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Ubisoft lead writer asks: Where are all the gay video game protagonists?
Ubisoft lead writer asks: Where are all the gay video game protagonists?
February 28, 2014 | By Mike Rose

February 28, 2014 | By Mike Rose
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    77 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



"So when are we going to see that gay protagonist in a AAA game? Not for a while, I suspect, because of fears that itíll impact sales."
- Lucien Soulban, lead writer at Ubisoft Montreal, reckons that it'll be a while before we get to control any gay characters in AAA games.

Talking with Ubisoft's Richard Dansky, Soulban noted that we continue to see "mid-30s stubbly-bearded brown-haired white guy with a raspy voice" protagonists in AAA games for fear from publishers that games with gay characters won't sell.

"When are going to get a gay/lesbian AAA hero(ine) who isnít a one-off joke?" he asks. "Either weíll see a bait-and-switch like the original Metroid with Samus Aran where weíll find out damn near after the fact (PS: And Dumbledore was gay), or itíll come out of left field with Rockstar, Valve, Naughty Dog or Telltale, perhaps."

AAA games have dabbled a little in gay protagonists over the last decade -- see the Mass Effect series for one of the most recent big examples -- but it's obvious that we're still not really there.

"When it happens," adds Soulban, "I hope itís a serious take on it and not played up for jokes."


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Comments


TC Weidner
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How do we know some of the stars of our games arent gay? Many games dont go into the characters sex life or family life. So who is to say Mario is not gay, and why is it even relevant?

John Paduch
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It's relevant because of the feeling of inclusion that whatever particular group we're speaking of is currently lacking. It doesn't sound like a very important issue to those in the "comfortable" and "traditional" majorities being represented, but it is. Being given exposure fosters a sense of inclusion and acceptance, and that's a much better road to travel than belting out the tired (and mistaken) old excuse of "Well, if equality is what you want, not focusing on these details should be good for everyone, right?"

TC Weidner
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Again I ask how do we know many of the characters we play arent gay? Pretty sure most games dont focus or even bring up the topic of sexual partners and other than who one chooses as a partner, how is a gay hero different from a straight one?

John Flush
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@John Paduch

"that's a much better road to travel than belting out the tired (and mistaken) excuse of 'ignoring it' "

Care to elaborate on that? I'm a big fan of the thought that sometimes not making a big deal of it prevents it from showing up. If you aren't looking for 'racism' / 'sexism' / 'homophobia' you won't find it nearly as often.

Don't get me wrong, you have to first stop the abuse from happening. But then forcing the acceptance on people (though they might disagree) just causes the problem to flare up again. Stop the abuse and then shut up about it already.

Gern Blanston
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Even as a kid playing Mario games, I assumed he was straight. Why else would he go through so much to save his damsel in distress? Sure there are other characters within the Mario universe who's sexuality doesn't matter, and/or can assumed to be asexual.

But let's look at the big picture. How many games actually have a gay main character? Almost zero. It's not representative of how people actually are. Games have characters that have no relevance to reality, even when it's a realistic story. What we see are obviously/assumed straight white males dominating virtually every main story. RPGs are generally the exception when it comes to progressive ideas, but that's only possible when players are given choice. And considering how popular non-traditional characters are in these RPGs, it's a reminder of what's generally done wrong within the rest of the game development world.

The question is why not? Why not expand and evolve gaming to include demographics that are consistently left out? Why not have more women, non-white, non-straight, multi-cultural main characters? Unfortunately the easy answer is because those aren't the people making the games. So what now?

The gaming industry as a whole needs grow up and welcome more women, non-white, non-straight, and multi-cultural developers. By remaining such a traditional boy's club, we all miss out on games that can push creativity forward by being more inclusive, as opposed excluding those who don't fit the traditional mold. Gaming, and entertainment at large, will be better off when we can move forward in these ways.

Adam Bishop
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@TC

Here's one way to think about it:

Think of all the video game characters who do display a sexual orientation or preference (I can think of lots pretty easily). What percent of those is straight? There's your problem.

TC Weidner
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Problem? what percentage of video game characters even display a sexual orientation? .1% perhaps and even that is high. Hundreds of games come out daily. My next lil game is about a Rabbit, feel free to think of him/her as gay, although Im not even sure if it is a boy or a girl. Honestly, how do you check on a digital created rabbit?

TC Weidner
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Even as a kid playing Mario games, I assumed he was straight.
-------------------------


why assume that, gay people dont care about people in distress? thats odd. Princess peach couldnt of just been a friend? You assumed Mario was only looking to save Peach because he was sexually interested in her? really?

Kaitlyn Kaid
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yes really.

like it or not, media has ingrained the idea of "beat the bad guy, get the girl" as the standard trope of pretty much everything. That is exactly why games like Metroid were so shocking at the time, because it broke that trope that everyone just assumed was coming.

It doesn't need to be explicitly stated that "get the girl" means "get the girl in bed", the implication is still there. I think the most racy thing we have seen in any Mario game has been a kiss on the cheek, but it has been pretty firmly established that Mario and Peach are a couple.

Tropes exist because they give readers/viewers/players a frame by which to view the media. It helps things make sense because we have seen it all before. Without framing and tropes, writers would need to explain EVERYTHING each and every time, for each and every game.

