GAME ON

The world of gay gamers

Pride Life Magazine - - Contents -

Whilst the gaming in­dus­try has slowly ex­panded to in­clude many dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple, there has al­ways been a small sec­tion of the pub­lic who love the in­dus­try as much as the next gamer but have one thing that sep­a­rates them from the norm: they iden­tify them­selves as LGBT. Th­ese peo­ple call them­selves “gaymers” and are fiercely pro­tec­tive of their love of video games.

A re­cent survey by gamer Ja­son Rockwood and com­pleted by over 10,000 gamers showed that 23.4% of peo­ple who took part saw them­selves as com­pletely ho­mo­sex­ual, with 28% and 4.9% iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves re­spec­tively as het­ero­sex­ual and bi­sex­ual. That in it­self is a huge rea­son why gaymers should be able to play games where they feel that they can im­i­tate life and be ho­mo­sex­ual if wanted.

When asked, Rockwood was very open as to why he de­cided to cre­ate a survey to see if the gaymer ac­tu­ally ex­isted. “I cre­ated the survey be­cause I couldn’t for the life of me un­der­stand why a gay man would play video games, and when I looked for re­search on the topic, there was none, so I had to make my own,” he said.

“I was very pleased with the re­sults, be­cause it showed a fas­ci­nat­ing U-shaped curve in the sex­ual iden­ti­ties of the re­spon­dents, with ‘100% gay’ and ‘100% straight’ at the high ends of the U, and with bi­sex­u­als at the bot­tom. It sug­gested that the range of sex­ual iden­ti­ties in video game cul­ture may be more open-minded than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion”.

Iron­i­cally the survey also shows that the pre­ferred genre for 43% of gamers ques­tioned are role-play­ing games (RPGs), which are games where cus­tomi­sa­tion of your cho­sen character has the most in­flu­ence on the story and ex­pe­ri­ence, as well be­ing one of the only gen­res where LGBT themes are avail­able to pur­sue at your leisure.

Back in the olden days op­tions to choose the sex­u­al­ity of your character weren’t freely avail­able but they were there, hid­den away in throw­away lines you had to delve deep to find. The first of th­ese was 1986’s Moon­mist by In­fo­com, a textbased ad­ven­ture that con­tained sev­eral dif­fer­ent

ran­dom sto­ry­lines. It was within one of th­ese plot lines that the crim­i­nal, a fe­male artist, is jeal­ous be­cause her ex-girl­friend has mar­ried a man.

Iron­i­cally, whilst there weren’t many ob­vi­ous LGBT char­ac­ters dur­ing the 80s, the two most fa­mous trans­gen­dered char­ac­ters in the his­tory of gaming - Birdo from Nin­tendo’s Su­per Mario Brothers 2 and Poi­son from Cap­com’s Fi­nal Fight - both made their first ap­pear­ance to­wards the end of that decade.

Birdo, an ef­fem­i­nate pink di­nosaur was only re­ferred to as a male who wants to be a fe­male within the first edi­tion of the man­ual. All man­u­als out­side of Ja­pan re­moved this ref­er­ence, pos­si­bly due to Nin­tendo’s rule about hav­ing no “sex­u­ally sug­ges­tive or ex­plicit con­tent” within their games.

This might have just been a “wacky” Ja­panese thing re­signed to video game his­tory but Nin­tendo kept on bring­ing her back usu­ally for their party games, fa­mously pair­ing her up with the lov­able green di­nosaur Yoshi as boyfriend and girl­friend! Even to­day the con­fu­sion about Birdo’s gen­der rages on. Game de­vel­oper Jen­nifer Reitz, a trans­sex­ual her­self, sug­gested that Birdo was ac­tu­ally a post-op trans­sex­ual. Whilst this would make a lot of sense some cir­cles dis­agree and think that this is mov­ing away from her trans­gen­der sta­tus and unique­ness.

Iron­i­cally, it is once again down to Nin­tendo that Poi­son from Fi­nal Fight and Street Fighter was con­firmed to be a trans­sex­ual. Back when the game was be­ing lo­calised for the USA, an Amer­i­can tester ob­jected that the male char­ac­ters could beat up fe­male gang mem­bers. The plan­ner and de­signer on the game Akira Ya­suda’s clever re­sponse to this was the fe­male en­e­mies were ac­tu­ally trans­ves­tites and could be re­ferred to as ei­ther gen­der.

