Let’s Talk About Some LGBT Characters
When I first started writing for HeyPoorPlayer, I wrote an article on my favourite and the most significate LGBT characters in gaming. While I stand by my inclusions in the article, given the time that has passed and that it’s now Pride Month, I thought it was an excellent time to explore some other SAGA* characters in gaming.
These aren’t characters I consider to be “the best” necessarily, just characters that are worth talking about. Storylines that focus on serious issues for the SAGA community or just enjoyable, well-written characters who happen to be LGBT.
I will never understand the argument that adding these characters in games is an attempt to “make them political.” The existence of the SAGA community isn’t a political agenda. It’s people who have always existed trying to exist without prosecution. Including SAGA characters are just acknowledging they exist. Having said that, I am turned off by games that attempt to overly pander to the community. Such as the new dating sim Best Friends Forever, set in “Rainbow Bay.” Claiming to “Experience Modern Love at its finest!”
Don’t get me wrong, I adore games made for the LGBT community and games that celebrate us. But pandering games like Best Friends Forever feel like their trying too hard.
That’s not to say none of the writers responsible for the below aren’t guilty of “trying too hard.” Or pandering! But I’m still glad to live in a time where these characters can exist. Most are from games that came out after my original article; others are existing characters I have since discovered.
*Sexuality and Gender Alliance
Gregg – Night in the Woods (2017)
I will admit that I was cynical about Gregg at first. Despite my praise in my original article for Reaver (Fable) for being a well created queer villain. But I was ready to assume that Gregg would be a stereotypical “Gay Best Friend” for the main character. Luckily, I was very wrong.
Gregg, like the other characters in the game, is very relatable. His excitement and enthusiasm for life are entertaining and lovable. But when he reveals that he has good days and bad days, that sometimes he doesn’t feel worthwhile and worries about ruining his relationship with Angus, I felt so close to him. He isn’t just a “GBF”; he is a well-rounded character, with flaws and goals! His friendship with Mae is also super adorable and realistic! I loved their “too bad you didn’t die horribly,” in-joke.
I’ve read that fans think Gregg might have Bipolar disorder; due to the way he describes his inner feelings. However, I personally think he more closely matches signs of Borderline Personality Disorder. Or it could just be his feelings- he doesn’t necessarily need a diagnosis, he’s still relatable.
Anyone who has grown-up queer in a small town knows what Gregg is feeling when he talks about being the only queer couple in town. For a game where one of the main themes is small-town life, it would be irresponsible of the devs not to acknowledge this aspect. But they did, and Gregg is amazing!
Alexios (or Kassandra) – Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (2018)
(As I played as Alexios, I’ll be referring to him, but it’s my understanding that the dialogue options don’t change between characters, so they’re both queer.)
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is probably my favourite AAA game of the last few years. I love the story, the setting, and I connected very well with Alexios. It’s rare to find a AAA protagonist that I click with, and more unusual for them also to be LGBT!
Throughout the game, there are various characters you have the opportunity to romance. While the female characters massively outnumber the male characters and while the player does not have to flirt with anybody, Alexios’s bisexuality is very present in the game. Even when refusing to engage in romantic activity, Alexios’s replies show that he is open to relationships with both men and women.
In the DLC Lost Tales of Greece (the only DLC worth getting), there are two romantic quests. In Old Flames Burn Brighter, Alexios finds his childhood-sweetheart Anais, now a single mother running her own farm. Alexios gets close to Anais and has the option of romancing her. The game doesn’t allow you to say, “I don’t like you in that way,” cementing that at least once, Alexios had feelings for a woman. But then, the DLC also introduces two male love interests in A Brother’s Seduction.
Alexios encounters two brothers and goes through various tasks, getting close to both of them. While Alexios again doesn’t have to choose either brother, this is the only romance in the game with a happy ending. (AKA a kiss, a sunset and a promise to stay together.)
What does bother me about the game is that there are no love interests that can only be pursued as one of the siblings. (Alexios or Kassandra.) I commended Sera from Dragon Age in my last article as it’s great to have openly queer characters like that, who can only be romanced if you play as their preferred gender. It would have been great if Odyssey had included similar romances. It would also have given the game more replay value.
Ned Wynert – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015)
I can rant forever about Best Friends Forever desperately pandering. Still, I have to admit the only reason I bought Assassin’s Creed Syndicate earlier this year is because I learned there was a trans-character in it.
Ned is by no means a perfect portrayal of a transman. For one, he is voiced by a woman who makes no effort to stop him sounding like a woman. And for two, he is barely in the game at all. Having said that, I do admire the inclusion of Ned, even if he isn’t perfectly executed. He’s headstrong, independent, and overall competent at what he does.
When trolls take upon trans issues, they always seem to declare that this is a new thing that the SAGA community has just made up. Asking where all these trans people came from! Well, these trans people have always been here throughout history!
As Odyssey takes place in ancient Greece, where same-sex relations were legal and common, even if men were still expected to marry women, it is a great setting to have a bisexual protagonist. But Ned’s inclusion in Syndicate feels more powerful than that as it shows that LGBT people existed throughout history. Even in times when our existence was “illegal.” You can’t ban people from existing, no matter how much you hate them!
Crystal – Later Daters (2020)
Keeping up the conversation of trans-people throughout history, I’d like to bring up Crystal from Later Daters. Later Daters is a new dating sim from Bloom Digital Media. You, and Crystal, are the newest residents of YE OLDE retirement community. As with most dating sims, you soon realise that most of the residents are single and totally into you!
