Ms. Pac-Man’s gay kids: the growing number of out video garners has led to more gay game characters
Pipe-leaping plumbers? Sure. Big-breasted archaeologists? Whatever. But the first time I saw Fergus and Patrick kiss, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe it because they were characters in the virtual suburbia of The Skins, and back in 2000 kissing never really happened in video games, let alone a same-sex lip-lock. In a universe of power-ups and unlimited continues, I never thought something like sexuality would be the next hot feature.
Gay culture is finally getting a face hi one of the biggest forms of entertainment–video games. The Sims 2 has become this season’s first big blockbuster by letting people simulate real life, both gay and straight. Technically, it’s even more real than life, since gay marriage is actually legal hi the game. The fantasy game The Temple of Elemental Evil lets the player romance a male character, and Fable, a hack-and-slash adventure where you can choose the morality of your hero, also allows you to marry both men and women. It even keeps track of your sexuality depending on your in-game behavior. (I was bisexual, apparently.)
Still, there’s a long way to go. “[Games] have not yet found a way to tackle deep or complex subjects in a sensitive or emotionally mature manner,” says Dene Carter, lead designer on Fable. It’s not that games have necessarily been homophobi-it’s just hard to really promote any sexuality when most of your heroes have been hedgehogs, electric mice, and bandicoots. Now that the industry is starting to mature, so is the subject matter–and, fortunately, in a gay-friendly atmosphere.
Online gaming–like the rest of the Internet–has also become a safe haven for people to express themselves and their sexuality. City of Heroes, a new online role-playing game that takes place in a world of superheroes, recently celebrated a gay day where queer-identified characters got together and mingled in the virtual world.
“They can create a persona that extends their personality along with sexuality and style into a video game,” says Vince Gajudo, a hardcore gamer who admits that he’s “bought a game or two because they’ve had some hot guys in it.” The appeal of video games has always been escapism, so it fits perfectly that people can do things in games that they may not be able to do in the real world.
Today’s games are still a baby step in an industry that’s barely reached its teenage years, but still, it’s a nice sign of what’s to come. “For now, games are merely another form of entertainment,” adds Carter, “and if we can make the odd subversive comment, then all the better.”
Lopez is a writer and producer for G4techTV.
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