure games set in the same fantasy world with stories that builds on top of each other and reference the previous games.
The first thing you do is pick a character. In both origins and inquisition you pick your race as well as gender and class, but for the sake of the story in DA2 you can only play human. Still you pick gender and class which will impact your story and how the other characters and NPCs interacts with you.
One of the reasons I really enjoy this game series is the heavy focus on roleplaying alongside quests and fighting baddies. You will pick up companions along the way and develop different relationship and sometimes romances with them. In origins there are four main companions you’ll get early on, two males and two females. Regardless of what gender, race and class you play you can always develop romances with three out of four. The first two companions are straight, while the two last are bisexual. Throughout the game you will be confronted by this in your dialogue with you companions. They will ask you what you think about it and what you prefer. This means that alongside folding out your personality through conversation and what you choose to say, you define or choose not to define your characters sexuality.
There is little prejudice amongst the NPCs as well. Both flirting and brothels are open for all genders. If you’re not a character’s preferred gender you just won’t get the romance option in you dialogues.
As for gender equality there is a noticeable difference when playing female. NPCs will randomly flirt with you or call you belittling nicknames such as sweety or missy. You then have the option of being offended, shrug it off or pick a fight with them. You can even kill them if your argument gets heated (and you’re that kind of character).
In addition there are plenty strong female characters and companions and there are a very balanced amount of sexualised males and females (prostitutes and other sex positive characters).
Dragon Age: Inquisition stands out of the three. Not only is it the newest and most fancy, but it also has a transgendered character. Krem is a human transman working for a qunari mercenary band. The qunari is a third race which you encounter throughout the games and can play as in Inquisition.
They are an interesting culture indeed and the one farthest from humans, the others being dwarfs and elves. Qunari is driven by duty and therefore rate all personal traits a secondary. It is true that they have rules that say men and women have different roles in their society. This is because they truly believe that the two genders have different strengths. There are rare exceptions where a male can be a farmer or a female can join the army, but then she is considered a male. Since gender is secondary they don’t have such strict personal gender roles. They don’t have the specific way to have a female or male personality because individual personality is not important. They are driven by duty and sees their society as a whole being. It is not surprising that they have a good way to deal with transgender. The aqun-athlok are transgendered and accepted. Just as Krem is accepted by the qunari, do they accept their own trans people and see them as their rightful gender.
“They are real men, just like you and I”
A reason the developers Bioware put a lot of effort in to Krem is that in the previous game, DA2 they made a really bad comic relief of a character named Serendipity. She is a drag queen and not a very good or respectful portrayal at that. Realising their mistake Bioware stepped up their game. Way to go Bioware.
Availability: Yes, you can buy Origins on Steam and all of them on Origin.
Outdated/Newer editions?: Inquisition is the newest and although Origins came out in 2009, but is far from outdated.
Full price: Origins: 20 €/ 9 € (I made a fool of myself by not checking Origin’s price before buying it on Steam) , DA2: 9 €, Inquisition: 65 € (outrageous)
Gayness: 7/10 +1 for Krem in Dragon Age Inquisition.
The Sims is a little bit different. It’s not the same kind of adventure or action game as I have previously mentioned and it speaks to a different crowd. I know there is some overlap from the “regular” gaming crowd over to “The Sims” crowd, but generally The Sims series is directed to children (mainly girls) from about 8 to 16. If you’re not familiar with The Sims you can nevertheless probably decipher that it is a simulation game. You control from one up to 6 sims and live their lives for them. Everything form going to work to whohooing (yes, that is what sex is called in the game) is you job to guide them through.
There are so far four different The Sims games and a whole nightmare of expansion packs. It is EA we’re talking about and they sure know who to milk that cow dry. You could call The Sims a play to win game although there is nothing to win. The first two The Sims games was tolerable to play without using double or triple the cost of the original game on expansion packs. The Sims 3 and 4 is a different story, especially considering there are features in game you can only use if you pay with “sim points” (which you have to buy with real money). Yeah, we all know where this is going.
Over to what we’re here for. What I really loved about The Sims when I started playing it as a little girl was that I didn’t have to play the old “mommy, daddy, baby” family. I had the opportunity to play anyone and they could be as weird as I wanted them to be. The Sims does not define romancing and flirting to genders. As long as they are both adults, they can flirt and wohoo with anyone. Even aliens! If you are a man and a woman she can get pregnant and if you are the same sex or single you can adopt. Men can only be impregnated by aliens.
Although The Sims is open minded like that it is still an American game for young people. Polygamy, or even having sexual relations (read: being flirtatious or simply make a snarky comment) to two or more different people at the same time is impossible. If so you have to sneak around and if another person you are flirting with sees you they take it as cheating and gets furious. I find that to be an unhealthy lesson to teach children. I don’t think that although you have had sex with someone you can’t flirt with anyone else. Have you ever heard of one night stands or just not wanting to be monogamous? Apparently not…
Availability: The Sims 1 and 2 have been removed from the marked. I find this incredibly weird since I, after having tried all of them still thinks The Sims 2 is the best one. The Sims 3 and 4 are available on Origin, along with their bigass trail of expansion pack. I mean there are up till now 11 different expansion packs to The Sims 3 already.
