It's pretty obvious that video games suffer from as much stereotyping as gamers do. The amount of times we have heard that video games incite violence, or fuel misogyny on the internet is uncountable; it's ironic, then, the last few years have proven video games to be more exciting and inclusive than ever before. The boom in indie titles and a diversifying audience has created demand for diverse characters and thought-provoking narratives, which is pushing video games out of the bedroom and into the real world.
1. 'Gone Home' (The Fullbright Company, 2013)
I binged sleeper hit #GoneHome on a couple of hours one afternoon, and for a relatively short indie, it sure gave me all the feels! The game begins when the protagonist returns home from a year abroad, only to find their family home empty. The game is set in June 1995, and the music, imagery and references knead nostalgia into the core of the gameplay. As you hunt the house for clues, you begin to discover the truth behind your family's disappearance, and the very queer love story at the core of it all.
2. 'Life is Strange' (Square Enix, 2015)
Square Enix's episodical indie was another game which came out of nowhere and blew everyone out of the water. Set in the fictional town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon, you go through the story as Maxine Caulfield — a photography student at the prestigious Blackwell Academy, who one day discovers she has the ability to manipulate time. The game is based on a series of decisions you make, each with a different outcome which effects Max and the characters she encounters. One such character is her best friend Chloe, and multiple endings of the game reveal she may be something more.
3. 'Overwatch' (Blizzard, 2016)
Okay, #Overwatch is not inherently "queer themed," but it is taking strides to be LGBT inclusive. For a team-based #FPS, it's sure managed to make an impact on gamers, and when popular character and suspect lesbian number one Tracer was revealed to be just that, fans were elated. Blizzard also commented on the Overwatch comic which outed her, telling Entertainment Weekly:
"As in real life, having variety in our characters and their identities and backgrounds helps create a richer and deeper overall fictional universe."
4. 'Dragon Age: Inquisition' (BioWare, 2014)
I could have picked any of #Bioware's games to feature in this article. From Mass Effect to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the team behind some of the best games I have ever played offer gamers the chance to choose their gender, race and sexuality — which makes for much more inclusive and varied gameplay. I singled out Dragon Age: Inquisition because of all the games, it's the one had the most #LGBT characters; Sera, Dorian, Krem and The Iron Bull are just a few of the queer characters you can engage with romantically or platonically, making it probably their queerest video game to date.
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5. 'The Last of Us' (Naughty Dog, 2013)
I have not adored a game as much as I adored #TheLastOfUs for a long time. The combination of an incredible narrative, excellent gameplay and well-written three-dimensional characters had me from the get go, and the development of Ellie and Joel's relationship made for a refreshing take on survival horror genre. It is revealed in the Last of Us: Left Behind DLC (which comes as part of Remastered game) that Ellie had feelings for her best friend Reily, who we know was there when Ellie was bitten. In an interview with GayGamer, creator Neil Druckmann spoke about the DLC, stating that Ellie was always written as a gay character:
“Now when I was writing it [...] I was writing it with the idea that Ellie is gay, and when the actresses were working they were definitely working with the idea that they’re both attracted to each other. [...] There’s that chemistry there from the get go that was important for us so that we earned that moment when they kissed each other. So that it wasn’t just out of the blue but also wasn’t so overt that you’re like “Oh of course. Just get on with it.”
Another character, Bill, is also assumed to be gay, as you find a letter from his dead partner Frank stating that he does not love him anymore. With The Last of Us 2 on the way which will showcase an older, deadlier Ellie, it will be interesting to see if her relationships within the game will be impacted by this particular aspect of her characterization.
6. 'Tusks: The Orc Dating Sim' (Mitch Alexander, 2016)
Of all the games I have listed so far, Tusks: The Orc Dating Sim is probably the most bizarre. According to Mitch Alexander's website for the game, this indie "focuses on a newly-formed family of gay orcs who are travelling from the annual orcish assembly to the Highlands of a semi-mythical Scotland." You then have the ability to make friends and form relationships with your all-male orc family! Once you enter into relationships you can see your new orc boyfriend's nude photos, and even engage in a little nookie. It's original, I'll give it that!
7. 'Undertale' (Toby Fox, 2015)
Undertale is definitely one of the most progressive games to hit Steam in the last couple of years. With a story line that features variety of queer characters and passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, there's not been much else like it before or since. Toby Fox's creation smashed indie records and has been a huge success, hailed for its subversion of video game cliches as well as winning multiple awards for its music, gameplay and narrative.
While we still have a long way to come in some respects, but there has definitely been a seismic shift in the way video games are choosing to tell LGBT narratives in the last few years. Video games are getting with the 21st century, realizing that queer characters can act as the protagonist, and not just be featured as part of the scenery.