Enough about sexism in video games; that debate is swamping the industry left, right and centre. The real debate – or at least, the one we should be having – is why there is such a lack of homosexual protagonists in video games. In fact – there aren’t any.
The first homosexual character in a video game was in the text adventure mystery Moonmist, in which one of the several random plot-lines would end with the female criminal being bitter because her ex-girlfriend left her to marry a man. What followed since then were a scarce amount of homosexual characters, but no homosexual protagonists. Vamp from MGS2, Juhani from Knights of the Old Republic, and Gay Tony from Grand Theft Auto IV are the examples of characters who have followed on ever since – a bisexual vampire (playing off of the cliché that all vampires are bisexual), a lesbian Jedi who still sleeps with your male characters, and a hilarious stereotype of the Camp Gay Man.
But why do we not have any gay protagonists?
It could be argued that Mirror’s Edge’s Faith could be a lesbian – hell, I’d relish it if this characteristic came to light in the next game – however most of these arguments only come about because Faith passes the Bechdel test, and obviously any female character who isn’t blatantly in love with a man is a lesbian.
Sorry, I was choking on my sarcasm for a second. Faith is as gay as Stanley from The Stanley Parable. That is to say, not at all.
Bayonetta is a bisexual witch, but this – in a similar vain to Heavenly Sword’s Nariko – is purely for the purpose of exploiting that sexuality for titillation, and it’s so in-your-face that we do our short supply of gay characters an injustice by throwing them all in the same sticky barrel.
“What about RPG’s?” you ask.
Well… what about them? Can we really point to Dragon Age, Mass Effect and the Fable series as examples of strong gay characters? Just because I can make my character have sex with someone of the same sex does this really count?
The answer is no.
These characters must be written using the narrative, not through our actions. Whilst I think our strongest video games are told through our actions, our strongest characters follow a bold script, and in these RPG’s, there is no scripted event involving our character falling for someone of the same sex.
It is with this point which I point to Jimmy Hopkins from Bully. We can’t point to Jimmy and say that he is a gay character, even though he has strong characterisation and can kiss other boys during free-play, because it is only during free-play which this can happen. There is no story-event, not even a cutscene where Jimmy gets with another boy. However there is strong, strong insinuation – even open flirting with female characters – that Jimmy is sexually attracted to the “cheerleader,” “the bad girl,” “the townie,” and “the preppy girl.”
All of this alludes to an even greater problem, how many video game protagonists are characterised without a romantic interest – be it blatant or subtle, gay or straight – being tacked on to the narrative?
The answer is simple.
The most interesting ones.
But we’ll talk about that another time.