Queer Themes in Video Games

This page comes with a spoiler warning for the game ‘Gone Home’.

 

Three of the participants expressed that they were more likely to want to play games which had queer themes. Gemma described ‘Gone Home’ as an example of positive Queer representation in games.

 ‘You find out your sister is lesbian and you read all about the process of her coming to terms with that and coming out to people…It is very sensitively handled. It is trying to entertain you and make you feel things but it has also clearly been well researched and based on very common real life experiences and I thought that was really good.’
– Gemma (Video game developer) 
Tyler described Mainichi, another positive example:
”Mainichi, made by Mattie Brice who is a transgender woman…is about her experiences. You just sort of walk down the street and if you put on makeup before you leave the house one thing will happen and you can go one way to avoid a crowd. It is just a 10 minute long thing about going to a coffee shop to meet your friend.”
– Tyler (Software tools developer) 
Gemma and Tyler enjoy playing these games because they reflect real-life experiences and invoke a deep connection with the characters in the games.

 

enhanced-buzz-19487-1372875030-13
Mainichi 

 

Tyler and Robyn also found ways to have meaningful Queer experiences within games that are not specifically about Queer people:

”I remember one [game from childhood] called Castle Master, where you get to take over a castle, and on the first screen it says: ‘are you a prince or a princess?’, and I thought this was great because I always got to play as a princess, which I thought was one of the best things about the game.”
– Robyn (Programmer in multiple fields) 
”There is a game called NetHack…dungeon exploration game…I used to play it as a teenager and sometimes I still play it…sometimes, rarely you are given a wish, and it says, what do you want?…I would always wish for an amulet of change…the only thing it does is, when you put it on, it disintegrates and your characters gender changes…this is the thing that I wanted to get every time in the game.”
– Robyn (Programmer in multiple fields) 
”[as a child] my best birthday present ever was when I got the Sims off my gran…the Sims was always very gay when I played it. It was always nice that you could make the Sims be super gay.”
– Tyler (Software tools developer) 
Screenshot
Gay Sims
All three of the participants who were involved in game design indicated that they incorporated Queer themes into their work. Gemma spoke passionately about how she fights for positive representation of Queer and female characters in the games that her company produces:
‘I work in a company creating media and I am now very vigilant in how being queer is portrayed in what we create, and I try to encourage the people in the company to make positive decisions in how they portray gender and queerness.’
– Gemma (Games developer) 
These efforts by Gemma are historically significant. Shaw (2009) describes how the games industry has a long history of censorship of Queer characters, which has only recently begun being rolled back.

 

The participants were more likely to choose to play games with Queer themes, and even when playing more mainstream games they found ways to have Queer experiences within them. These experiences could be meaningful and empathetic. The participants who design games try to ensure that their games contain positive Queer themes, in order to allow others to have these same experiences.

 

Find out why most of the participants don’t define as gamers. Alternatively,  find out about Queers online, or Queer politics, or professional lives.