There is not a facet of life that we, as LGBTQ people, do not touch. In my article on Queercore, I showed how there are many punk bands that are made up of LGBTQ members and create music about our own lives. Another area where there are large numbers of LGBTQ people is the gaming community, whether it be tabletop games or video games. The history of LGBTQ themed games dates back a better part of thirty years. With streaming becoming an ever-larger presence in the world, more and more LGBTQ gamers are getting involved. So, let’s take a look at some of the history, games, and people that make this culture awesome.
The term Gaymer dates to 2006 and is used as a broad-based term to describe any LGBTQ person who identifies as gay and has an interest or love of gaming, tabletop or otherwise. Because of rapidly growing interest in the gaming community and LGBTQ themed games, GamerX was created. Gamerx is a LGBTQ gaming con focusing on LGBTQ gaming and geek culture and first took place in August 3rd & 4th 2013, in San Francisco. Even with this Gaymers are not fully supported by mainstream gay culture or heterosexual gaming culture, they fall to the fringes of both worlds. As such, many of the LGBTQ community will not use the term gaymer, for fear of backlash. Even today, there is little known about what it is like to work as an out-LGBTQ person in the gaming industry.
If you have even been in a chat channel on any MMORPG, you know that anyone who can be or is identified as gay will receive an immense amount of backlash. Guilds that are created for the purpose of giving space for LGBTQ people to play safely are harassed when they attempt to recruit new members. In 2006, Sara Andrews decided to start an LGBTQ friendly guild on the popular game World of Warcraft. As she was trying to recruit members through general chat, a WOW admin contacted her and said that her postings were in violation of Blizzard’s terms of service. Their TOS asserts that sexual orientation, whether masked or direct, ‘‘insultingly refers to any aspect of sexual orientation pertaining to themselves or other players’’ and will result in a player being banned. Admins warned Andrews that this was considered harassment and could end up in her account being permanently banned. Later, Blizzard issued her an apology and said that the previous admin had misinterpreted the policy.
This has not prevented LGBTQ people from playing in MMORPGs. In the instance of World of Warcraft, there was a server, at one point, that was considered the go to for gaymers. That server was Proudmoore, before their server realignment. There are now larger amounts of LGBTQ guilds on each server, that isn’t to say they still aren’t met with resistance and veiled comments. But as more MMORPGs open up their cast to include LGBTQ characters, it becomes easier for gaymers to be more present. The creator of the website Queers Play Games has stripped down their website to a list of sites that discuss games, video streamers, and communities for Gaymers. The website is under construction as they wade through a backlog of content to get everything updated
The first ever queer video game came out in 1989 and was called Caper in the Castro. The game was designed in a program called HyperCard and was only for the early Macs of the time. You played as Tracker McDyke, a lesbian detective searching for her drag queen friend Tessy LaFemme who has went missing in the Castro. If you want to try a piece of early video game history, you can check out Caper in the Castro here. The next real game to give you the ability to play an LGBTQ character and create a bio about them, would be the Sims. In early versions, to be able to do this you had to use cheat codes or custom mods to make it happen. As this grew in popularity, the developers started adding small parts for naturally occurring characters. Historically, bisexual or gay women were the standout in the gaming industry and typically catered to the sexual fantasies of heterosexual men. But there have always been games that were designed for the LGBTQ community.
In 1992, Ryan Best created GayBlade and the story was his way of dealing with discrimination in his life. And is described as “GayBlade takes players into an ancient and dark dungeon on a terrifying Quest—to rescue Empress Nelda from the disgusting right-wing creatures inhabiting the dungeon. Fortunately, the rescue party is made up of heroic Drag Queens, Queers, Lesbians, and others who will stop at nothing to get their beloved Empress back to luxurious Castle GayKeep. But can they succeed when so many others have failed before them?” You will see elements of many different early video game in its design. Looking for more games featuring LGBTQ content? Check out my recommendations.
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator – Essentially you to play as a dad type guy who has moved to a new town and you are surrounded by various hot dad types for you to try to pick up.
Night in the Woods – A darker story of acceptance of who you are, and you are introduced to a variety of LGBTQ characters as you return home after dropping out of college.
Mass Effect: Andromeda – Multiple queer characters include the franchise’s first trans character, Hainly Abrams, rounding out a queer gaming experience beyond just who is romanceable.
Borderlands 2 – No way I could not include one of my favorite video game franchises. There are lots of LGBTQ characters in this game. You have characters sending you to find their boyfriends and an NPC who reveals she has a crush on two female characters, to name a few.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – In this galaxy far, far away its first ever lesbian Jedi. Juhani is a female cathari and is only romanceable if you are also playing a female character.
This is only a short list and obviously does not include more current games like Overwatch. But even with the larger amount of games that offer playable LGBTQ content, they still are the minority. All of that can change and it only requires people like you to start creating content. Game dev is becoming a hot button degree in many colleges. If you are interested, here is a cool article to start with. Queer Studies 101 (http://ourglasslake.com/queer-game-studies-101/) by Bonnie Ruberg is an intro into Gaymer history and leads to development. Give it a read, it might be right up your data stream. You could even be the next person who starts their own video game company that caters to our community in its development.
Thee gaymer scene is rapidly growing but still has years to catch up on. You can see form the titles out there that in many cases, inclusivity is an afterthought to the design elements. As a community we demand that developers start taking notice of what we would like to see in the product we buy, unlike the whole recent Assassin’s Creed Odyssey debacle. While I applaud the many games that do use LGBTQ story lines and character, the small steps they take aren’t enough. It still feels like we are playing games designed for others and just along for the ride. We need more LGBTQ developers in the trenches focusing on quality content for the masses of gaymers out there.