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How video games are failing the LGBTQ community


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LGBTQ History Month is typically a time to celebrate achievements – but this month, I want to take a moment to address how AAA video games are failing us, and how indie games are picking up the slack.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey made waves when it was released in October of last year for providing same-sex relationship options for its protagonist. Early articles pitched it as a game that 'lets you be as gay as you want', lauding it as the holy grail of LGBTQ representation. But how progressive did the game turn out to be?

Image Credit: Valeria Boltneva on Pexels

For starters, Assassin’s Creed is by no means the first video game to allow its player characters to pursue gay relationships – not by a long, long, long way. In fact, for companies like Bioware, this has been the main selling point for a while. Perhaps the difference is how explicit the game makes it. Many games, while allowing gay options, hide them away, out of sight of the typical straight male gamer. You have to work to find them.

Player-sexuality (that is, the phenomenon of NPCs falling in love with the playable character regardless of gender or sexuality) is a clever marketing ploy, really. It allows corporations to cater to the majority of their game to straight people while also featuring LGBTQ ‘representation’ – if you look for it. But is it really representation if it’s invisible?

This is, of course, to say nothing of the recent controversy surrounding the DLC, in which the player character will have a child regardless of the player’s decisions.

Image Credit: BagoGames on Flickr

On the flip side, independent game developers are out here giving us games like Cobra Club (Robert Yang) and Gone Home (The Fullbright Company). What these developers can do when they are not at the behest of a major games company really goes to show how little games like Assassin’s Creed are really doing.

There are, of course, people who work for major games studios who are pushing for more LGBTQ representation, but at the end of the day, the reality of corporate interest will always be clear.

So, if you’re a member of the LGBTQ community and looking for video games and developers who more accurately represent your lived experiences, the indie games community have got you covered. Check out Autostraddle’s top 8 LGBTQ indie games and IGN’S ‘7 LGBTQ+ inclusive games that will steal your heart’.

If you’re interested in the history of LGBTQ games (it is History Month, after all), Rainbow Arcade, a ‘queer history of video games 1985-2018’, is running until 13th May 2019 in Berlin.

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