Outdated/Newer editions?: The Sims 4 is the newest one, but The Sims 2 isn’t outdated. The only one which is really outdated is The Sims 1.
Full price: The Sims 3: 27€, The Sims 3 Expansion packs: 16-27€, The Sims 4: 65€, The Sims 4 Expansion packs: 8.5-32€
Awesomeness: My younger self would strongly disagree with this scoring, but I am scoring it as how fun I think it is today. 5/10 ÷1 for weird American dating standards, ÷1 For pay to win/have fun.
In the majority of the game you follow Commander Shepherd through outer space. Shepherd is the main character over the three main games, but there is a newly realised fourth game who will follow a new set of characters.
Shepherd can be both a human male and female and you have choise of about three or four general background and origins. As Bioware games goes this is also somewhat focused on roleplaying and the choices you make in conversations will affect the game.
I haven’t played more that the demo, hence not been able to experience the roleplaying part myself, but throughout the let’s plays and other videos I’ve watched the conversations seems fluid and interesting enough. Of course you have the romance option and it’s just as graphic as other Bioware games. At the same time it seems very romantic and genuine. Regardless of what race or gender your Shepherd prefers there are no stereotyping or superficial characters. Shepherd has the same personality as both male and female, quite strong and masculine. That does not mean that the partners have to be soft. The different partners are just as diverse and complex as they would be in real life.
Overall a fun a intricate game with great story and fun fun action fightey time.
Availability: The first two can be bought on Steam and all three can be found in Origin.
Outdated/Newer editions?: Mass Effect 3 is the newest one and the fourth is under way.
Full price: 1: 8€, 2: 20€ + free demo on Steam and 8€ on Origin, 3: 8€. In addition you can get the triology on Origin for 32.5€
Gayness: The romance is very realistic and doesn’t really discriminate or change dramatically with different sexualities. Very good and realistic protrayal. 8/10
Awesomeness: I haven’t played this game further than the demo so I couldn’t really say, but it looks good.
Succulent and Hurt Me Plenty
Two games from Robert Yang. These are not your typical RPG game, but rather curious mini games. They are very short and only contain one scene. In Succulent your sucking a popsickle. That’s it. You move the popsickle back and forth while two copies of the character is rubbing themselves in the back.
I think Hurt Me Plenty is more interesting due to the fact that it actually portrays a realistic BDSM spanking scene. You start with shaking hands and discussing terms for the scene. Then you decide a safe word and the spanking can begin. It is really hard not to spank too hard when you play with a mouse pad so I unfortunately violated my partners limits. Therefore the game says that he doesn’t trust me and won’t agree to play before a week has passed. Then you literally can’t play the game in a seven days. A simple but good way to teach safety and respect in BDSM.
Availability: Both can be found at http://radiatoryang.itch.io
Outdated/Newer editions?: There are plenty of similar games from Robert Yang some involving auto sexuality, a stick shift, a chandelier and dick picks. Tread with caution.
Full price: Free or whatever you decide to donate.
Gayness: 10/10 or 0/10 I can’t figure it out.
Awesomeness: As gaming goes I would give it a 1/10, but if you see it from an artistic perspective it’s quite awesome.
Bethesda (The Elder Scrolls + Fallout)
When it comes to LGBTQ in gaming Bethesda is like Biowares little brother. They’re trying to be supportive and realistic by letting you mostly choose you sexuality in games like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, but doesn’t quite hit the mark elsewhere.
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballade of Gay Tony
In the extremely inappropriate world we all know and love, Grand Theft Auto splashes a little rainbow in this add on. Your are Tony is gay and you’re his bodyguard. Not much more to say about that.
Coming out on top
This is a fairly new game and not very wide spread yet. It is important to mention though since visual novel games have taken the leap from Asia to the West and rapidly become very popular. This is the first ever English speaking gay visual novel. It’s fun, clever and at times very steamy. A regular visual novel with hot guys and big dicks.
Final Fantasy XIV
After fourteen games Final Fantasy finally included the possibility of being gay and having gay NPC’s. Congratulations…
“Why should there be restrictions on who pledges their love or friendship to each other?”
-producer Naoki Yoshida.
Specifically Super Mario Bros. 2 who was way ahead of everyone else. In 1988 Nintendo realised this game for the NES with the character Birdo. He is described as a boy who thinks he’s a girl and wants to be called Birdetta. There have since been lots of confusion around this character because after mentioning this in the manual to Mario Bros. 2, they have neglected to do so in later games. In newer time s/he has been referred to as Yoshi’s girlfriend which either means that Yoshi is gay or that she has undergone a full transformation. At least that what I like to think.
A lot of kids today use big amount of their free time in these imaginary video game worlds. They learn English, history, logic and other basic subjects from video games and it was about time the gaming industry understood what a big impact they have. If we want our future to be any more accepting of these basic human rights (such as love) we need to normalise being gay and get people to understand that it’s not something alien or dangerous. Normalizing it in what kids watch and do for fun is a good start. Cartoon and video game characters that are diverse and queer without being weird or abnormal plays and important part of our kids’ understanding and acceptance of people even though they are a tad bit different for themselves.
Do you agree with my list? Is there something missing? Leave a comment and enlighten me if you will.
Happy gaming! ❤