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Editorial

The Problem With LGBT Characters

The introduction of LGBT characters in video games isn't exactly a new phenomenon. This has been a controversial move since the late 1980's, and the reactions to those characters haven't really changed. Some are happy to see the representation of the LGBT community in another medium, but others... not so much.

So why would anybody be against a certain community being represented in a videogame? It's hard to actually discuss this topic without slurs being thrown around like "homophobic" or "transphobic." Which may or may not be true for whoever is against the inclusion of LGBT characters, but just like everything else, there is validity in both arguments. So I suppose this is where I play devil's advocate.

While there isn't anything inherently wrong with LGBT characters in games, it's why developers include them and how. Do you have friends that are apart of the LGBT community? Do they have any other personality traits besides what genitalia they prefer? Not everyone answered yes to the first question, but those who did should have answered yes to the second one as well.

Problem #1 with including LGBT characters in videogames: developers have shown they are beyond incompetent in doing so. Whether it's a problem with preconceived notions or the lack of care, developers seem to think that gay and/or transgendered people exist solely to tell the world what their sexual orientation is and what gender they identify as. There have been a many games over the years that have included LGBT characters, but only a handful of those games have done them any justice.

For example, Mass Effect 3; a game nobody likes for different reasons. Mass Effect is an RPG series, so no one should bat an eye when the player is able to romance members of the same sex. The problem doesn't arise until you meet Steve Cortez, professional homosexual. Or at least that's how Bioware was trying to pitch him to the player. Not even five dialogue choices into meeting this man and he's already telling you his entire homosexual background including the fact that he had a husband. There was nothing wrong with him telling the player off hand that he had a husband, but it becomes so tiring when he will constantly remind the player that he is gay for the entirety of Mass Effect 3.

That is not natural for any human being to act, even if they're gay. It wouldn't have been natural if he were straight and had to constantly remind the player about how he had a wife and how much he just loves female genitalia either.

Bioware are probably the worst offenders when it comes to how not to include LGBT characters in games. Even Dragon Age wasn't safe from that. Anybody who has played the Dragon Age series since its original outing knows of the heavily retconned race, the Qunari. Throughout Dragon Age: Inquisition, the player is constantly reminded by characters of the Qunari race that it is incredibly honorable for them to be transgendered. Again, there isn't anything wrong with that if you had asked a Qunari details about their culture, but Bioware keep going out of their way to tell the player about how honorable and brave it is to be transgendered. Are we playing a fantasy RPG or a social justice RPG?

So which developers have done LGBT characters justice? That's a short list, but let's focus mainly on Naughty Dog and Obsidian Entertainment. The Last of Us, for example, was one of the best games to feature LGBT characters. About halfway through the game, the player encounters Bill, a former ally of Joel who happens to be gay, but never once is it forced down your throat that he is gay. Bill was an interesting character that showed the possible psychological effects on a survivor living in a post-apocalyptic world. When Bill temporarily joins you on your travels, he mentions that he once had a "partner." At this point, that doesn't really mean much because "partner" could just mean that he allied himself with someone who helped him out, but you later find out that he truly was in a relationship with his partner when you find him dead with a note hinting at their previous romance. And that's it. Bill was a well written character that happened to be gay. Thank you, Naughty Dog.

Fallout: New Vegas, arguably Obsidian's most popular game, also had LGBT characters. Most notably, Arcade Gannon; a possible companion for the player. Arcade has quite an interesting backstory and family history that isn't told to the player unless they go through optional dialogue paths to find out, and one of the things you learn about this companion is that he's gay. Of course, like any good character, he doesn't just shout this out of nowhere. You have to get to know him first before he tells you, and he isn't exactly afraid to either. He's fairly open about it when you ask him, but he's smart enough (well written enough) not to randomly tell you while you're both getting shot at by Super Mutants. Thank you, Obsidian.

Now what does it mean to include LGBT characters "properly?" It's simple because it's no different than making any other fictional character seem real. Create a realistically written character that happens to be apart of the LGBT community. People in the LGBT community are no different than any other human being. Their personalities don't solely revolve around the fact that they prefer different genitalia than heterosexuals and/or their gender identities happens to be different than CIS gendered people. Just like how the personalities of people not apart of the LGBT community don't revolve solely around their CIS gendered heterosexualaity.

Problem #2 with including LGBT characters in videogames: developers will sometimes only include LGBT characters for their own personal gain. Some say you should separate the art from the artist, but that can be a difficult task when ideals that the developer doesn't even necessarily believe in are shoved down your throat. It's one thing to take a stand on an issue that you genuinely believe in, but it's another to falsely take a stand for your own personal benefit.

This problems also causes a divide in morality. Developers that contribute to problem #1 at least have their hearts in the right place. Typically they genuinely feel like the LGBT community is underrepresented in video games so they go out of their way to try and fix that. They usually end up making things worse, but they do it with good intentions. Developers contributing to problem #2, on the other hand, only care about themselves and how they look. Allow me to explain. It's obvious that in recent years being politically correct whilst having progressive ideals and morals has become trendy. This trend persists into different mediums as well. Possibly the latest medium for this trend to arrive in are video games. Now on social media and in news outlets, the more progressive you act, the better the person you are (according to them). It's an odd fad that many people still fall for.

Often times it's fairly obvious to see that certain developers don't really care about the LGBT community. The inclusion of those types of characters in games made by these types of developers only exist so the developer can say, "Hey, look at me! Aren't I so progressive!? I'm way ahead of the times compared to these Neanderthals. Buy my next game!"

Like I said, not all developers are like this, but there are so many that are that it becomes hard to tell. You could take a glance at their social media accounts and see what they're whining about now, but that's unfair to them because, like I said, some developers truly do care about LGBT rights and inclusion. The developers contributing to problem #2 have now made it harder to include LGBT characters without gamers becoming upset because of their own selfish vanity.

Now let's wrap this up with a nice bow before I upset anyone else. Of course, in a perfect world, it would be nice to include people of all gender and sexual identities, but due to the nature of human fallibility, we can't live in that world. Developers that continue to contribute to the two aforementioned problems will never see the regular inclusion of LGBT characters in videogames because they've turned the very thought of including those types of characters sour in many gamers' minds. Are there some people that just irrationally hate the thought of anything LGBT related in video games? Of course, but you need not worry about them because all they can do is complain on anonymous image boards. Yet that still isn't the problem that needs to be addressed. There will always be bigotry and hatred in the world, but the developers that include LGBT characters incorrectly or for all the wrong reasons are only making it harder for everybody else.

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