Everyone wants to see themselves in video games, and that’s not a problem. In recent years gaming has become increasingly diverse, to the point of some games offering both male and female players an equal experience in playing through the story. What’s rare to see, though, is a character in a story-driven game who falls on the LGBT+ spectrum explicitly. Riding on the coattails of Pride Month and still reeling from the Twitter trends of the past couple of days, here’s a spotlight on some of them.
Obvious spoilers ahead, but if you haven’t played Gone Home yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s a short little game about two sisters. The oldest, Kaitlin, has come home after being overseas for some time (I assume for a semester abroad, though I could be remembering that wrong), and finds a note from her younger sister, Sam upon coming home. Throughout the game you play as Kate, and by finding things throughout the house you find out what happened to your sister.
Going in, I thought that something pretty awful had happened. The game takes you through some pretty dingy basements and hidden passages in the old house, so I initially thought it was a horror game. As I progressed, though, it became clear that Sam had run away for some reason or another. It seemed like she had a good life, albeit a tensioned relationship with her parents.
Again, spoilers ahead, if you’re still reading. While you’re exploring some of the areas in the house, you find a feminist zine that Sam and a friend were planning on publishing. If you didn’t catch it before, the game is set in the mid-’90s, and there’s your proof. As you find out more, you realize that Sam had, in fact, fallen in love with her friend and your parents didn’t approve, so they ran away together.
In the end, Sam’s happy. You’re happy for her, you accept her. It kinda tugs at my heartstring a bit.
Life is Strange
Obvious spoilers here as well, folks. I have my issues with Life is Strange, I’ll tell you that from the start. I think the writing’s pretty awful (though who am I to judge?), the devs are really out of touch with what the young’uns are doing nowadays, and a crucial moment between Max and Chloe is entirely skippable. That crucial moment being the decision to kiss Chloe.
While I applaud the game (kinda) for taking on tough subject matter, the writing really gets in the way. And that’s a damn shame. I probably would have played and actually cared about spoilers had I gotten past that. It grapples with a lot: the toxic environment of exclusive clubs in a college setting, suicide, and the whole lesbian thing, to name a few. I just wish it did it better.
That being said, I’m glad it exists. Take that as you will.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
This is the only game on the list I haven’t played more than a couple hours of, mostly because I’ve been lost in the Hinterlands since it came out. So I can’t speak much for gameplay or story, but I do know that it has a cast of diverse characters. My favorite being the Iron Bull, purely due to the fact that he’s the first bi or pansexual character I’ve seen in a video game. Again, that’s in my kinda limited experience. Either way, it hits home. Among others, there’s Sera, my favorite gal with pals, and Dorian. This may sound weird but I like that they’re there and that they have a rich history.
The only thing I have to criticize here is the modding community, which I probably shouldn’t, but hey. Personally I haven’t looked at the mods, but I do know they exist. Again, limited knowledge. Maybe I didn’t wanna give it the attention, but look at where that ended up.
If you guessed what I’m talking about, it’s two mods that are available for Dragon Age: Inquisition which change Dorian and Sera’s programming so that they, effectively, are bi. Both characters have a past that directly involves being uncomfortable with what they identify as. I know plenty of people who fall into that label and choose to appear heterosexual because it’s safer, mentally and physically. I kinda think that discounting the history of these characters just because you wanted to romance them says a lot about what we think of outliers to “the norm” in general. I know it’s a longshot on some days, but not after this fucked up month we’ve had.
Overall though, I appreciate devs at least attempting to make their casts of characters more diverse. Like I said, everyone should be able to see themselves in a video game. And I’m glad we’re working closer towards that, even if we take a couple steps backwards sometimes.