New Ways to Play Gay

When the Prince of Albion isn’t battling reanimated corpses, searching for mystical medallions or attempting to overthrow his tyrannical brother, he has a pretty nice life at home with his husband, Kyle the Blacksmith, and their two adopted sons, Alex and Tim. It’s just one path players can go down as the heroic protagonist of Fable III.

While the fight for gay rights remains heated in the United States, same-sex marriage and gays in the military have never been issues in Albion, the virtual nation where Fable players battle bandits and other baddies. Though not integral to the plot, gamers have been able to woo characters of the same sex since the sweeping saga launched in 2004.

“We don’t require you to be of a certain type to get married,” said Peter Molyneux, creative director at Microsoft Game Studios Europe. “You can be gay. You can be bisexual. You can get married as many times as you like. It’s up to you. My fascination is with what that means to people. It means they can be who they are rather than who I require them to be.” Molyneux and his team at British developer Lionhead Studios are adding another way to play as gay – or otherwise – in the franchise’s epic third instalment, which tasks players with leading a revolution in the newly industrialized Albion. For the first time in the series, a player’s character, regardless of their sexual orientation, can adopt children.

Prostitutes of Fable III which couldn’t make it into the game ;)
Prostitutes of Fable III which couldn’t make it into the game ;)

It’s the latest example of how game makers are giving players methods of portraying gay characters in role-playing games, the genre that bestows gamers with the power to customize characters from the outset. Unlike the static storylines of a TV show or film, role-playing games offer an individualized experience that’s usually defined by a player’s choices.

The Sims, the popular virtual dollhouse franchise from Electronic Arts & Maxis, has included same-sex relationship options since its 2000 debut, though gamers who wanted nuptials for their Sims of the same sex had to wait until the release of The Sims 3 last year. (Previous editions allowed gay couples to move in together and have a civil union.)

When it comes to legalizing same-sex marriage, the real world is actually behind the virtual world. Fallout 2, the post-apocalyptic sequel by Black Isle Studios, was the first game to feature the ability to marry a character of the same sex when it was released in 1998, three years before the Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.

It’s not always virtual rainbows and sunshine for gays in games though, especially when reality intervenes. Homophobic slurs and other hate speech are often broadcast by players on Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s PlayStation Network online services, as well as within multiplayer online games, such as World of Warcraft.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered characters created specifically by developers, not players, are still a rare find in games. There are a few notable exceptions, such as nightclub owner Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince in the shoot-’em-up sequel Grand Theft Auto IV and the blue-skinned bisexual alien Liara T’Soni in the galactic hopper Mass Effect.

Jeb Havens, a game designer and chairman of the International Game Developers Association’s LGBT committee, believes there are fewer such characters in games because publishers fear offending consumers. He said that even though the industry is generally liberal, he doesn’t expect homosexuality to be included in the main plot of a game anytime soon. “I think the formula that’s working for the big publishers who have LGBT content is that it’s an option if the player consciously seeks it out,” said Havens. “That way there’s no fear of a backlash from players who might think they’re being forced to play as a gay character or being forced to fall in love with another guy just to play through the game.”

That’s the route lead writer David Gaider and his colleagues at Canadian developer BioWare took when crafting Dragon Age: Origins, the fantastical role-playing game released by Electronic Arts last year. Players, if so inclined, could have their character enter into a same-sex relationship with male elvan assassin Zeveran or female human bard Leliana. “As we were working on the four characters that you could have a romance with in the game, we wondered why couldn’t we expand the audience a little bit?” said Gaider. “We weren’t creating characters so players could have gay romances. That’s not really how our creative process works. If we were doing that, I think we would have gone about it a bit differently.”

In the Dragon Age sequel set for release next year, instead of constructing a protagonist from scratch, gamers will play as Hawke, a human refugee who can be a male or female mage, rogue or warrior. Gaider declined to specify if Hawke could pursue the same sex off the battlefield but promised there will be “something for LGBT players to appreciate.”

“Some LGBT players liked what we did in ‘Origins,’ and others didn’t,” said Gaider. “The only thing that would really disappoint them is to completely abandon it. We’re not doing that. There’s some things you don’t want to fundamentally change. If we’re being inclusive of any group of fans, we’re not going to suddenly throw them out on the streets.”

