The Best Examples of LGBT Characters in Gaming
LGBT representation in gaming is just as important as it is in any other form of media. Reducing representation for whatever reason, is a way of saying that something isn’t normal and people shouldn’t have to be exposed to it, which not only have a negative effect on those outside a certain group, sending the message that something shouldn’t be allowed, but makes those inside the group feel isolated and ashamed. When I was growing-up there was very little LGBT representation in the media, and talking about people being queer was treated the same way as swearing or talking about something inappropriate. Even the local support website for LGBT youth was banned from my school computers for being “pornographic.”
The main argument I often hear against queer representation in gaming is that gaming isn’t a sexual thing and there aren’t any reasons to talk about someone’s sexuality or gender. To those I say, first, that I can think of several games where the player can engage in sex. It often serves no real purpose to the game and is treated as a novelty, but it does appear in games, as well as characters that identify with a gender! Secondly, there are plenty of games with confirmed heterosexual cisgendered people who engage in heterosexual cisgendered relationships. People don’t notice this as much, because heterosexuality and cisgendered people are never worth commenting on, because everyone sees them as normal. Where there are storylines and characters, there can be good representation.
So, what makes good LGBT representation in gaming? For me, it’s the same thing that makes good representation in film and TV. Well written characters, believable scenarios and characters that don’t rely solely on stereotypes. While some characters certainly need improvement, there have been some gems that deserve celebration. And that’s what this list is about! Representing in gaming can be a wonderful thing and these characters prove just that.
Note that I will be using the term “Queer” throughout as an umbrella term, meaning a member of the LGBT or SAGA community.
Sera- Dragon Age Inquisition
Dragon Age Inquisition was the third instalment in the Dragon Age series, released in 2014.
Sera is an elven archer that can be recruited into your inner circle as a companion. She has an interesting backstory, having been raised by humans and not knowing much about her elven heritage. Some of what she says can be rather sassy and she has the original trait of being trained in human armour rather than elf armour.
But what attracts me to Sera over potential romances, is that Sera is only interested in romancing female players. Many characters in the game are bisexual and it’s not unusual to find characters in games who’ll be open to romance regardless of the players gender. But to find an established character that is exclusively gay or lesbian is a rarity. It’s also refreshing that Sera is one of the more interesting characters in the game.
I know straight away that this choice might be a questionable one. But personally, I find Reaver to be an interesting character.
Reaver is a villain/ally in the Lionhead Studios action RPG Fable, set in the fictional world of Albion. First appearing in Fable II Reaver is an ex-pirate, known as The Hero of Skill who you have to recruit in order to defeat your rival Lucien Fairfax. Reaver appears again in Fable III as a wealthy factory owner and provides “Evil” advice on how to raise the necessary funds to save Albion.
Reaver is openly bisexual, talking about sexual conquests with both genders and flirting with the hero regardless of gender. While he is without a doubt an amoral, evil character who is only involved in the quests for his own needs, this has very little to do with his sexuality. While his sexual exploits are used for comic affect, particularly in his mansion during the third game, this has nothing to do with the gender of his partners. If he were heterosexual, his story nor his personality would change and neither would be gameplay.
Reaver to me is proof that a queer villain can be done right. He isn’t queer because he’s a villain, he is a villain and he’s queer.
Ellie- The Last of Us
The Last of Us is an action-adventure horror game, set in a post-apocalyptic future. Your goal is to survive and defend yourself against cannibalistic, humans affected by a fungus. The characters in the game are fairly interesting, particularly the character of Ellie.
Ellie is introduced in the first game as a fourteen-year-old girl, who is immune to the fungus. The player (Joel) is given the task of smuggling her to a safe house, to see if her immunity can lead to a vaccine. Ellie is far from the Damsel in Distress character we would expect her to be in a game such as this, as she is very strong willed and capable of defending herself. She learns new skills as the game progresses and gains new weapons. Ellie will be the protagonist of the games sequel The Last of Us: Part II as well as being the protagonist of the prequel The Last of Us: Left Behind.
Left Behind surrounds the relationship between Ellie and her companion Riley. Riley visits Ellie at boarding school, telling her that she wanted to see her. The story is hauntingly beautiful, revealing how Ellie was infected and ending with Riley’s death. The relationship between the two girls is done wonderfully and is a great piece of representation for LGBT youth. I’m very much looking forward to seeing further developments in Ellie’s character in the sequel.
Chloe – Life is Strange
Life is Strange is an adventure game from Dontnod Entertainment. It’s a beautiful game with an entirely unique concept. You play as Max, a teenage girl who discovers that can rewind time. The choices you make throughout the game affect the outcomes. You can also go back and replay certain choices, to change the outcome. Max, has a premonition of a storm destroying her town and takes in on herself to use her powers to save everyone.
The game has a very intense story line, involving some emotional decisions for Max. We meet Chloe towards the beginning of the game, Chloe being Max’s childhood friend who she reunites with and is the first person she reveals her powers to. Chloe’s fate affects many of the decisions in the game, most notably the final decision, where the player must decide whether or not to save Chloe or save her town. Throughout the game, Chloe makes it clear that she is interested in Max and the player can decide whether or not to pursue this relationship. In the prequel Before the Storm, Chloe is the protagonist and it explores her relationship with another girl; Rachel.
What made this game interesting to me is more than it just having a LGBT main character, but that the protagonist of the game (Max) is female. I don’t feel like the game was specifically made to be marketed towards a female demographic, nor do I feel the story would be any different if she were male. There was even some controversy with game publishers when Life is Strange was in early development, with objections to there being a female protagonist. The game is already a brilliant example of female representation in gaming done right; Chloe’s character and story are an addition to this.
Damien Bloodmarch – Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
While I put a lot of thought about which characters belonged on this list, all the previous choices going on and off several times, this was always the number one choice for me.
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator was released earlier this year and was the first game developed by Game Grumps. It is a visual novel game, following the story of a widower (the player) and his daughter Amanda who have recently moved to a new neighbourhood. While supporting his daughter through high-school friend drama and preparation for college, the player can befriend and date the other seven Daddies in the neighbourhood. The game is an obvious pick for this list, with many LGBT characters. So why signal Damien out as the best?
Damien is the neighbourhood “Goth Dad.” He has an obsession with the Victorian Era which he takes very seriously, has a good relationship with his rebellious son Lucien and is a secret dog-lover! And along with perusing male relationships, Damien is also canon trans! While this was confirmed by creator Leighton Grey on Twitter, it is mentioned briefly in the game when Damien mentions to the player that he wears a binder.
What I love most about this is that his being trans doesn’t affect the relationship he has with the player. During his third date, he reveals that he works in IT and loves dogs, of which is nervous about the players reaction. His gender however never comes into this. There are several moments in Damien’s story that fans have linked to his being trans, such as him saying that Lucien has been going through a hard time or Lucien telling the player that his dad has “had a rough few years.” However, none of these have been confirmed.
His story shows how portraying a trans character in video games in easily possible and how it can be done right.