AI: Gay Games


If you’re a gamer, or even just interested in the world of video games, you or someone you know might currently be trapped in the throes of the newest installment of the Mass Effect series, released by BioWare earlier this month. In a series that has come to be loved by many not just for its storyline and voice actors but also for the diversity and tolerance of the future world depicted in the story and freedom allowed therein, it’s no surprise that many eagerly anticipated the release of the third and final game in the series, whose first installment came out in 2007. So then, imagine the reaction when only a few days after its release, a video depicting (an actually quite vanilla, in my opinion) gay 'sex' scene (all I could see was spooning, to be honest) was leaked onto YouTube. Especially since hetero and lesbian relationships were possible in the first two games, you’d think all that people would say about a possible gay relationship path in the storyline (that is otherwise filled with death, explosions and aliens) would be ‘well, it’s about time!’. Unfortunately, that was not the case for many. It apparently was too much for people to handle, some even going so far as to request their video games not be made too ‘political’ or promote ‘propaganda’. Nope, this is real life, folks.

The gaming community at large is notorious for the rampant misogyny and homophobia within, although I guess I was naïve in the hope that as gamers got older and women are increasingly represented in the world of the casual gamer, the trolls would soon be dying a much-anticipated death. Which is why it would be great to hear from some of our queer gamers out there.

What video games have you found to be queer-friendly? Is this important to you and/or do you actively seek out games that are? Are you part of a larger gaming community and how do you feel they fare on the not-being-queer-phobic scale?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday around 3:00 p.m. ET.

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  1. I play World of Warcraft (though not much recently), and one of the only reasons I stick around is because I play on Proudmoore, which is the "unofficial queer server." There are tons of LGBT guilds on Proudmoore, including the second largest guild in the world, Taint (of which I have been a member for a long time).
    That being said, there is some rampant misogyny and trans* hate within Taint, to the extent that I usually keep guild chat turned off. But I've seen unknowledgeable people make homophobic comments in chat channels only to be ripped apart, even by straight allies who play on the server. Sadly, racism, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, cissexism, ableism are all alive and well on our queer little server, so I can only imagine how horrible it is elsewhere. I've often been in random dungeon groups with people who throw around racial and homophobic slurs, and just telling them that it's not appropriate will get them to stop doing it 9/10 times. Of the 1/10 times it doesn't, I just report them.
    Other than WoW, I'm not a member of any gaming communities. Most of the other games I play when I have time tend to be single-player.

  2. On a more positive note, Persona 4 . While far from perfect in its handling of queer issues, it afforded quite a lot of (judgment-free) exposure to a gay male character and an ftm character, both of whom are in the main party. Ultimately Atlus copped out in both cases (the first character’s sexuality was left ambiguous and the second’s gender identity is ultimately undermined, although the main character does have the choice to take it more seriously than the other characters). Here’s hoping 5 will take it a step further.

  3. I mostly play World of Warcraft, though I occasionally play Diablo II, Warcraft III, Portal, or some other random puzzle game on my DS. From what I've paid attention to of the lore, most of the couples are hetero. In fact, I can think of at least three straight couplings off the top of my head and no queer couplings. Of course, if you're on an RP server, players can have relationships however they want.
    There are a lot of homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, and racist remarks made by WoW players. Anything that can be made fun of is made fun of; that's how trolls and comedians do things. Sometimes, it's bad enough that I'll turn off Trade Chat (I'd never allow that language in my 250-person guild, and I'm not even an officer) but most of the time I view it the same way I view questionable comedy: It is being made fun of for the sake of making fun of something. (That was complicated-sounding, but makes sense, right?)
    If a fellow WoW player is being serious (i.e. not trolling) and uses the 'f' word or 'n' word to hate on someone/something, I say something to them. I would do everything I could (and it probably wouldn't take much) to get someone kicked from my guild if they used offensive language in a derogatory way. (I play on Laughing Skull, Horde, and my guild is Insanity. :D)
    I don't yet play Star Wars: The Old Republic, but I'm glad they patched in same-gender relationships. It's still a very misogynistic society being portrayed, and lots of slavery is going on.
    Fable 3 allows gay couples to marry and adopt (in 2, they could only marry). NPCs have varying sexual orientations. Dragon Age: Origins allows the player to be in same-sex relationships. Fallout: New Vegas also.
    Overall, I'm glad these games are starting to normalize non-hetero relationships. I'd like to see more gender variance, asexuality, transgenderism, and androgyny.

    • It's great that you call out people in-game, it can be terribly frustrating and ruin a perfectly good gaming experience when someone decides to roll out the troll within. And oh yes, how could I have forgotten the female protagonist in Portal?!

  4. Both of the Dragon Age games (also by Bioware) allow same-sex romance options, both f/f and m/m.
    In Dante's Inferno, you run into a few souls condemned to hell for sodomy (in keeping with the text of the canon), but you as the player have the option to redeem them and release them from hell.

  5. There haven't been too many as well done as those by Bioware in the ME and DA series of games.  The Sims comes to mind as one of the other few.  There have been various characters, such as the Sirens of the Star Control universe which were all women.
    I tend to treasure games that are just more generally not mysogynist. The Longest Journey, for example, which stars a female protagonist.  Roberta Williams made a game  called The Dagger of Amon-Ra, about an investigative journalist named Laura Bow.

