Along came Zevran: LGBT characters in modern video games

When the topic of LGBT characters in modern video games pops up, it is not uncommon to hear issues players find in them…

  • They are a minority in real life; therefore, the LGBT representation should stay at an equal ratio. We don’t need every game to have gay characters
  • I can’t relate to a gay character, so why would I play one?
  • Why must their sexuality be shouted to the four winds? You are just pandering to the LGBT community.
  • You don’t need to be straight to identify with your straight character anyway. That’s the idea of a role playing game: You are PLAYING A ROLE!

And I’m sure if I think hard enough, I can come up with a lot more, but these reasons will do for now. Of the four points I mentioned, I suppose I can totally agree with number 4. The beauty of many games is that you get to see how characters develop through the story or as they interact with other characters. You get to love them or hate them, based on their personalities and you get to understand them as you know more of their background story. Just like a book.

The way I see it, that is the point: to understand the character despite their origins, actions, or sexuality. Then, why is it so important to people like me to see more LGBT characters in game? The reason didn’t hit me until I began playing Dragon Age: Origins.

Typically, when I had the chance to create my own character, I made a female character. My Dreamcast memory cards were full of Phantasy Star Online female characters with monosyllabic names like Jay, Jo, Jess and Jinx. I couldn’t relate to them, but it didn’t matter at the time. I just wanted to live the game’s story through my avatar. Some of these characters became favorites that I tried to recreate in every other game.

Fast forward several console generations, I found myself trying Dragon Age: Inquisition. Jess, my lovable chubby mage was going to make the jump from Pioneer 2 to Thedas, and I was ready to make her a kick ass Grey Warden, and romance Alistair and all that jazz. That was until I learned there was an elf named Zevran that could be romanced by any gender. That was an option I never had in a video game, and I got curious.  Jess got shelved, and a male elven mage named Guarionex took her place. For the first time, I could identify with a character I created, and it felt nice. I wasn’t aware I wanted that; it just happened. Dragon Age is the kind of game that gives you the liberty to do what you want, and it’s these kinds of games that benefit from having more diversity for the players.

It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant that part of the population seems to the majority, the feeling of inclusion is awesome. It’s not a matter of pandering a sector of society, but of including them. My character creation process PDA (Post Dragon Age) now consist of mainly male characters, because  now I can imagine some part of myself in them.

Also, if we can just play along the role of a straight main character, we could do just the same for an LGBT one, no?

 

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