Homosexuality in games

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gay-flag[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

I don’t know if you know, but I am gay. My family knows. My friends know. My colleagues know. My readers know. The world knows. And that is how I like it. I have lived hiding. It is very, very difficult and very uncomfortable. Paranoia can be a terrible thing.

However, if you look at me, you wouldn’t know I am gay. I like to look like I like the men I like to look at. Like men. Because, you know, I am a man (trust me).

But not everyone is the same. There are a lot of people out there who act differently and who are a lot more flamboyant and outrageous in their mannerisms than me and not many people gives two hoots. At least not where I live. I know it’s not the same everywhere in the world. There are stupid people everywhere.

The subject of sexism in games is pretty hot. At least in the circles where I move, there is quite a vocal community of both men and women who are, basically, sick and fed up with the abuse of the male and female forms in art depictions and roles within a RPGs, fantasy and Sci-Fi art.

Robert Sullivan, aka The Grumpy Celt, shot an interesting video in which he proved, categorically, that most of the poses used in cartoons to depict women just look silly. As soon as a man adopt the pose of one of those females, he just looks stupid. And yet, not everyone would see those images of women as stupid.

The thing that frustrates me is that, no matter how many people become vocal about it, it keeps happening. Maybe is because many people in the games industry try to justify it with "it’s what the public wants, so we have to give it to them", or maybe is because some artist pander towards a fantasy from the mind of someone who’s got a part of that mind still stuck in puberty. I don’t know.

The thing is that we still see chain mail bikinis. Do you people have any idea how uncomfortable they are? Seriously, after wearing them for a while, nipples hurt like mad!

So it is pretty clear that we have a long way to go. And don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the female figure, and even chainmail bikinis when used in the right environment, for the right reasons and in the right way. It’s just that that doesn’t happen often enough.

I haven’t met many people who will give a second thought to having a 20th level woman warrior in a game. My friends just don’t care about the gender of my character and no one would even think of questioning her abilities.

However when I bring androgyny into the game, or homosexuality, or trans-gender characters, all hell breaks loose.

My last character, Andi, was an cleric elf worshipper of Andrasinia. Andrasinia is a goddess of love I created when I couldn’t find something that would fit the character I wanted to create. Basically the goddess believes that physical love conquers all, gender is but a word and that seduction and persuasion counts for more than weapons unless you’re really, really pissed off.

Admittedly, my character was very, very camp, but, suddenly, I couldn’t use words like "swallow", or "shaft" or "erected". You can imagine what happened with I threw my spear at an orc at some point and asked if my spear had penetrated the enemy’s armour. I’m still reminded of that and my friend now asks his children (15 and 13) to leave the room when we’re playing.

It didn’t matter that I wanted to have some kick ass character who would get enraged or gain goddess favour when he’s been betrayed by a friend, or higher powers of controlling people over fighting. Nop!

In fact I was very happy with Andi died because the banter was getting so out of hand I really wasn’t looking forward to play him anymore. The fact that it didn’t matter how many orcs I killed and how well I did for the party, what was left behind was the mockery.

How many people don’t bother exploring what having a gay character would be like? How many people are still scared of trying that out?

When trying to run a lesbian character, as far as my experience goes, people expect you’ll have a butch "tomboy" of a woman. One who till crack nuts between her thumb and her middle finger.

There doesn’t seem to be a middle level like there is in our real world in which if you’re gay you’re just nothing out of the ordinary, you just happen to feel attracted to the same gender. Big deal!

And homosexuality gets largely ignored in world creation too. There don’t seem to be any consequences to homosexuality in word creation. Rarely do you find a court with two kings. Or with a king and a prince-consort. Or a queen and a princess-consort.

I am happy that sexism is getting the attention it deserves, and that some artists, companies and writers are actually doing something about it. But is this the reaction to the changes we see in the real world, or are they happening simply because people are pumping up the pressure?

Why are we readier to accept and/or play a female character than a transgender or a gay one?

The conversation continues in our BoardgameGeek Guild.


2 Responses

  1. shortymonster says:

    I ended up playing a bi-sexual character in a game just to hit back at some crappy homo-phobic role playing from someone I (luckily) no longer game with. I was just a typical fighter in a typical, but we had a gay player in our group and he took a few jibes from this one A-hole. The A-hole then, to show he wasn’t really a raging homophobe tried hitting on a male character, my own. I had not decided on a sexuality as it just didn’t seem to matter for the character in question, but I was getting a bit pissed off with this guy, so decided to go with it, and see how far he would take it. He backed of pretty f*****g sharpish…

    I ended up having a great time playing the character, especially as we were in a renaissance time game in Italy, and I love the men’s fashion from the time and could easily get into it. I was never an outrages flirt, and refused to fall into the bi-sexual stereotype of hitting on everything that moved, but due to some great role playing from the GM and a couple of the other characters, I ended up having a blast.

  2. Tom Coenen says:

    I’m a bit late to reply to this post but anyways:
    There should be a greater focus on sexism in gaming, some sexism is quite subtle that I didn’t notice it.
    Currently, we run a group with male players, one of them decided to play a female and sometimes the female character is jokingly used for her gender and sexuality which is not the case for male characters (seduce guards, her breasts, etc).

    I’d like to play a gay character in the future but I admit I’m scared to do that.

    A fictional world with more women and more gay people would be welcome.
    Anyway, thanks for the article.

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