Pride Month: An Introspective on the Gaming Industry and Attitudes of Gamers

June is Pride Month. Between social media frames, rainbow-themed recipes, and parades, there are many ways to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community whether you identify as a member or an ally. Some individuals find the courage during this time to come out, and many utilize the spotlight to champion acceptance and fight discrimination. While the LGBTQ+ community is steadily gaining traction as far as representation in media, one area where I feel a lot of growth is needed is in the gaming industry. In addition to that, there’s still a lot of opportunity for growth in gaming culture for LGBTQ+ acceptance.

The history of LGBTQ+ in gaming isn’t unfamiliar. In the beginning, they were the target of jokes with barely any representation. Some LGBTQ+ characters appeared in the 1990s; however, they were most often seen in Japanese titles, occasionally as stereotypes. At the turn of the millennium, trends started to change.

In a 2018 article for GamesRadar+, Sam Greer identified 179 games with any LGBTQ+ representation. Within that, a mere 83 were playable characters, and only eight were specifically written as queer. Fallout 2, the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Jade Empire, Knights of the Old Republic, and Mass Effect are a few examples that feature LGBTQ+ characters or options for a queer romance. Some personal examples that I love are listed below:

Night in the Woods: This indie title brings a sense of authenticity with a wide cast of LGBTQ+ characters. You play as Mae Borowksi, a troubled college dropout, who returns home to try and resume her old life. Mae is a cat. Oh, and she’s pansexual. In addition to Mae, there are several gay, pansexual, and trans NPCs. This is such a quirky, creepy adventure game that succeeds in representation without pandering.

The Last of Us and The Last of Us II: This AAA title and its sequel cast a major spotlight on LGBTQ+ representation. The Last of Us gently reveals a gay NPC, Bill, and the DLC, Left Behind, also confirmed Ellie’s sexuality. The sequel features Ellie’s relationship with Dina without letting it define either character. We can’t forget about Lev either, a young transgender man who was ostracized from the Seraphites, a religious community of which he was once a member. What I appreciate about these two games is that the characters weren’t written as gay or trans just to check off a list. I felt that each of these characters were well-fleshed out and lived their lives beyond their sexuality.

Of course, a significant amount of backlash transpired after The Last of Us II. I can’t even begin to explain the misogyny and homophobia, so I will just show Neil Druckman’s Tweet:

This leads to my next point of concern: the immense negativity when a video game features an openly gay or trans character. The amount of hate and harmful terminology flinging around around Twitter and other social media platforms is terrifying. I personally have witnessed a level toxicity in the gaming community; however, I want to make it clear that I am not singling them out. I believe every type of community has its fair share of individuals who grasp firmly onto their archaic mindset. The question is, Will it ever change?

Sadly, prejudice and discrimination are learned thoughts and behaviors. As humans, our brains naturally learn to categorize things to help make sense of the world–and that is okay! What makes it not okay is when people let misunderstanding and fear cloud their judgment and begin treating people negatively because of an inconsequential difference. Also, while the internet has brought us many wonderful things, it also comes with a cost. These individuals can sit behind a screen and issue death threats or degrading comments at people who are perceived as different from them. Social media is a perfect platform for cowards.

It seems like the swell of homophobia is more prominent in older gamers–those that grew up without the normalization of LGBTQ+ in video games. While that lends to some understanding, it is no excuse. It’s hard to say whether we can change their minds; but as a community, we need to continue to advocate for continued representation in video games and lean heavily on the gaming industry to support their developers and actors.

I am a bi-sexual female gamer, but that does not define me. I would love more LGBTQ+ representation in games–as long as it isn’t used to patronize us. We’ve made headway in the gaming industry, but we’re still miles away from our goal of representation and acceptance. Finally, it’s not okay for anyone, including gamers, to bash those in the LGBTQ+ community.

We’re all human; people simply want to be accepted and loved. So, let’s spread the love and support games that depict a realistic spectrum of people and human experience.

I understand this is a heavy topic, but I wanted to take a moment to seriously acknowledge the changes we still need to make as a society to be more accepting of all walks of life, especially in gaming. If you have some genuine thoughts on the matter, please share them on our Boss Rush Discord channel. As a member of the Boss Rush community, I can say that they are an incredibly accepting and loving group that I am proud to be a part of.

Sources: GamesRadar+, Fandom, Games Industry.biz, American Psychological Association

Image Source: Forbes.com (Pride Flag)

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