#FeatureFriday: LGBTQ and video games

Gaming is for all! The importance of a cultural narrative in video games and diversity has been witnessed in recent years and surprisingly, LGBTQ influence in gaming is one of them. The gaming industry is inclusively transforming, with the gasp of LGBTQ characters and LGBTQ theme in gaming. The representation of the LGBT community in mainstream video games and diversity in the gaming communities has dazzled the industry with the rainbow flag rising bright in the midst of the world. Video games are a social artifact and the representation of people in it impacts the cultural connect. Over the years video gaming has become an emotion for gamers. For example, a little girl loves to play with a Barbie because she somehow feels connected to Barbie and aims to become like her one day. The same stands for a lesbian, a gay, a bisexual, a transgender and a queer. And that can be only possible through a better understanding of the cultural representation of the people from around the world who has witnessed different life experiences from ours. LGBTQ characters in games: Digging in the history of video games, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) characters have been depicted in video games since 1980s. The echo of overall heteronormativity of the medium has made LGBTQ characters almost unreal for decades. There has been a trend towards a more significant representation of LGBTQ people in video games, who are identified frequently as LGBT in secondary material, such as comics, rather than in the games themselves. Thinking of which game developing companies over the past few years have been vocal and has initiated developing characters and games centering around the LGBTQ community. Here are some of the revolutionary publishes and words from the eminent: • In 2015 the Mortal Kombat series, Kung Jin is a homosexual character. The story mode of Mortal Kombat X features an exchange between Jin and Raiden that implies Jin’s sexuality. Jin’s homosexuality was confirmed by NetherRealm Studios cinematic director Dominic Cianciolo on twitter. The same game also means that Mileena and Tanya are in a relationship, or at least show obvious attraction to each other. • Earlier in 2015 game developer Blizzard mentioned that several characters in the Overwatch roster were LGBTQ. Answering to a fan at Blizzcon Michael Chu, lead writer on Overwatch “Like we said, it’s very important for us to have diversity and inclusiveness of all types, and that includes LGBT characters. There are definitely LGBT heroes in Overwatch — that’s multiple heroes. It’s a decision that we make when we’re developing these heroes early on. We want the stories about characters relationships — and not just romantic, but familial relationships and stuff like that — to come out in the course of stories that we feel really do them justice…” Moreover, rest is history with Hangzhou Spark, Chengdu Hunte and so on. • On November 2018 League of Legends developer Riot Games has announced its first-ever shape-shifting character Neeko as a new addition to the champions queue. League of Legends developer Riot games senior narrative writer Matt Dunn responded to a fan on Twitter that “Neeko *does* like female champions more than male champions. Neeko identifies as a lesbian.” • Later in January 2019, Ubisoft launched ancient Greek adventure game Assasins Creed Odyssey. Here players can choose to play as a man named Alexios or a woman named Kassandra, may romance (and sleep with) with a handful of male or female characters players might encounter in the game irrespective of the orientation. Though intimacy happened off-screen, characters could choose whom to court, including various dialogue options for flirting and developing these relationships. It has created a lot of buzz and controversies in the industry and despite that, it has been nominated for the first ever gaming category in the annual GLAAD awards and the nomination ends like this “ There are specific references to historical LGBTQ figures, including Alcibiades and Sappho. LGBTQ inclusion is both prominently featured and effectively woven throughout the game.” • Most recently in February 2019 Apex Legends game has launched with official queer characters Makoa Gibraltar and Bloodhound and are both identified under the LGBTQ umbrella. Thus the recent launch of the game, Apex Legends community manager Jay Frechette went vocal and has expressed to media that, “Our studio is comprised of a diverse group of people, the player base of battle royale is comprised of a diverse group. Having a diverse cast is super important. You want everyone to have someone they can connect to.” There are many games around which has LGBTQ theme or characters in it and developers around the world are exploring, developing and incorporating different LGBTQ angle in gaming. Not just that GLAAD has announced that it had created a new category to recognise video games and debuting in its 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in 2019, acknowledging those games with positive depictions of LGBT themes. In Asia, most games are made in Japan, Korea and Taiwan for local audiences. In Japanese popular culture, gay and bisexual men were often considered bishōnen, which translates as beautiful boys. It was also weaved to the success in Japan of comic books and animation with open and subtle LGBT characters. A preferred genre of adult pornographic Japanese games called H-games includes gay male and gay female subgenres. This material generally does not make it over to the west in English, and western reviews of the gay male video games tend to see homosexuality as a gimmick in an otherwise mediocre game. Despite being the land of origin of Kamasutra, India has always been less involved in developing games or even content around LGBTQ community. Until in 2018, after 377 a gasp of LGBT content has flown in the industry with animated films like Maacher Jhol and feature films like Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga. Unlike this, the Indian gaming industry is yet to be explored with LGBT characters and games in India. Since India has always been unpredictable, you never know maybe sooner or later in 2019 , the Indian gaming industry might come up with revolutionising characters or themed game around LGBTQ community and make it a mark in the history pages.