Why is Mario rescuing Peach? It's never explained, anywhere, but due to tropes even young kids in the 80's can understand his motivations: because she is his girlfriend. It doesn't need to be stated specifically *because* it is understood, and it's understood because it happens so often that it is just assumed.

Daneel Filimonov
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Ironically, the series was created by a studio in a nation (Japan) that accepts your sexuality, whatever it may be. They don't point it out, they don't outcast them, they don't behave specially towards them, they just accept it. So it doesn't matter whether or not a character is bisexual/homosexual/heterosexual, you can contemplate and speculate about it as much as you want, but it really isn't the focus of the game (the story, perhaps, but not the gameplay itself).

Adam Bishop
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"what percentage of video game characters even display a sexual orientation? .1% perhaps and even that is high."

If we're talking about big budget story based games it's way higher than that. Just trying to think of recent games I've got on my shelf at home - John Marston in Red Dead Redemption, Nathan Drake in Uncharted, Joel from The Last Of Us, Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid, Tim from Braid, Geralt in The Witcher . . . I could go on like this for dozens of games. Even Sly Cooper who isn't even a human. There are tons of characters in video games whose sexual orientation is specifically defined as "straight".

TC Weidner
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Tropes exist in societies, not games. Therefore it depends on which society plays the game as to what trope it brings to the game. So again, as we said, the game itself never establishes or even mentions Mario sexual orientation.

If you just assume, than that says more about you, where you were raised, then the game and game design.

As mentioned below, Mario was created by the Japanese, tropes change due to culture.

So if you think Mario is out to nail peach, it tells me about your trope/society/upbringing.

Thankfully americans are finally becoming enlightened on this issue, and our "tropes" will change, and such narrow minded assumptions will be a thing of the past.

TC Weidner
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Adam,
Im all for diversity, and if it makes sense within a story for sexual orientation to play a role, Im all for. I just dont see this currently as a "problem" in the industry however since again, sexual orientation isnt really a big part of what we do.

But as you mention it would be nice if say some head writer for some Major studio would see this issue and actually do something about it.. where or where would we find such a person...

its just another reason I find this so ironic, that a head writer of a major studio who could address this issue tomorrow if he wished is the one complaining about it... I just made my rabbit possibly gay, why cant he do the same with his next character..

Katy Smith
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"Problem? what percentage of video game characters even display a sexual orientation? .1% perhaps and even that is high"

Let's look at the top 10 games from Metacritic for 2013:

1 GTA V - Straight, Straight, Straight
2 The Last of Us - Straight
3 Bioshock Infinite - Straight
4 Super Mario 3D World - Straight
5 Fire Emblem Awakening - I will admit to having not played this one :)
6 Rayman Legends - Unknown
7 Fez - Unknown
8 Spelunky - Straight
9 Legend of Zelda: A link between worlds - Straight

So for the top rated console games of 2013, we're conservatively at ~80% straight male protagonists.

I would love to see more diversity of any kind in video game protagonists. Image how different Silent Hill 2 would have been if the main character were gay. Or a woman!

TC Weidner
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How about we look at every game that came out last year instead. What does the top 10 have to do with anything? Game devs cant change what people buy, just what we offer..

Katy Smith
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I chose the top 10 from Metacritic because the quote this article was written about was about AAA games from a traditional model. I could go through every game AAA console / PC game released in 2013, but I'm not convinced that the numbers would change that much.

I think one thing people who are anti-diversity are missing is that I don't want to play in your sandbox. I don't want there to be fewer games like there are now. I want a bigger sandbox. I want there to be *more* games overall.

TC Weidner
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perhaps you are correct, but if we want to narrow down to just whats wrong with AAA titles, we would be here all day :P

AAA's have a whole host of problems, but I guess my point is the entire industry is moving well beyond these corporate AAA monstrosities, and the AAA title really doesnt reflect on the industry as a whole anymore.

Jared Cowing
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In Naughty Dog's defense, there is a fairly prominent gay character in Last of Us whose sexual orientation is neither a gimmick or a distraction but does play into a very touching plot point.

This was, of course, a big exception from the norm- There are of course many games in which the protagonist is more like a cartoon character in that sexual preferences of any kind can be more or less non-applicable. And games where maybe there isn't a protagonist at all (puzzle games). But I think it's understood that we're talking about the big AAA titles.

John Flush
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@Katy Smith

the top 10 list...

#1 Bioshock was straight? of course he had to be. How else do you have genetic offspring?

#5... shame on you :) - That one definitely hinted that they were all straight. Most of the game was the couples having offspring that show up based on the relationships...

#9 - what? Without knowing Link from other games how could you tell? There was not one kiss or implication of romance / sexual preference in that game.

In the case of #3 and #5 though. That choice directly changed gameplay elements and storyline. Thus required the choice. And with #5 how insulting it would have been to let them marry whoever and then just leave out 1/2 the characters as that would have been the result. Accurate, but probably not the best way to point out something like that.

Katy Smith
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I'm not saying straight = bad. That would be silly. All I was saying was that the percentage of straight characters in recent AAA games is significantly higher than .1%.

