Repost - Homosexuality in videogames

[Re-posting this here just so I have a record of it, seems to have disappeared from original source]...

I think it's fair to say that the inclusion of homosexual characters in videogames is not very common, especially in non-roleplaying games. In fact, I can only think of two games (that I've played) that have had gay characters in that are not RPG's -- Bioshock and GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony. I suppose it’s because in RPG’s you are playing a character of your choice (usually), and making relationships based on that. FPS’ in general are more about playing a set character and experience.

I can sort of understand why game designers do not include more gay characters -- they're trying to make games for the 'general' market, which is not necessarily gay friendly. Especially if you consider the type of language used in modern first person shooter online multiplayer games -- obviously, not to say that everyone who pays these games uses homophobic slurs but it seems to be a large vocal proportion do. And, I'm not necessarily saying that people who play RPG's are different than those that play FPS’. Judging by the forums of some of the more recent Bioware RPG's, most notably the recent dramas surrounding Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3 and to a lesser extent Star Wars: The Old Republic -- some people got upset that Anders came on to them in DA2, that there would be (male) homosexual romance options in ME3 and that there would (eventually) be same-sex romance options in SW:TOR -- the gaming world has a vocal division that is not gay friendly.

It's just, as a gay person, I would like more characters in videogames that I can directly relate to. And it would be nice to have a main (player) character in a video game that is gay, but this is not their defining characteristic. It would be nice to just have an equivalent to the many definitely straight main characters -- that have defined relationships as part of the main storyline.

It seems that some genres can get away with adding more gay characters than others. It also seems to vary between developers -- Bioware and Lionhead in particular are very good with including gay characters, or same-sex romance options.

Now, I'm going to cover some games (that I've played) in a bit more detail that have had homosexual romance options or characters in them.

As I mentioned them in the previous paragraph, I should start with a Lionhead game -- or series in this case, Fable. The first game was released in 2004, the subsequent games were released in 2008 and 2010. All the games in the series have had some sort of homosexual content.

All three games allow the player character to form gay relationships with NPC's, though the first game (from what I can gather) had only one homosexual NPC in the world. The two subsequent games increased the number of homosexual NPC’s and in Fable 2 your relationship, whether gay or straight, was acknowledged in the main storyline -- giving equal acceptance to both options.

Fable 2 also had a side quest that revolved around the sexual orientation of the quest givers’ son, very heavily hinting (though not explicitly saying) that he was gay.

Fable 3 increased the options further by allowing homosexual couples to adopt children from the Bowerstone orphanage (also available to heterosexual couples), allowing gay couples to have children -- which was not an option in the previous two games.

The next game, this time by Bioware is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. This game enables female player characters to have a relationship with Juhani, the game was unfortunately bugged at launch which resulted in the romantic subplot being open to player characters of both sexes -- leading to the impression that Juhani was bisexual -- this was later patched to correctly convey Juhani as a lesbian (as she was written). According to Wookieepedia this is the first instance of lesbian character in the Star Wars universe.

Another Bioware offering next, this time the game series Dragon Age. The first game was released in 2009 with the second released last year, 2011. Both the games in this series have had the option to have homosexual relationships. In the first game, two characters in your party --Leliana and Zevran -- were cast as bisexual characters, thereby giving male and female player characters a homosexual option. Though, I felt Zevran was a bit stereotypically written. The second increased the number of romance options by including four bisexual characters, two male and two female -- Isabela, Merrill, Anders and Fenris. The writing of Anders caused some controversy as he 'came on' to the player character, which some people did not like.

Next, is another Bioware series, the last one on the list, Mass Effect. The first game was released in 2007, with its follow-up released in 2010 and is the third in the trilogy will be released in 2012. The first two games enabled female player characters to have relationships with female crew members – Liara T’Soni in the first game and Kelly Chambers in the second. The third game has been confirmed to include both male and female same-sex relationships. Again causing some controversy with some players upset that Bioware were making Commander Shepard ‘gay’ (ignoring the female homosexual options of the first two games).

The next game on the list is Bioshock. While no characters are directly identified as being gay in the game -- due to the time period this is set in this is not surprising -- Sander Cohen’s sexual orientation is hinted at through audio diaries, he is mentioned as an 'old fruit' and described as 'a section 8' -- referring to inability to serve in the US military due to mental reasons or ‘sexual perversions’. Ken Levine (Bioshock's creator) has confirmed was written as a gay character.

The penultimate game on the list is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, released in 2011. This game allows players to marry an NPC, of either gender, with the use of a special amulet. It is not possible to marry any NPC, but there is a long list of those eligible. This is the first time in the Elder Scrolls series that marriage has been an option.

And finally, the last game on the list is one of the DLC expansions for Grand Theft Auto IV -- The Ballad of Gay Tony. This expansion revolves around the life of 'Gay Tony' Prince. While not playing as Tony directly, you do take control of his right-hand man. While this game is fairly good at portraying gay people in a positive light; Tony is a bit of a stereotype. And, I think the fact you do not play as Tony, rather as his straight right-hand man, is a massive copout.

So, there is a -- not comprehensive -- look at some of the games that have recently had gay relationships or characters in them (that I've played). Obviously there are more, but as I haven't played them I don't feel that I can really comment on them properly.

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