Un­for­tu­nately it wasn’t a good enough rea­son and Poi­son was re­placed by generic punk char­ac­ters in all English Nin­tendo ver­sions of the game. Sega was less harsh on the lovely Poi­son and only changed her clothes in or­der to re­move her boobs from view. With Poi­son fi­nally be­ing a main se­lectable character in Street Fighter x Tekken and this year’s Ul­tra Street Fighter 4 she is fi­nally con­firmed as be­ing a male-to-fe­male trans­sex­ual and is re­fresh­ingly very proud of who she is. Strangely, she is a pre-op trans­sex­ual in the East and a post-op trans ev­ery­where else! Ap­par­ently tuck­ing your junk away is frowned upon in the West!

With the 80s hardly hav­ing much in the way of LGBT con­tent, things re­ally started to kick into gear once the 90s rolled in, although it is mostly played for laughs dur­ing the first half of the decade.

The 90s pre­sented many firsts for LGBT ac­cep­tance. The first time the word “ho­mo­sex­ual” was used was in 1995’s The Onion Con­spir­acy, whilst the first bi­sex­ual character ap­peared in Ul­tima VII: The Ser­pent Isle. With a lot of the games through­out the 90s hav­ing strong LGBT con­tent like Fall­out 2 and Star Ocean, it would be a game re­leased at the turn of the cen­tury that would have the most in­flu­ence on the fu­ture of gayming, 2000’s The Sims.

Cre­ated by Maxis The Sims is a game where you take con­trol of a per­son or per­sons of your cre­ation and live out ev­ery as­pect of their day to day lives. Whilst it’s never high­lighted, the op­tion to have gay re­la­tion­ships is there. This is ex­panded on in the se­quels into be­ing some­thing that is a choice from the start. Whilst it shows pro­gres­sive think­ing in gayming with same-sex mar­riage and hav­ing kids, there were many crit­ics who felt ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity was badly pre­sented mostly due to ro­man­tic in­ter­ac­tions ex­ist­ing only for het­ero­sex­ual char­ac­ters by de­fault.

Apart from games such as Fable, most of the ma­jor mile­stones that have been made in the ear­lier 2000’s are mostly thanks to BioWare. This Cana­dian de­vel­oper re­ceived flack for their in­clu­sion of same-sex ro­mance in their games, namely Mass Ef­fect 3 and Star Wars: The Old Repub­lic. Thank­fully it’s re­fresh­ing to see a de­vel­oper such as BioWare “rep­re­sent­ing queer char­ac­ters in its games for about as long as it has been mak­ing them… and you can marry/ ro­mance any­one.”

As co-ed­i­tor and cre­ator of gaygamer.net, the largest on­line LGBT gaming com­mu­nity, David Edi­son be­lieves that we gaymers have more choice now than ever be­fore. When asked about the sub­ject he replied, “Oh good­ness yes! In­so­far as games rep­re­sent­ing LGBT peo­ple, and feel­ing avail­able to the non­stereo­typ­i­cal gamer, now is a great time to be a gay gamer. Whether now is a good time to be a gamer, pe­riod, well that’s a much big­ger ques­tion.”

He con­tin­ued to say that “we’ve only just be­gun to get in­cluded, re­ally: we’ve got a hand­ful of sto­ry­lines across a hand­ful of games… what’s im­por­tant is that we make th­ese first steps, so we can achieve a wider range of rep­re­sented iden­ti­ties and/ or en­cour­age game de­vel­op­ers to aim for a more di­verse tar­get au­di­ence.”

Sadly even though we have come such a long way

“The range of sex­ual iden­ti­ties in video game cul­ture may be more open-minded than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion”

since the dawn of video games, there is still a huge amount of peo­ple who will never let this is­sue lie.

Maybe it has never been said bet­ter than by some crit­ics of gay iden­tity sup­pres­sion who have come to the con­clu­sion that as and when ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is “nor­malised” in broader cul­ture and the real world than it will be in video games.

POI­SON IS A MALE- TO- FE­MALE TRANS­SEX­UAL

BIRDO, THE DI­NOSAUR; TWO SCENES FROM THE SIMS

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