Part of the reason I brought up Silent Hill 2 is that so much of that game was designed around the protagonist being straight. SH2 is one of my
favorite games of all time. It would be completely different if the main character had been gay. The opportunity to experience a game of that caliber with a gay protagonist would be really cool!

I agree that changing the sexual orientation of Joel or Booker would completely change those games. Their sexuality is important to those stories. That being said, there's no reason you can't have a story with just as much weight as TLoU or Bioshock and have the characters also be gay.

So yay for more stories being told!

Henrique Sousa
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@ John Flush

Not everyone has the luxury of being able to ignore sexism/racism/homophobia/etc. You might have that opportunity, because you're probably never the target of that type of abuse.

"Stop the abuse and then shut up about it already."
The thing is, it hasn't stopped. It still exists. It will probably still exist decades from now. That's why no one should "shut up about it".

Simone Tanzi
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I agree with Katy Smith until she says "Image how different Silent Hill 2 would have been if the main character were gay".
IMHO it shouldn't.
Unless we want to pass the Idea that a gay person is intrinsically different from a straight person in spheres that are not connected with sexual preference and I think we shouldn't.
The only thing we may see is a change in the love interest gender if there is one in the original game.

John Flush
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@Henrique - I get plenty of abuse in my direction. I won't try to even compare mine with others because it is how we take it that causes the most personal trauma in the first place.

And sorry about the comment about not talking about it, I could have used a more tactful sentence. I'm just getting a bit frustrated because it seems there is plenty of talk about this particular subject and I see it actually causing a lot of people to get callus because of all the minor cases getting thrown in our face. You are right the problem still exists, constantly parading every minor possible offense (like this one) though distracts from the real problem.

Ian Uniacke
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I would have found it really interesting if Booker was gay. Imagine the depth and emotional content that could have been evoked by investigating the topic of gay people having children.

Katy Smith
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@Simone

Normally, I could concede that changing the sexual orientation could have little impact on a game; however, Silent Hill 2 revolves entirely around the frustration and guilt of a heterosexual relationship. I don't want to derail this post entirely but I will confess to having spent wayyyyyy too much time playing and analyzing Silent Hill 2, and now's my chance to spout psychobabble :)

There's a reason that the main enemy of the game is a creepy sexy nurse. When James' wife Mary was dying of a terminal illness, she rejected him physically and emotionally. Silent Hill was creating monsters that were a reflection of that rejection. Maria, the Silent-Hill-created tormentor for James was sexually and physically aggressive. Then you have the mannequin enemy (two sets of high-heeled legs attached to a naked female torso) and the one called "flesh lips". It's pretty clear that a homosexual relationship would have completely different enemies from the one told from the point of view of a straight man.

Simone Tanzi
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@katy

You are right
I have to admit I never really played the silent hill series but, the plot and the enemies, I know them.
I think you are right about the enemies. Still, I sincerely hope that wouldn't change the character in other ways.
Like making the character weaker, or more sensitive, less prone to confrontation, as a result of being gay.
Because that would be wrong and a misconception.
Granted that sensibility is acquired and the life you lead certainly brings on you a different kind of personality, I would cringe at the idea that a game would take steps towards "we should make him act like this because he is gay, not like the other normal people".

But yeah... Silent hill is ultimately the stuff of nightmare spawned by unresolved romantic issues, so it should probably be quite different in more than a way.

And sorry, you will probably never read this ..I just noticed your reply looking at my old posts.

Joel Bitar
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Agree that it's a sad state, but there's still a few examples to show that we're actually slowly moving forward, like the mentioned Mass Effects Shepard or CoDs Soap MacTavish.

Simone Tanzi
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I agree to TC Weidner to a degree...
I do also totally agree with the issue here.
This need to happen.
But at the same time, there is something culturally wrong here .. the assumption of every character that doesn't express it's sexuality during the game to be 100% heterosexual.
And I'm glad that Dumbledore has been named because it's a premium example.
In the Harry Potter Dumbledore serves a role... his sexuality is not questioned. And in fact he happens to be gay.
I'm all for openly gay characters that are not a parody ... absolutely.
But don't try to push 'em too hard.
Don't make the game be about the main character being gay.
Make the game about the main character being the central piece of a story and then casually pass the message that he is actually gay... maybe not even in the game itself .. maybe in an interview you casually say "oh .. btw the main character is gay".
It's not because of sales or not wanting to see a gay character, no at all..
Is more about giving the issue the right perspective ... and he right perspective is that sexuality is a private matter and that a gay person is just a regular person who lives his personal private sexual life in a way different from an heterosexual person.
Then again I repeat .. I would be totally ok with a character more openly gay, I'm just worried that it would backfire easily.
Ignorant people would make fut of it more easily, people would blame the game as aggressive anti heterosexual propaganda and things like that.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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the thing is, due to tropes and what consumers have been trained to expect in media, if their orientation isn't explicitly stated it simply becomes "straight white male".

Dumbledoor is the perfect example. Nowhere does it say he was straight and yet when JK Rowling outted him there was this huge shock. Readers assumed he was straight even though there wasn't the slightest shred of evidence to support that claim (in fact, after re-reading the books there was a fair amount to the contrary that I missed the first time through).

Without being extremely clear, "Hi, my name is X and I like boys/girls" level of clear, people *will* ignore it.

