LGBT Characters in Video Games

April 9, 2014 in inQueery

LastofUs_THUMBLBGT video games characters had been a sore spot in the gaming community for a good number of years before developers started taking them more seriously. Often depicted as villains (see Mario’s ‘Birdo’), LBGT representation ran the gamut from offensive to tasteless in more ways than one. Fortunately, these past few years with the last generation of consoles (Xbox 360, and PS3) have seen developers pushing towards better-developed and more LBGT-inclusive storylines. The following is a short review of well-realized LBGT characters to date.

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1. Tony (GTA 4 – XBOX 360, PS3, PC)

Far from an archetype, Tony is one of the most complex characters on this list. When he isn’t dealing with threats from financial backers, Tony is combating his addiction to cocaine, prescription drugs and an unhealthy relationship with his boyfriend Evan. His main source of emotional support comes from Luis Lopez, a business partner who looks out for Tony more than anyone else in “The Ballad of Gay Tony.” While Tony may not be the most stable character on the list, his inclusion into the GTA world was vastly different from their portrayal of gay men in the past. Hopefully Rockstar takes a cue from his positively received character and isn’t afraid to develop more players like him in the future.

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2. Ellie (The Last of Us – PS3) [LINK CONTAINS POSSIBLE SPOILERS]

Ellie’s coming out story didn’t happen until developer Naughty Dog released their 2014 DLC for “The Last of Us” titled “Left Behind.” Players who completed “The Last of Us” in 2013 were given no clues or indication that Ellie was gay until one of the final scenes in “Left Behind” saw our protagonist kissing her best friend during an impromptu dance party. Not only did Naughty Dog reveal the sexual orientation of Ellie, but they also included a queer person of color as her girlfriend. The reveal gave players a completely different perspective into the psyche of Ellie and showed what she lost before she ever came into contact with the main game’s protagonist Joel.

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3. Poison (Street Fighter X Tekken)

Poison has been a well-known trans “Final Fight” character for a while now. While there is some mystery around her sex, we feel the ambiguity is welcome. The developers at Capcom felt it was best for the viewer to speculate on the status of Poison’s SRS instead of confirming or denying it outright. Ultimately what this meant was that it was no one else’s business but Poison’s, and we like that notion. Here’s to a powerful trans character that can wipe the floor with you!

4. The Player

While bisexuality has yet to be strongly expressed (with an exception of Saint’s Row IV) within the psyche of a main character, several games put the player in control of choosing their avatar’s sexual orientation. Games such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Fable to name a few have done away with strict traditional routes and designed a flexible landscape where the sexuality of the character is left up to the player. A strong case can be argued that these characters are inherently bisexual, but we’d like to see more characters identify with bisexuality as opposed to it being a default.

While the gaming industry is off to a great head start with positive representations of LBGT characters, we’d ultimately like to see more. Public opinion on LBGT-related matters are changing at a rapid pace and a more diverse selection of video game characters needs to follow suit. With the inclusions made as of 2013/14, developers have proven that LBGT characters can drive sales and it’s only a matter of time until we see one headlining a game.

J.J. Medina is a guest contributor at InQueery.
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