  6. The Sims has always been a LGB-inclusive game.  Even in the first one back in 2000 didn't discriminate between same sex and opposite sex couples.  I've owned all three Sims games.
    I'm only a casual gamer (too busy for more) but I also play card games and board games.  I really like Chez Geek (card game) because it is as gender neutral as possible.

  7. Huh. I recall hearing that some of the problems with the gay scenes weren't necessarily homophobic, but that apparently they were written in a way that was less "gay sex exists" and more "gays are always having sex", by a person who apparently fetishizes gay men more than anything. If that's true, I'd find that pretty problematic, and I'd be opposed to it too.
    Then again, if the hetero and lesbian scenes were similarly written (okay, I'm doubting that the hetero ones were, but lesbian scenes are often victim to such writing), and people just weren't noticing because those were the scenes that they liked as opposed to the gay ones, then yeah, that's some homophobic bullshit right there. But I've never played any of the games, so all I have to judge from is hearsay.
    Anyways, I'm not much of a gamer, but I'll have to second the Sims. If I remember correctly, the AI programming for the characters (atleast in sims 2) had a pretty good grasp on how sexuality worked. If you were to edit a character's personality, there was a slider that determined what gender they were attracted to, similar to the kinsey scale. Much better than picking "gay" or "straight", or just making everyone 50/50 bi.

    • Hmm, it seems that some of the bad ratings the game seems to be getting now is from players that are unhappy with the ending of the game. This only seemed suspicious early on when it was highly unlkely that most reviewers would've actually finished the game in that time. Still, it doesn't take away anything from the actual homophobic comments spewed forth in response to the initial video. I haven't been able to find anything regarding the frequency of the gay sex scenes themselves.
      As for the lesbian sex scene, it actually seems to be a bit more racy than the m/m one, but there seems to have been no complaints about that. SIGH.
      Here's a link to an article that talks about both aspects in more detail.

  8. Dragon Age was a great game for same sex relationships, the dialogue was really well written and I got totally sucked in. I felt like I had my own little romance with Leliana. Granted, I wound up cheating on her with Zevran because it was taking ages for the relationship to progress and my character wanted sex now.
    Final Fantasy XIII, for all its faults, could have been much more queer friendly but Western censors or some shit got to it. You can tell from the cutscenes that Fang and Vanille were definitely an item, but it was toned down for western audiences, mad me so mad.
    I've only played the first Fable, so I was only able to have a male character, but I do remember getting my character to marry another man and the two of them lived in a house together.
    And as usual I'm more than willing to bet that no one gave a damn about the lesbian sex scenes because (a) it's totally hot and shit and (b) it's not real sex (TM) anyway.

  9. Some brief notes on Mass Effect:
    1) This is a series that has had lesbian interspecies relationships from day one. There's an entire species (the asari) composed entirely of females who sexually reproduce by (it is implied) exchanging fragments of junk DNA to randomize gene expression. An asari is among the love interests in the first game regardless of the player's gender. And in Mass Effect 3, there's no "political" side to the gay relationship because there's no homophobia to react against. If anything they almost went out of their way to make it extra-conventional (consoling a guy over the loss of his husband, which is the start to the relationship in question, is a lot less racy or sordid than a lot of things in that series). So I strongly suspect that the "outcry" here boils down to the usual "lesbians are hawt, gay guys are gross" mentality. That or someone heard a male voice say "my husband" and just flipped out.
    2) All the Mass Effect sex scenes seem mostly pretty tame, when they aren't actually just funny because of bad animation or a glitch.
    3) The endings really were terrible, IMO. In the last 5 minutes, the wrIters seem to suffer an attack of amnesia about what the good points of the game are supposed to be. (A diverse range of character viewpoints? A range of choices with novel or unforeseen practical or philosophical results? Star Trek-esque idealistic Utopia with a veneer of cynical realism over the top? Nah, what the people want is incoherent, inscrutable nonsense, the usual messianic super-special-individualist-lone-savior-hero logic, and simply-animated colored laser explosions.) I'm told that the ending was rewritten, and I'm not surprised, because this seems to be a case of what we in the storytelling business call "not having a goddamn clue where you're going with this".

  10. I'm still surprised nobody mentions that the same conspiracy theories we see here were deployed back when gay male romance was left OUT of Mass Effect 1.
    I'd recommend Dwarf Fortress and its predecessor Liberal Crime Squad. I doubt Bay12 (and LCS' current maintainers since it went open-source) were specifically setting out to make a point on gender and sexuality, they just abstained from adding any of the 'standard' gender-specific features and then ran with it as the games got more complex. 

    If I remember correctly there was the first openly gay character in fantasy star 2, I was a technique teacher who taught you musik, he would charge less for the male party members and add "he's cute" afterwards it was only in the Japanese version though.

  12. One of my favorites is the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series. It's a Nintendo game for DS and it's also on Wiiware now. It's a game about a defense attorney trying to prove his clients innocent, but it has a great, diverse cast of characters and a ton of personal tension between the protagonist and his rival prosecuter.

  13. I do really like Mass Effect 3's gay character. He is intelligent, has a good career and is mourning the loss of his husband. He is not portrayed with any of the typical gay stereotypes and is clearly depicted as having had a meaningful relationship. As far as the sex scenes go… they are pretty horrible. And most of the female characters are more sterotyped than the homosexual one so… yeah!
    Fable 1,2, and 3 have all had the possibility for homosexual relationships. The relationships are not exactly deep however there is no difference between homosexual relationships and hetersexual relationships. And in every single game I was super polyamorous! (Though I'm sure my wives/husbands had nooo idea). 

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