Queer Gaming: Prospects

To bring this blog to another topic that pertains to me aside from transgender issues, I wanted to talk about gaming. Now if you know me, you’d know that video games are more than just a form of entertainment or even a hobby for me. I’m kind of passionate about it. And a good portion of my useless encyclopedic knowledge consists of gaming info. So gaming and issues related to gaming are very extremely likely to take up a large portion of what I feel the need to share with everyone in the known universe. Call it a probability of 110%.

But to make this slightly more related to what I’ve been talking about so far (in the two posts I’ve written with a needless two-month long hiatus in between), I’d like to bring up an idea that just occurred to me, because I’m genuinely excited about it. But first, a little background. I gather that much of the gaming world isn’t really what you’d call “trans-friendly”. Okay let’s not mince words here, gamer culture is stereotyped as being misogynistic, homophobic, sometimes racist, and being just plain pathetic. And while more responsible gamers do what they can to fight those stereotypes, by and large the reality of gaming culture doesn’t really help our case. I know that it’s all largely web-based and that it’s futile to try to fight a few dedicated trolls with everything you’ve got in your empirical arsenal, because facts largely don’t faze them. But some of these “trolls” are friends of ours, or friends of friends, and chances are there are many gamers who would agree that this bullshit doesn’t make for a fun or safe environment, and yet won’t say anything to contradict their asshole friend for using the word “faggot” for the eight-thousandth time that day.

To bring these sweeping generalizations to tinier sweeping generalizations, let’s focus on depictions of LGBT peeps in games. Suffice to say, it doesn’t look good. Peeps all over the LGBT spectrum(s) by and large have been treated as comic relief, with the possible exception of lesbians who are mainly used as fanservice. Even in roleplaying games it’s difficult to find one that will allow you to simulate a same-sex attraction or relationship, and when they do it’s mainly due to token bisexual non-playable characters that will hit on you regardless of which gender you choose for yourself. But even as games are starting to take gay and bi peeps more seriously, I’ve noticed that transgendered characters are largely invisible except when used as comic relief. To be more blunt: I don’t think most gamers know what the fuck a transgendered person is. It seems to be a common misconception in both Japan and the US (the two major contributors to a shit-ton of games we have to choose from) that transsexuals (almost always trans women) are the same thing as gay guys in drag. While there’s nothing wrong with giving gay male cross-dressers some representation, the fact that most games that feature male-bodied characters who dress in women’s clothing and insist on being addressed by female names and pronouns treat them as wacky tranny fags that are there entirely for your amusement doesn’t exactly bode well for the representation of MTF spectrum peeps in the gaming world. I’m not sure that FTM spectrum peeps being almost completely invisible is much of a good sign either. I won’t say that games are the only source of information gamers are ever going to get about this sort of stuff (and Yog-Sothoth help them if that’s the case) but game developers could be doing better to give us some positive or even accurate representation in the gaming medium.

Anyway, you may recall that at the beginning of that substantial rant I said I had an idea that got me all worked up. My idea is this: I would like to take a look at video games that allow players to experience the game as a character who is transgendered. If all goes as planned, I would like nothing more than to do transgendered Let’s Plays of these games and upload the videos onto the internet. I got the idea by looking back at one of the game series that me and my family have grown up with: Fable. The Fable games are fantasy RPGs that give the player the option to play the game as straight, gay, bi, polyamorous, and being a responsible partner or cheater for any of the above. But what I realized as I thought back on those games in light of my decision to transition was that they also allow the player the option of making their character a cross-dresser. This may well be one of the first major instances that I can think of where a game lets you play as an explicitly transgendered character. Sure the games still treat human sexuality on the whole as a joke and the cross-dressing in particular is played for laughs (in the original it brought your “Scariness” meter – which determined how seriously other characters took you – closer to the “Ridiculous” end) but it’s still an option where most games will give you none. In the sequels they gave you the option of playing as a female-bodied character, so if you so chose you could play as a drag king, complete with beard. I’ll be getting more into Fable later, but for right now I want to broaden my search to see if there are any other such games out there. So far all I have are all three Fable games, and the two Dead Rising games (I do not yet own Dead Rising 2). I will continue to search for such games on my own, but chances are I’ll miss a great many of them, as even my mental library of games is limited.

That’s where you come in. Yes, you.

If you could be so kind, dear reader, as to direct me to any games that you may know of that give exposure to transgendered experiences, particularly if they involve the playable character, leave a comment here. Or if you know of any resources I could turn to for similar information, it would be much appreciated. This could be on any transgender spectrum: MTF, FTM, genderqueer, androgynous, bi-gendered, third-gendered, non-gendered, etc. Preferably this would not include games where you’re some nameless, faceless, ambiguous character with no personality traits. It has to be a character that we can see as explicitly trans either by establishing themselves in the story as trans, or by some means in gameplay, whether it’s cross-dressing, gender-specific behavior or speech, or body alteration. This should also be about the protagonist and playable character, not a minor character or NPC. The point is to give players the opportunity to identify, in however thin a veil, as trans. Even if you’re not into gaming, but you know someone who is and might know a possible example, please refer them here if they care to share their queer gaming knowledge.

Eventually I may have to expand my search to something less particular, so that it includes queer playable characters in general, but once again I feel as if transgendered peeps are in more dire need of positive representation at this time. I know it’s only a very small, pretty much negligible contribution to the fight for recognition of our existence and for our right to our identified genders. I just want gamers, and trans gamers in particular, to know that we’re here, we’re human, and we just want to be acknowledged as such. Plus it’s a niche that appeals to me strongly, and dammit, niches will be filled.

Let me know of what you find, would you kindly?

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4 Responses to Queer Gaming: Prospects

  1. Ashley says:

    In the game, Guilty Gear XX, the character Bridget is a male who was raised as a girl. That’s pretty much all I’ve got. I haven’t even played the game myself but that’s what I’ve heard. Anywho, I think this is a great project and if I hear about anymore characters I’ll be sure to post them. Good luck!

  2. mr. x says:

    So out of ignorant curiosity, plz dont get mad b/c im just trying to understand better, did your gender revelations influence your sexual orientation? do you prefer men? women?

    • meiyouyisi says:

      I’ve always been attracted to women, so the only thing that my self-discovery about my gender did for my orientation was to change it from “straight male” to “lesbian”. I can’t say it ever really changes anyone’s sexual preferences. In situations like these terms like “androphilia” and “gynephilia” come much more in handy than words like “gay” or “straight”, since you don’t have to explain sexual orientation in terms of your own gender if you can just say what sort of person it is you’re attracted to.

  3. Marie says:

    I work in the games industry, so this is a topic dear to my heart, but it’s really sad how little there is out there. Aside from what you mention, I can only think of a few. There’s the hermaphroditic Asari race in the Mass Effect series, though they clearly present as female. That seems less an experiment in showing transgender characters than it was a convenient way to show homosexual romance and not actually have it technically be homosexual. Saints Row II allows you to create either a male or female character with physical characteristics of the other gender (and may allow you to cross-dress, I can’t remember) but … it’s not exactly the most sensitively handled game, to put it lightly. I’m at a loss otherwise. You may have to concentrate on indie games to find anything of substance, if it’s out there.

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