Duvelle Jones
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Call it odd, but I think that is the point.

I would rather that I not be subjected to question of sexuality unless it comes up in a direct fashion in a narrative. It's really not something that is needed if it doesn't become a narrative subject... like a character trait, idle flirting or something similar.

And yes, I think that the fact remain that having the sexuality question as more of a side topic/trait to a character points out one thing. Their sexuality doesn't completely define the character, which is something that I think is relevant to the homosexuality discussion... that we are talking about generally normal people.

Simone Tanzi
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@ Kaitlyn
Yes, and I think is exactly the point.
The thing could be stated clearly or not ... but the important thing is to not overplay it.
Don't make him "ACT" gay because in the end there is no real "acting gay" things.
If the character is an action hero .. he act like an action hero.. and being Gay should not take away from him anything of that.
And the issue of his sexuality should probably come out .. but I don't think should be a central part of the game but rather more like a bio information.
Like the exact height of the character, or his birthday. A piece of information that doesn't change the nature of the character ... because essentially it shouldn't.

Duvelle Jones
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I don't agree with that completely, because every so often you will come across a story where sexuality is a part of the identity to the plot. If that is the case then that is the case... if a part of the character is the fact that they act the stereotype, then so be it.
My question, and the worry that Lucien Soulban has, is this: Is the fact that the character is the stereotype the only thing that defines the character? Is being "GAY"/"black"/"a woman"/etc. everything to them?
I would agree with Lucien Soulban, and you, in saying that it should not be the only thing... because that leads to supporting something that isn't true in the lives of many. And yes, it would indeed attract complaints.

SD Marlow
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I think it has more to do with the games themselves. Sure, you could have a masculine space marine as lead character that happens to be gay, but most would still complain that it feels tacked-on or forced. Going the other way, what kind of game could you make from stereotypical "gay roles?" You have the same problem with sexuality being "mocked" rather than passively included. And to TC's point, NOT making an issue of ones sexual preference, one way or the other, as with most people in the real world, means you better represent the non-homophobic, non-stereo image of equality.

I love the movie Wall-E and see the "polluting the planet/living in excess" as a backdrop to the story. Avatar, on the other hand, I hated because the "corporate greed/blood-thirsty military/they took our land" stuff is constantly being pushed in my face with bits of story sprinkled on top.

In an odd way, sci-fi has quietly promoted the lesbian lifestyle thru the male fantasy of all female tribes, even if the strong leadership roles are juxtaposed with plenty of cleavage (and death by snoo-snoo). The real trick is just that, a way to trick the player into seeing but not focusing on issues of sexual equality and alternate lifestyles (again, real-world lifestyles, since the alien and robot stuff has already been covered).

Adam Bishop
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"Promoted the lesbian lifestyle" is really problematic and so is "alternate lifestyles". Gay people aren't engaged in a "lifestyle" and you don't "promote" it. They're just regular people who find some people attractive and some people unattractive, just like everybody else.

Wylie Garvin
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I want to mention this essay by Paul Graham:
What You Can't Say
http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

He points out that a lot of common beliefs of the day, are pure fashion, and just as likely to seem ridiculous 100 years from now as some of the beliefs of 100 years ago seem today.

I hope future cultures will be objectively better than the present ones, but the only thing we know for sure is that they will be *different* from the present ones.

At the end, he also links to a list of labels he made that people use to suppress ideas: http://www.paulgraham.com/labels.html

Elise Trinh
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I just hope there'll be more and more great characters, no matter what gender they are and/or what are their sexual preferences.
I mean, it may be a "captain obvious assessment", but i always figured that gender, sexual preferences, skin color, or social background or else are characteristics; you cannot sum up a character with only one of these elements.

Buuut I still hope there'll be some "don in distress" to save someday. It'd be fun.
(Even if it seems that "damsel" can in fact be feminine or masculine...)

Wylie Garvin
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As a player, I just want variety. Variety is interesting! Even if I don't personally identify with a particular character, I'd still be happy to see something new. Macho-male space marines and Indiana Jones-wannabes get old after a while.

I also like to see characters evolve during the story. One of the things that makes The Last of Us great is that each character has different motivations, different regrets and evolves in a different way as the story unfolds. Most game stories are pretty weak, but the story of TLoU kept me hooked, like a novel too good to put down. I think there is definitely a market for AAA games with strong story and vibrant characters, but most developers haven't figured out how to tap into it.

Michael Bakerman
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Seems to me like it's all just a symptom of aiming for the biggest audience. Whether straight, white, brown-haired males are the biggest audiences or not, it seems like AAA studios might think so.

Myself being a straight, white, brown-haired male, I'm totally cool with playing as any kind of character, any sexual orientation, gender, skin color. I like variety, and I enjoy characters that have different ways of life and perspectives on different issues. But perhaps growing up as a youth playing video games, I must have subconsciously identified with characters that had similar features to me -- maybe that helped ease me into certain games? Who knows.

I don't think we're going to stop seeing the straight-white-male archetype until AAA studios re-evaluate its effect on sales figures. I agree with what Trinh Elise may be hinting at ^ in that a great character shouldn't be defined by on-the-surface traits, but by their depth, personality, and actions/decisions.

R G
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Why not make it choice?