Being a dating sim focused on elderly characters, it explores various issues older people face. Which is refreshing for a dating sim. These include Haroun, who is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s and his wife Salema, who is trying her best to cope on her own. Retired rock-star Jax who is HIV positive, and Mariana, who has been widowed twice before coming to YE OLDE. But Crystal’s story is one very often given to younger characters.
Crystal is a transwoman who came out shortly before the death of her wife. Although her wife was accepting and supportive of Crystal, her son is less so. Telling her that he will always see her as his Dad, deadnaming her and refusing to acknowledge her identity. While it’s a heart-breaking relationship, it’s a great reminder that older transpeople need support too. Trans issues are so often seen as a youth LGBT problem. But transpeople come in all ages and go through the same difficulties. Crystal’s story with her son has often been told the other way around, so I admire the inclusion of this perspective.
Todd and Neil – Sally Face (2016)
I’ll get out of the way my criticisms for these guys. During the third chapter of the game, we meet Sal’s homophobic bully, Travis. (Shortly after it’s revealed that Travis, predictably, has a crush on Sal.) When confronting Travis on his homophobia, Sal brings up that Todd is gay. He describes him as “super gay” and lecturers Travis. Stating that “it’s part of who he is.” Firstly, it’s not cool for Sal to out his friend to a homophobe, and secondly, the after-school-special vibe of the speech is just so unnecessary. Confronting Travis with “what’s your problem with gay people?” Would have been much less damaging and efficient.
But that scene aside, I like that Todd and Neil’s relationship isn’t the primary layer of the characters. Okay, so Neil is nothing more than one of the main character’s boyfriend. Despite him being Sal’s roommate in chapter four, we don’t learn that much about him. But Todd’s main purpose in the game is to be the typical nerd and do all the tech-stuff! He’s certainly a stereotype of the nineties nerd guy, but he’s that and a gay character.
Todd’s relationship and sexuality also don’t come into his relationship with his parents. He has issues with his parents, mostly involving their excessive weed use! But they are accepting of his relationship, and it’s never brought up in dialogue with them. It bothers me when a queer character is added in for the purposes of being a queer character and doesn’t get any storylines aside from being queer. But Neil and Todd’s relationship is just one aspect of the characters. After Sal’s lecture to Travis, it’s not mentioned that they are a gay couple, just that they are a couple.
Shanaw – Dead in Vinland (2018)
I have to pat the developers of Dead in Vinland on the back here. I reviewed their game when it came out in 2018. While I enjoyed it overall, there were a few fatal flaws. These include an unnecessary 120-day time cap or the game throwing random injuries and events at you resulting in certain death (that can be overcome by reloading the game)
However, the devs themselves answered questions on the Steam forums, listened to players, and created a much better project. There is now no longer a 120-day cap on the game. Along with tailored difficulty settings so if you like, you can make it super easy and enjoy the stories. Or super hard because you love self-torture. I’d also recommend the DLC The Vallhund. It’s amazing how the addition of one cute dog makes the game a hell of a lot easier and cuter!
But, on to Shanaw. Shanaw is one of the lost exiled characters you find exploring the island, who can be invited to live with you at camp. She’s one of the most useful characters you can get, as she has high endurance, a wide range of skills, and is one of the best fighters. Her backstory, like everyone else’s, is tragic.
It’s revealed that Shanaw is a lesbian through interactions between Kari or Parvaneh, where she reveals her attraction to either character. But through conversations between Kari and Blodeuwedd we learn why was exiled and why she is slow to trust the other tribe members, particularly Eirik.
Trigger Warning- Sexual Assault
After Kari discovers a scar on her body, Shanaw reveals that her father forced her to marry a man he chose for her. On their wedding night, her husband attempted to rape Shanaw, who killed him fighting back. After this, she left her tribe in disgrace to live in the wilderness.
Shanaw’s miserable backstory fits well in a game made of miserable backstories, and I honestly love the way it’s handled. Shanaw stands up for herself and comes out on top, even if she is exiled. Her distrust of men is also portrayed as a result of the assault and is not placed in connection to her being a lesbian. She also doesn’t show any shame in her sexuality or from being the victim of sexual assault.
Her whole storyline is portrayed with a refreshing dose of maturity that I honestly wouldn’t have expected from this miserable survival game.
However, as a criticism for the game, while Dead in Vinland has one openly lesbian character and at least two bisexual women- the game is lacking in male same-sex romances! I’ve gotten the romantic ending between Shanaw and Kari multiple times. But while I’ve heard rumours of a romantic relationship between Eirik and Yaghoub, I’ve tried many times to trigger it with no luck so far!
Ellie – The Last of Us (Part I 2013, Part II 2020)
I’ll keep this brief as I talked about Ellie in my last article. But with The Last of Us: Part II coming out next week, I thought it would be a good idea to bring her up again.
In the original game, Ellie was a fourteen-year-old sidekick. In the new part, she is the main protagonist! I don’t know if Naughty Dog made this decision based on fan-love or a natural progression of the game. (Or both!) Either way, I’m really happy that I live in a time where the protagonist of a much anticipated AAA game is a lesbian woman!
The trailers for Part II show Ellie as a pretty intense, tough character. As you would be if you were a child who spent their last few growing-up years in a zombie apocalypse! It’ll be interesting to see where the story takes this character in the new game.