The world of gay gamers
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