I understand this is the age of "politically correct everyone is special ;)", but if you want to make a game with gay protagonists....make one? If a publisher doesn't want to, and you give up, it shows that it must not be that big of a deal. I digress though.

If it's shoehorned or not relevant to the game, than why bother? We can bash the space marine all we want, but his sexuality doesn't matter because the game isn't exploring his headspace when he's curb stomping aliens.

I feel as though many in the industry, and especially on this site, are looking to have our Synecdoche , New York, and that is going to be on the independent front. There's this disconnect from these type of people and the common gamer, and there's this idea that deep story and characterization is unwanted, which is insanely far from the truth.

I believe the common gamer is open to gay characters or deeper plot (look at the amount of viewers Breaking Bad and Sopranos got), but we have to back it up with gameplay.

Val Reznitskaya
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Reading through some of the comments here has made me wonder which specific problem we're talking about solving. The obvious one seems to be "get games to depict a more accurate sample of reality," but that seems like a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

This is just my 2 cents, but even if have a game with a realistically portrayed gay protagonist, that game won't necessarily be inclusive to all gay people. People are so much more than a gender, a sexual preference or a nationality. As a woman, I've played many games with male protagonists, and I've identified with some of them more than I've identified with some female protagonists based on their values or attitudes. The point where I started to feel excluded was when a game made incorrect assumptions about my own attitude towards women.

This is why I think variety alone will not solve the inclusiveness problem. We have to think bigger than that and remember that we're all, first and foremost, people. If we reduce a character to the label "gay" of course there will be many players who think "I can't relate to that." That's why we have to write characters that are deep, multi-dimensional and can be empathized with (or at least understood) on many levels. If "gay" just happens to be one of those levels, there should be plenty more to like or dislike about a that character. After all, that's how reality works.

I get the impression that when a lot of game writers try to tackle characters unlike themselves, they tend to fixate on what's different, even though there's a lot more that's the same. As a result, we end up with caricatures.

R G
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Well put!

Yong Wu
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I completely agree, just forcing a character to be x just to be more representative of current ongoing social situation in a game to me seems *pardon for the language* asinine. If like Val said you make a great character who as a player can relate to but just happen to be so and so is fine. In conclusion don't make the game a political statement, make it an experience that just happens to involve someone of x gender/sexual orientation/skin color.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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you reminded me of a story a friend of mine told me.

She lent her favorite book to her best friend (I wish I could remember the title, it was a classic though). The book had a woman of colour as the main character. She loved that book and had read it many times, she lent it to her friend specifically because he also had a passion for period fiction.

Two weeks later he gave it back. When she asked if he liked it he said no, "I couldn't get into the head of the character, so I went back to reading "

She told me how it made her think... there are SO many books, games etc that have "straight male" protagonists that people like her friend can basically throw a dart at the shelf and likely hit something with someone like them in it. Meanwhile, for her to find a single novel with a protagonist that even remotely represented her experience was nearly impossible.

Her friend has never once had to step outside his worldview to ID with a character that wasn't exactly like him. If he "doesn't get it", he could just swap to the next book on the shelf and find himself within its pages. My friend on the otherhand, as a lowerclass trans person, has NEVER seen herself in a novel (except a the but of tasteless jokes).

It honestly made me feel sorry for her friend, he hasn't yet connected with anyone outside his experience, it's like the epitome of an echo chamber. He will never get to experience some great literature because, well, he doesn't have to.... there is always something else on the shelf.

Robert Tsao
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@Val

Wonderfully put. I think you were able to articulate (in much fewer words than I normally use) the skepticism I have towards marking off checkboxes for the sake of marking them off. I should preface with the disclaimer that this statement is not intended to be an argument against diversity, quite the opposite.

To offer some contrast to your comment, I've always found that characters who are truly contrasts to the norm are typically the most compelling characters to follow. Judging by the huge success of antihero-driven shows like "Breaking Bad" and "House of Cards", I don't think I'm alone in feeling this way.

A lot of media or other mature formats of storytelling have proven dastardly a**hole protagonists can be dark, gritty, and entertaining escapism without oscillating into the realm of one-note hackneyed nihilism. Video games have, unfortunately, yet to hit this level of nuance and restraint.

I agree more diversity is important, but ultimately, better writing and more confident execution of a product is even more important. If video games are truly the art form that so many people tirelessly uphold, then it should be good writing that spurs more diversity and more well-rounded characters and not the other way around.

Once again, great observation, Val. I could not agree more :)

Kevin Fishburne
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As enlightened as we like to think we are, many of us are still living in the dark ages:

http://76crimes.com/76-countries-where-homosexuality-is-illegal/

The United States is not immune, either:

"In the United States, anti-sodomy laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, but they are still on the books in 13 states: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Conservative state legislators refuse to repeal the laws and, in some cases, police still enforce them. Reportedly, in the past few years more than a dozen LGBT people were arrested for violating those laws, but the arrestees were freed because prosecutors wonít seek convictions based on defunct laws."

Here is much more specific information on LGBT rights across the world:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_by_country_or_territory

I can see indie studios taking risks like this, but the big boys have shareholders to please. So for them, the question is how much money would they lose and is it worth it?