Article from 365Gay


18 thoughts on “New Ways to Play Gay”

  1. A slightly more recent, though less obvious example is Fallout: New Vegas. So far I’ve uncovered the “Confirmed Bachelor” perk (if you’re playing as a male you get special dialogue options that let you flirt and get special favors from male characters) and male strippers and “prostitutes” (I don’t think you can actually hire them, but they’re there).

    Come to think about it, there’s only one RPG style game I’ve bought in the last few years that didn’t allow you to at least hit on characters of the same sex. A nice change from the 90’s when the few gay characters in games were embarrassing stereotypes.

  2. “… constructing a protagonist from scratch, gamers will play as Hawke, a human refugee who can be a male or female mage, rogue or warrior.”

    What is a “mage?” Or is that supposed to be “image?”

    Also, when will they release a game called “Brokeback Mountain?” If they do, then you may see a lot more straights “experimenting” with a different character. After all, since that movie, I’m amazed at how many straight actors are lining up for gay characters — even high paid, leading-role actors.

      1. Thank you. Wasn’t sure if it was a [common] typo. And, what is an RPG? Sorry, but I don’t normally play any games (except cards). ‹(•¿•)›

        1. Hi!! Just to be pedantic…

          Mage is the singular of Magi, possibly from the Media, and Zoroastrian priests of Ancient Persia. Most commonly connected with sorcerers, astrologers, etc..
          Magic is thought to come from it too.
          Magus is the Latinized version of Mage.

    1. Releasing a title with the main character being gay won’t happen anytime soon. Your best bet is to play an MMO as yourself (gay). Then people will get to know you and play with a character that actually is gay. There may be major side character though that dev’s would include to be gay.

  3. I love this. Queer characters that are simply a part of normal life is exactly what we need. Coming-out dramas and the like are good stuff, but it is exactly characters whose queerness isn’t their defining characteristic but simply one aspect of their lives, that will eventually bring about acceptance.

    (Well that and us being out and a present but not overly obnoxious part of everyday real life, of course…)

  4. This is great! Its about time that there is no need to “Come Out.” Rather, you can just be you.
    My first experience with gay parents were with my two friends Flynn and Quinn McCoy. The McCoy brothers have two moms. Once day while over there Flynn kissed me in his bedroom. Quinn was at lacrosse practice. I’d been crushing on him for a long time. But I did nothing. I was scared.
    Flynn’s mom walked in on us as he had about 3.5″ of me in his mouth. His mom looked at me. I looked at her. She mouthed “enjoy it” and left.
    I was all scared. I thought she would tell my parents, who, I hadn’t come out to yet. I thought she would ban me from ever seeing her sons again. I thought she would throw me out of the house.
    But she didn’t do any of that. She closed the door. I popped a nut eventually (it took a long time) since I was all a bundle of nerves. Flynn exploded while we were kissing and touching. So afterward, we took a shower together. This is something we could never do in my house. Flynn washed my back and held me nicely in that hot soapy warm shower.
    I said, “but your mom….”
    He took me by the hand and we went to bed.
    Later at breakfast, I was expecting the explosion! It never came. I asked Ms. McCoy.
    “Do you like Flynn? Did you enjoy it?” she asked.
    I told her yes! Oh yeah!
    And she told me that it should remain at that. Unsaid. And she gave me a kiss on the forehead. I had such a boner.
    So Flynn and I had many moments of tenderness around his Moms. We still do. Holding hands, little kisses, sex.
    As his mom said, “It is what it is.”

    1. I envy you more than I could possibly describe. I had a secret lover in high school and the need to be secret drove us apart. He painfully rejected me as he did not want to be “queer.” I never really got over it. It still hurts. Just imagine being dumped by Tait.

      Thanks for sharing your story. Your life is how it should be.

      1. Aye. Secrecy hurts. But even worse is if he is ashamed of what you feel for each other. I think that is about the worst of it all…

        1. It was the early 1960’s and that’s how it was. There was absolutely zero support for gays in my small country town. It was the worst of emotional pain. I am serious about my friends resemblence to Tait but my friend was very chiseled, lean and athletic. We were both runners. We were in love and in another place and time we would have had a life together.I am happy for kids like Liamsurf who can experience fun and care free sex without the crushing weight of guilt.
          That is how it should be.

Leave a Reply