Video games have evolved heavily from the first pixels to the ones with the most intricate of stories and gameplay. The most powerful thing a video game can do now is tell a story. It can serve as a voice of the developers and writers, or even a scrutinized group of people. One group that is getting recognized more are the LGBTQ+ community. *Brief note this might contain spoilers for a few games.
Even in a liberal age where being gay is accepted, it is still considered something of a taboo and is sometimes treated as such. Video games are considered an interactive medium where players experience the lives of another character, whether based off a real person or fictional.
There are a lot of instances where some video games handle topics regarding a character being gay, lesbian, trans, or even cross-dressing.
Final Fantasy VII – Cloud’s Cross Dressing Sequence
The 90s were a different time and was not entirely accepting of crossdressers. This game dared to challenge that idea at the time. Player’s had to take control of eco-terrorist/freedom-fighter/ex-SOLDIER Cloud Strife. After the first third of the first arc, players need to rescue childhood friend and fellow AVALANCHE member, Tifa Lockheart, as she is seen being take up to the local crime lord’s lair to be chosen as a mistress. In order to prevent a fight when getting into the compound, Aerith* Gainsborough, a new friend, suggests that Cloud take on a disguise. The process is a bit of a treasure hunt, especially when trying to find the required items to get Cloud into drag – from head to underwear . After acquiring the needed items, the boss chooses between Cloud, Tifa, or Aerith. If the player doesn’t get chosen, then they would have to battle the goons and if the player is chosen, then more exposition is given (which would have been acquired regardless).
This was a key moment for the popular JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) that the developers kept in mind when creating the game.
*Sometimes the name is seen as Aeris
Gone Home – Finding Your Sister’s Dirty Secret
Turning away from action, but still keeping the 90s tone, Gone Home is a video game set in the 90s where your character comes home from studying abroad, only to find that there is no one home. You were expecting your sister to show up and give you a warm hug while the parents are off at their work.
The game takes a different approach on narration and storytelling. Rather than being spoon-fed the information, you need to find out what happened by figuring out the clues that are scattered journal entries your sister left behind. Each one is narrated by the sister and gets deeper into what her life was like while you were gone.
The greatest part about coming-of-age is finding out who you are. For the sister, it was in finding the special someone dearest to her. Who happens to be a punk rock chick raised to be a military girl. This cuts heavily into controversy, the 90s was not friendly to such a relationship and more-so from a girl in the military (due to the don’t ask, don’t tell policy). To find out what happens to the sister play the game for yourself! Or I can shamelessly plug my channel which has a full two-part walkthrough. The story is quite a tearjerker and left me bawling by the end.
Coming Out Simulator – A Half-True Story About Half-Truths
Coming out is usually the hardest thing members of the LGBTQ+ community have to do when telling their families about who they are. Coming Out Simulator is a 2D pixel that is narrated by the creator, but played by you where you get to choose your own dialogue options.
The game takes heavy tones on the outcomes available. The game emulates the uncomfortableness of having to come out to people close to you, in which the dialogue choices, the thought processes, and the reactions blend with one another.
Feel free to try out the game here: http://ncase.me/cos/
Street Fighter/Final Fight – It’s Not Okay to Hit Girls
Popular fighting game, Street Fighter, sometimes known as Final Fight (depends on the iteration) faced heavy controversy with one of its characters, Poison. She was originally conceived as a transgender female thug.
The character was intended to be female, but then changed to “newhalf” (Japanese definition of a pre-op trans individual) due to the former being reconsidered since it is “rude to hit a girl” and that feminist groups would sue on such account.
According to game director, Akira Nishitani, the character can be perceived however the viewer wants to, thereby having the character as male or female.
Overwatch – Tracer Destroys Fan Shipping
“Shipping” is a popular term in pop culture communities where the fans would pair up two characters from the same franchise as a couple, be it straight, gay or lesbian, no individual character is safe from being shipped, especially by fan artists.
Overwatch, the most hyped video game of 2016, faced some controversy with the British character, Tracer (Lena Oxton), with her infamous “over the shoulder” victory pose. She’s back in their newest comic and triggered the internet once more, this time with a girlfriend.
Check out the comic here: https://comic.playoverwatch.com/en-us/tracer-reflections
Video games are a form of art, usually developed by a team, but created with a vision. These are just a few instances where the medium helps bring some light into the perspective of LGBTQ+ topics. Art is beauty in the eyes of the beholders, where it is subject to multiple ways of interpretation.
These are just some ways video games have helped bring a voice for the community, but there are thousands more. Do you know of any games that portray the same contribution or more to the LGBTQ+ community? Please join us in a discussion in the comment section below!
A general advice tip: be careful of what fanart you search up!