TC Weidner
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well the AAA corp titles will likely follow and not lead on this subject matter, nothing new there, but here is one stat they perhaps could hang the "cowboy" hat on

Brokeback Mountain ranks 12th among the highest-grossing romance films of all time.

Simone Tanzi
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Actually I hope I don't sound too much of a douchebag for saying this, but outside the US the United States appears to be the land of the free in name only.

Brent Orford
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As a lead writer for Ubisoft, as well as an openly gay man he seems to be better positioned than most of us to make this happen; and with the message he wants to send along with it.

As an aside... the article mentions the gay characters in Borderlands 2. Who were they? Apparently I glossed over that entirely as I played through it, now I'd like to know!

nicolas mercier
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Axton is bisexual, as is Mister Torgue, and Sir Hammerlock is gay, which you can find out when you go on a quest to recover some lost audio recordings from his ex boyfriend.
http://www.gearboxsoftware.com/community/articles/1077

Luis Guimaraes
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For me the player is the only protagonist.

Of course there's big marketing oportunities for small developers to use gay playable characters for media coverage. I expect we'll see a considerable raise of sexually outspoken avatars in the following two years at least, both for new IPs and for sequels and reboots, until it loses novelty and media-candy effect and dial back a little into a balanced state (for games coming out) of appearance rates and also of pubicly declared sexual extrovert rates.

Not that games will be able to represent sexuality well by then, we'll be able to simulate cognition, comunication and emotions (not to be confused with polygons) before we can simulate human sexuality beyond mere Fiction or lame stereotyped abstraction (which I wouldn't count as "working"), and we're still a long road even from that.

John Flush
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"So when are we going to see that gay protagonist in a AAA game?" - Mass Effect / Dragon Age.

I haven't seen any other games that require / offer same sex attraction as gameplay. And if it doesn't contribute to the story or gameplay why do I need to know what the protagonist prefers? Keep it out and people don't have to make it a distinguishing factor of your game in the first place. This includes heterosexual characters... Seriously leave sex out unless it actually contributes to the story line or gameplay. If you don't you only restrict your audience by their own personal preferences.

Jed Hubic
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It's kind of weird that every time there's an article about gay rights, or gender in the industry there's dozens of comments, yet when it's about actual coding, design, business there's next to no discussion in the comments. The article kind of hits it on the head, people need to start actually sitting down and making the games they want to see (He refers to big companies, so hopefully that's not the only case). With indie games there's a low overhead and a niche for everything. Until there are more games out there being made by people that care about the issues they represent, that can help actual trends and data emerge, all the comments that diverge into who's right or wrong really are just fluff in my opinion. I'm sure I'll be flamed for this, but I hear opinions all day everyday, and those opinions have never gotten anything accomplished.

Kevin Fishburne
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Well I'm making a game where your only choice regarding sexuality is anatomical, you can bang anything on two legs, and females can get pregnant and give birth. So THERE!!! :) And I like posting here as a break from programming and the rest of life's boring grind. The discussions here, when reasonable, I think probably do help shape our thoughts about important subjects as we can all learn from each other's opinions.

It is a shame the "dryer" articles don't get as many posts as the ones speaking about controversial or inflammatory subjects (race/gender/real-world violence, etc.), but that's just the way people are. Same thing happens on cable television, Slashdot and most other media outlets.

Luis Guimaraes
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Peole talk about things that are easy to talk about, things that are subjective, things that are trivial, and about other people. The Parkinson's Law of Triviality is an example of it.

There's also a culture of secrecy in the games industry, and the fact that we're driven by challenge Ė once you already know/worked with something it's not very interesting to talk aobut anymore.

Kenneth Nussbaum
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I think the comments in this thread point to why this hasn't happened. It's not so much that the LGBT community isn't represented, but more so that romantic interest isn't fully developed in games. Their isn't games that approach the subject matter because romance its not used to drive narrative. Sure the hero's always trying to save the girl, but we don't know why he likes her in the first place, we just assume that she's a good cook and doesn't complain too much he we stays out late... I'd like to see a game that tackles the challenges of being in a relationship, the different states of love, and the drive to protect and take care of someone.

Michael Joseph
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http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2012/may/0
4/cosby-show-african-american-comedy

a different minority group but i think some insight can be gleaned.

Things that are good are good and it doesn't matter who the characters are. And if this is the case, then there is a social responsibility I think for media producers to try as best they can to represent all of the different types of people that comprise their audience both in content and in context. Why? Because ostensibly we all want to live in a better world. Because we want children to see people who look like and feel like them being portrayed as heroes, as leaders, as successes in their personal and professional lives, as inspirations, etc. Not doing that paints a distorted picture that is psychologically damaging to those young people who come from backgrounds other than that of the majority.

But what about ratings? But what about sales? All cop out concerns. The real reasons are the ones many of us can't bring ourselves to see or admit... politics, fear, hate, -isms and -phobias, and as Cosby himself states in the article linked to above... narcissism. Just as minorities want to see positive images of themselves on screen, so do the people putting up all the money want to see themselves.

http://img.youtube.com/vi/2UArL0r4vSc/0.jpg

Gern Blanston
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Thank you so much for the well thought out comment. The picture at the end of your post made me think of all the straight actors cast to play gay characters in Hollywood films. It truly is no different.

