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A Selection of The Most Prominent LGBT Video Game Characters

Posted on January 4, 2018 at 9:57 am by David "Snackbar" Edmundson

Just as gaming has come a long way since the days of Pong, Pacman and Space Invaders back in the bygone era of the 1970s, the LGBT movement has also made giant strides in its quest for a more inclusive society. With a swelling movement for more LGBT representation in video games and a desire for greater diversity, the fight for gay rights is no longer only reserved for real spaces. It therefore follows that as video games have become more sophisticated and accessible, so too have the wide array of LGBT characters available in both mainstream and indie titles.

Whilst Infocom’s 1986 game Moonmist featured Vivian Pentreath, who is widely considered to be the first lesbian character in video gaming history, we had to wait until the release of Caper In The Castro in 1988 for the first explicitly queer video title. Nowadays, there are many examples of prominent LGBT characters in modern day games and the fact the list below is simply a small cross-section of some of our favourite characters speaks volumes about how far we have come in such a short period of time.

Tracer (Overwatch)
It’s fair to say that most gaming enthusiasts will already be familiar with what is now considered one of the best selling first person shooters of all time. However, for those who have been living under a rock, Overwatch is an intense seminal, team-based shooter set on Earth in the not so distant future. Tracer is without a doubt one of the most well known and visible characters in Overwatch, featuring heavily on the cover of the game.

The recently released comic based on the game depicted Tracer sharing a loving holiday kiss with a character named Emily, which confirmed Blizzard Entertainment’s initial claims that there are a number of queer characters which feature prominently in Overwatch’s cast. Whilst Emily is not a fellow member of Tracer’s Overwatch team, the two do later attend Winston’s holiday dinner together, leading fans to believe that the two are dating. Cute.

Ellie (The Last of Us)
Ellie is perhaps the closest we’ve come so far in terms of having a LGBT lead character in a video game. However, fans were given no indication as to her sexuality until one of the final scenes in the downloadable content Left Behind, where Ellie is seen sharing a touching kiss with her friend Riley at an impromptu dance party.

As well as finally revealing the sexual orientation of Ellie, Naughty Dog further broke down barriers by including a queer person of colour as her eventual girlfriend. What’s more, we were given a valuable insight into the mind of Ellie and the ordeal she went through before ever coming into contact with Joel, the game’s main protagonist.

Steve Cortez (Mass Effect 3)
First of all, Mass Effect’s developer Bioware deserve a round of applause as they have without a doubt gone the extra mile when it comes to incorporating LGBT characters into their video games. Bravo! Mass Effect 3 in itself was groundbreaking in terms of the LGBT scene, as it was the first Mass Effect game to feature permanently gay and straight characters as opposed to giving the player the choice to assign them a sexuality.

With regards to Steve Cortez, we learn that he tragically lost his husband to a Collector raid. However, as a male shepard, you are able to provide a shoulder to cry on if you so wish for the the hunky pilot by romancing him with a night of passion. As you’ve probably guessed, this leads to the infamous and much discussed Mass Effect virtual sex scene and whilst this was essentially softcore cuddling, the fact that this was even achievable is a huge step in the right direction for the LGBT community as a whole.

Major Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell)
There’s little doubt that the hit Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell is well overdue for a modern remake of the 1997 PlayStation 1 game. However, there are a number of online games available based on the franchise, including a comprehensive online slot game from 888casino where players can take advantage of free spins no deposit bonuses when attempting to find those responsible for stealing Motoko Kusanagi’s past and future. There is also Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – First Assault Online, which came out in 2016. As far as The Major is concerned, the character was quite obviously openly bisexual in the manga, enjoying frequent sexual relationships with both men and women.

Kusanagi, however, has been featured on the list for a very different reason. The Ghost in the Shell film remake has been accused of “straightwashing” the character through the omission of a lesbian kiss which seemingly failed to make the final cut. If and when we eventually see a next generation Ghost in the Shell video game, we will be hoping to see these issues ironed out as it is proof that although we are in better shape than ever before, there is still a long way to go when it comes to LGBT characters being accurately portrayed in the entertainment industry.

Source: GTA THE BALLAD OF GAY TONY via Facebook

Tony (GTA 4)
Whilst the Grand Theft Auto franchise has never particularly shied away from including LGBT characters in its games, they have often been at the very least overtly camp and in some cases, downright ridiculous (think trans porn director Rani Wassulmaier and her multiple gender reassignment surgeries). However, in 2009, Rockstar Games released the GTA4 expansion pack The Ballad of Gay Tony and with it came one of the most complex LGBT video game characters to date.

Unfortunately, you only get to control Tony’s big, burly straight bodyguard in this adventure but you still get a valuable insight into Tony’s lavish lifestyle, which involves an addiction to recreational drugs as well as a curious relationship with his on and off business power Luis Lopez. Tony’s inclusion into the GTA world could certainly be seen flagship moment for the LGBT community as he portrayed a gay man in a vastly different way than had been seen in the franchise previously – and was ultimately well received because of this.

You (The Sims 4)
The Sims is a little different to every other game on the list. A universal update which was rolled out last year now allows users to pick from a wide variety of customisable options which includes numerous sexualities and genders, as well as the ability to pick various biological and clothing preferences for your character. Do you want your character to be able to stand up whilst peeing but yet still retain the ability to get pregnant? No problem!

In effect, you are the LGBT character with total control over every single aspect of your life, making The Sims perhaps the most LGBT friendly game currently on the market. It’s virtually impossible to overstate the impact of a game which explores these issues and allows gender-diverse individuals to properly represent themselves, especially one which is enjoyed by people all over the world from many different backgrounds.

There’s Still Work to Be Done
Even as recently as 20 years ago, it would have been virtually impossible to compile a list of this nature – that in itself should be enough to convince you that we’re moving firmly in the right direction. However, as has previously been alluded to, we’re not quite there yet and there are still obstacles to overcome in the fight for a more inclusive video game based world.

Whilst it’s certainly nice and somewhat refreshing to see a wide array of LGBT characters dotted throughout a video game, it’s still entirely possible to enjoy a game if this isn’t the case. At the end of the day, video gaming is mostly about entertainment and if a game properly grabs our attention, we’re often way too immersed in the storyline to even care – and once we go into zombie gaming mode, it may take a minor earthquake to regain our attention. Nevertheless, the future certainly looks a lot brighter for the community than it did a couple of decades ago and we should be proud that our voices are finally being heard.

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