The biggest thing to take away from these ideas is the fact that concerns about sales are indeed ways to justify one's own insecurities.

Joseph Garvin
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Responding to a few comments here - Why would a gay character be "tacked-on", "forced", or "shoe-horned"? Is homosexuality less normal a sexuality than heterosexuality? Some posters believe that one must make an effort to include LGBT characters, but surely it's no more of an effort than including heterosexual ones?

Jason Ryan
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Perhaps I am unsure of what a AAA game is, or perhaps I am unsure of just how gay we need characters to be. But it is a pretty established concept among my friends that several of the League of Legends champion cast prefers the company of the same gender. I think that maybe you just need a gay love story? Perhaps something less tongue in cheek than Fang and Vanille from FF13? Just what kind of gay is it you are jonesing for?

Jordan Fussnecker
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Obviously Lucien Soulban hasn't played Moonwalker on the Genesis.

More to the point, the LGBT community has been represented by a AAA developer. Trevor in GTA V is bisexual.

Josh Charles
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Has anyone brought up the lack of diversity in AAA development studios as a factor here? I don't have hard employment stats handy but my impression of development studios, particularly in North America and Europe, from what I've read over the years is that the employees are predominantly white men. The percentage of straight versus LGBT employees scan only be guessed but I wouldn't be surprised if the vast majority of those developers were straight.

Personally I think if you go to the source and look at who's developing AAA games on top of factoring in expected norms and trends, it's not hard to see why we have a lack of diversity in the AAA space, whether that has to do with sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, or even intellectually (i.e., something other than people who like to kill things).

Gern Blanston
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I did. Unfortunately, though, it was a comment that was completely ignored. I actually find the idea to be most important considering the subject. This is a quote from my post:

"The gaming industry as a whole needs grow up and welcome more women, non-white, non-straight, and multi-cultural developers. By remaining such a traditional boy's club, we all miss out on games that can push creativity forward by being more inclusive, as opposed excluding those who don't fit the traditional mold. Gaming, and entertainment at large, will be better off when we can move forward in these ways. "

Josh Charles
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@ Jean - There's nothing surprising about that. We're simply pointing out what should be an obvious factor that's been overlooked in the comments of this article.

@ Gern - Agreed. One of the things I'm hopeful for from indies is for game and story experiences that have been neglected from the AAA space.

Jean Louis
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Given that the vast majority of the human race is straight, I'm not sure how this is surprising.

Gern Blanston
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Josh-

Absolutely. With rare games such as 'Gone Home' proving that you can have a main character in a gay relationship in such a casual and natural way. If that game had all straight characters, people would talk against making any of them gay for fear of 'shoehorning' or 'forcing' it in. And it might *gasp* hurt sales! Obviously this was not the case, and it goes to show that there is no legitimate argument about making characters gay instead of straight. There are also no legitimate points against creating more characters with a different gender or cultural background. Diversity is good in the both in the real world and in the reflection of it. It's more honest and brave to be progressive, and cowardly to put an argument against it.

So while I have essentially zero expectations from the AAA arena, I'm always expecting forward-thinking stories from the indies. The small studios more represent the future of gaming than the 'big boys'. The main reason is because there aren't any powerful forces [that normally exist within the big companies] in the indie space holding back women, non-straight, and non-white persons. Which is, again, what it all comes down to.

I appreciate the conversation. :)

Jean Louis
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Are you suggesting that people are not getting jobs in the industry because of being in an ethnic minority or being homosexual or female? Do you have data to prove that that is the motivating factor in the hiring process? Because if that's the case you're making, it seems like it would be hard to prove. My points still stands: it shouldn't be surprising if the "vast majority" of employees exhibit behavior that is normative for the majority of mankind. I don't see how it would be any more just to attempt to compensate by hiring somebody BECAUSE they're gay/female/black/etc. There are also plenty of AAA games that are not simply about killing things (okay, you may have to give me a little slack with RTS/RPGs).

Gern Blanston
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You've obviously never read into the experiences of individuals within gaming companies that deal with extreme harassment in the workplace. I don't need 'data' to say that women aren't treated fairly, do your research. And if it were so easy for women, gays, etc. to get ahead, why aren't there more? The only explanation would be to say that only straight white males even want to develop games, but that would be ludicrous thought.

We're talking about an industry where there just as many female consumers as men. Women that have nearly, if not just as much interest in developing games But simply can't break through because of how they were born. Gee, it's almost as if it's a direct reflection of the rest of society... It would be like saying that essentially only old, white, straight males want to hold political office.

And for you to infer that something along the lines of affirmative action isn't a positive step is very disheartening.

Nick Harris
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Kirby is gay.

Michael Thornberg
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Completely irrelevant. Most people could care less about a characters sexuality if it isn't brought up as a point. Also, we're talking about a minority here, so the situation is rather self explanatory. But if anyone want a character to be gay, lesbian etc.. then all the power to them. I still don't care as long as the game is good. Let peoples sexuality be a private matter.

Michael DeFazio
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I'm not sure that this is the very first "gay encounter" in a video game, but ultima 6 (released in 1990) does allow the main character to engage in sex with another male character:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU2LTM8Dq7I

I'm straight, and thought it was admirable they handled it in a way that didnt make the game "about" being gay, but rather give you the option of pursuing this if you want..Granted this "encounter" is purely sexual (and not a real relationship) I have to give Lord British credit for "going there" (Especially since people were much less tolerant in 1990 about alternative lifestyles)...

I know people frequently talk about Mass Effect and Dragon Age, but this came out 20 odd years before either of those games. (and, lets be frank, the "relationships" in Mass Effect/ Dragon Age are more like "hook ups" anyways)

Michael Joseph
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Does the majority like their minorities lobotomized of their real life experiences and turned into sanitized entertainment characters?

It's pretty convenient for members of the majority to not want to see titles "about being" anything. You might as well say the majority wants stories that are fantasies that shelter them from the ugly truths of a world full of -isms and -phobias... a world shaped predominantly by their fellow members past and present.

When you're in the minority, much of life is "about" being the minority. And minorities don't dictate that. In many respects, minorities live in the real world and the majority lives in the fantasy world where the fish are always jumping, cotton's always high, daddy's rich and mama's good looking. And the majority don't want to hear or be reminded about that other tougher world where life is a whole lot less fair.

I suppose ignoring these truths in real life is hard enough without our entertainment reminding us.

And with attitudes like this, it's no wonder there's no "Citizen Kane" equivalent in games.


Michael DeFazio
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Not sure what you are driving at, but this:

"minorities lobotomized of their real life experiences and turned into sanitized entertainment characters? It's pretty convenient for members of the majority to not want to see titles "about being" anything."

alludes to the idea that the game should have been a "gay video game"... Or the gay citizen kane of video games.

All Im saying is that (for a gay person living in 1990) it might have been refreshing to have the option of being a gay character in a video game, as apposed to a character who is trying to fulfill some heterosexual based (saved the princess) quest.

I have no idea why people think video games should attempt to deliver a narrative (a la Citizen Kane) to try to force sexuality (gay or straight) on the main character, (wouldnt it be more interesting to let the player of the game make that choice... what if I decide I want to have a "heterosexual perspective on the first playthrough, then be a woman and homosexual on the next)... It would be more interesting to me that the game react differently based on your in game decisions, then have a character act and play a set predefined role.

its not convenient at all, but you do seem to want to start a fight or something.

Luis Guimaraes
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"And with attitudes like this, it's no wonder there's no 'Citizen Kane' equivalent in games."

Shenaningans!

The list of of awesome games with no equivalent in movies if far bigger and more noteworthy.

Frank DAngelo
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I think it would be a disaster to make a main protagonist who is outrightly gay... There will be many straight individuals who would not want to play a gay character, and that is fine. In my opinion, the best video game protagonists are neutral characters that can choose their own alignments, good/evil, gay/straight, fat/skinny, etc., and there are many games out there on the market now that let the player make their main character pursue gay or lesbian relationships. But a strictly gay protagonist? Hardly anyone would buy it.

Mark Desmarais
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I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Roberta Davies
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I'm currently playing Fable 2 (2008) and find it refreshingly open about sex and sexuality. Every NPG who can be personally interacted with is noted as straight, gay, or bisexual. You are perfectly free to pursue a relationship with anyone who'll have you, anything from a one-night stand to a lifetime marriage. Sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy are possibilities, but condoms are available.

Going back much further, in Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh (1996), the openly gay but non-stereotyped Trevor is the protagonist's best friend and arguably the most likeable character in the game. The protagonist, Curtis, is probably bisexual but is in denial about this, and is realistically tormented about his attraction to Trevor. Although Curtis tries to reject his homosexual feelings, this is perfectly understandable given his background, and the game itself is non-hostile -- you get the strong impression that Curtis would be much happier if he could accept himself as he is, and you really wish he could get together with Trevor.

Eric Geer
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'"mid-30s stubbly-bearded brown-haired white guy with a raspy voice" protagonists in AAA games for fear from publishers that games with gay characters won't sell'

I'm sorry but just because you're mid-30s stubbly-bearded brown haired white guy with a raspy voice, doesn't mean you aren't gay. Do we need to have flamboyantly gay characters to have gay characters? Just because an individual is gay doesn't mean they draw attention to it. Example---Game of the Year Last of us: While Joel is rather straight, Ellie plays a fairly ambiguous roll in Last of Us but leads more in the direction of gay female the more we learn about her. Hell, even Bill, who comes off as one of the most badass characters I've seen in a while alludes to being gay.

There are plenty of games that hint at LGBT characters, but most don't draw attention to the fact that they are gay. Just as many straight characters don't necessarily allude to them being straight.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LGBT_characters_in_video_gam
es

Generally, many of the characters aren't written in as flamboyantly gay, yes it might make a statement if they did, but unfortunately wouldn't be good for the games bottom line. Would I like to play as a gay character, Yes, I don't care, as long as there is a good story and good gameplay I'm all for it.

I am happy to accept your sexuality however, but it would be more natural to learn about it through observation/communication/relationship. We've gotten to a point where the gay movement, much like the feminist movement requires you to rub your face in it before everyone can be happy....the percentage of US population that was surveyed in 2011 says 3.8% of the US population identified as LGBT...it probably corresponds pretty well to the percentage of games that have LGBT characters


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